The Price Is NOT Right
The lowest common sales denominator in our industry is the product-based sales person, i.e., promo-peddler, trunk-slammer, tchotchke-chucker, ad nauseam. The mere fact that you are reading and digesting this means you most likely aren't one of those. I'm addressing this article to you—the thinking sales person, the promotional partner, the extension of your client's marketing department. You Think, Therefore, You Am. (I gotta stop talking like I'm Popeye.)
Most of us, in approaching the way in which we go to market with our clients and prospects, employ a variety of techniques to solve problems and land orders. Here are some of the more effective and professional ways that Bold, Different and Memorable sales people connect with buyers:
Value-Added Selling, Program Selling, The Agency Approach, Close-Out Selling, Solution-Based Selling, Niche-Marketing and that ultimate partnership, Relationship Selling.
There are many varied approaches to promotional products sales, but the most common—as related in the first paragraph—is selling based on price. Or, as I like to button-hole it, Selling From A Place of Fear. This is an eternal hot-button issue in our industry and often an area of contention between the sales force and sales management. Since I'm coming from the latter group and am certainly not shy about sharing my perspectives on Fear-Based Fraidy-Cat Selling from a Cowardly Vantage-Point, bear with me. If you see yourself in what I relate, you may want to take a cold, hard look at how you go to market and land orders. And make some changes.
Check out this scenario, cats & kittens...
You've been developing an exciting new account called Vandelay Industries. Your contact Mr. Costanza has asked you to quote on 2,500 custom USB drives in the shape of a soup bowl. You really want the order, so you sharpen your pencil and quote this $15,000 project at a 30 percent margin. When you call Mr. Costanza to follow up and land the order, he tells you that he found the USB drives online for almost a dollar less than your price and he's certain he's comparing apples to apples. If you are willing to drop your price a whole dollar off, you've got the order—but this would cut your profit margin fully in half to a mere 15 percent.
Do you do it?
The answer is ... no. Definitely no. Just say no. No, no, Nanette. A thousand times no. Dr. No. Hell Triple-FREAKIN' NO.
Tell Mr. Costanza no soup for you.
Don't sell based on price. Ever.
Why? Here's why...
Because selling on price is selling based on FEAR. It is a position of WEAKNESS. It's what most of your competition does. It doesn't allow you to offer superlative service, startling creativity and amazing follow-up because you can't afford to in this down-and-dirty arena of the great unwashed sales masses. It sends a terrible message to your client and damages your integrity. It cheapens everything you are attempting to accomplish on behalf of your client.
Because selling on price is ignorant. Ignorance on the part of your customers. Ignorance for which you are responsible. Fully educate your customers about the added value you and your company bring to the table. Avoid purchasing departments and purchasing mentalities. Be willing to walk away from orders and projects like this. Be willing to walk away and explain this to your client and really mean it! Take pride in your professionalism and problem-solving abilities and your crack responsiveness and proprietary resources and over-the-top creativity. Once you've branded yourself as a price-cutter, you become a common street peddler in that account from then on. This perception will never change.
Separate yourself from the lowest common sales denominator. Be Bold, Be Different, Be Memorable. You are worth more. Your time is worth more. Choose not to work with clients who don't value all you can bring to their marketing and promotional efforts. If you have clients like this, fire them and find new clients. They are out there. Find them. Partner with them. Create relationships with them. Make it clear that you are an extension of their marketing team and not merely a vendor.
I have a Halo account manager here in Southern California who lives this approach every day. He books about $750,000 annually and he NEVER cuts his price. When his clients and prospects ask him to cut his price—and they do—he educates them. He clearly shows them why he chooses NOT to cut his price and why his price is fair and what value he brings to them over and above supplying branded merchandise. Does he lose business? Sometimes. But not as often as you'd think. His contacts GET that he is willing to walk away from the business and that he means what he says and, most often, he is respected for his position. More often than not, he gets the job. The lesson is—don't sell from fear. You can be VERY successful and never cut your price.
Read through that bold list of sales approaches at the beginning of this article again. Decide which ones speak to you. Focus on marketing yourself through one or more of these varied and effective methods in order to connect with and bring value to clients and prospects. I'll say it again—Be bold, Be different, Be memorable. And know that, when you quote your clients, you are worth every penny.
Rick Greene, MAS, is the western regional vice president for Halo Branded Solutions, a current board member with SAAC and the author of the comic fantasy novels, "Boofalo!" and "Shroom!", available at www.amazon.com.