Promotional Product RFP

How to Handle Promotional Products RFPs

“How do I respond to a Promotional Product RFP in order to win it?”

This question has been asked by every sales representative, sales manager, and distributorship owner in the promotional product business.  Each response will reveal a secret ranging from how you vaguely answer the questions, to the use of unique packaging of the RFP response, to don’t respond to RFPs—run!

There are many questions that come before, “How do I win an RFP?”  Due to the heavy commitment of resources to reply, present, implement you must be sure you understand all aspects before agreeing to respond. Here are some of the questions you need to ask before you even start on an RFP:

  1. Why were you or we asked to participate?  Do we have a business relationship with the customer?  Was our name drawn from a hat?
  2. What do we know about the client?  Are they solid financially?  Why are they leaving their current provider?  Are they a good business partner?  Do they pay their bills and let us make some money?  Do they or a third party pay the bills?
  3. Is this a B2B program or B2C?  Average order size?  How do we bill and collect?
  4. Is there inventory involved?  Will they agree to own inventory on the front end or agree to a back-end commitment?  Can we afford to fund the inventory?
  5. Do we have the technology needed to integrate with the customer’s systems? If not, what does it cost?

Do your homework before you ask your company to support your efforts to win an RFP.  If you cannot answer the questions above, it’s unlikely you will ever get to the question of, “How do I win an RFP?”

Holiday Promotional Products

How To Boost Your Holiday Sales

Before you start your Annual Sales & Marketing Plan, there is still time for a few holiday orders! Most clients have a strong needs to holiday promotional products. While many clients purchase the same gift for everyone, others take a tiered approach. Today I will discuss converting the “one gift fits all” buyers to “tiered” buyers. In the process of this conversion, you will show the client the value you bring to the table and increase your holiday sales.

How do you go about getting additional orders from a client who already placed their holiday order?

  1. Put together a list of $15-$25 quick ship gift items and a list of $35-$50 apparel items from your favorite suppliers.
  2. Review all client orders on which they purchased the same gift for all recipients.
  3. Call your gift buyers and give them an update on their pending order and make the following pitch”

“Hi Jane, I know you bought the $5 pens for all of your customers, but what do you plan to give your Top 50 customers—the ones who really move the needle for you? We have a great selection of $15-$25 gifts that your big buyers will really appreciate.”

  1. Call your buyers who haven’t purchased anything for their employees and make this pitch:

“Hi Steve, I noticed you didn’t buy anything for your employees this year. We still have time to get them a nice jacket or sweatshirt for the employees who really come through for you. They just love getting logoed apparel this time of year. And it really helps to improve employee relations.”

Some sales rep might say “this sounds like I’m trying to sell them something.” Well, if you aren’t trying to make a sale you are in the wrong business! Success with this sales technique can bring you a nice bundle of holiday cash.

Thanksgiving is Here: Should I Take Off?

We know it’s tempting to stretch a holiday from one or two days to a full week.  Family is home, there are things to prepare for the holiday and it’s a great time to relax and recharge for the next week.

We say, “Don’t do it. Go into the office to get some work done!”  This is what we recommend you do Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week.

  • Monday—clean off your desk and clean out your office /cubicle. Have a large trash can handy because you will need it. Make a stack of important papers, order copies, Post-It notes and review your messages that require follow-up. Return samples to the showroom and refile catalogs. Disinfect your desk, phone, and calculator. Have lunch with co-workers and let them know how thankful you are for their help and friendship.
  • Tuesday—late start today! Review your stack of papers from Monday for follow-up. Touch these papers only once, listing to-do’s, calls and questions. These papers are heading for the trash or recycling can after one touch. When you are finished with this task, next review all of your pending orders and make sure they are on track for holiday delivery. Contact your clients to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and assure them their holiday orders are moving along as scheduled.
  • Wednesday—this is a half-day!! Your office is clean, your holiday orders are on track, you contacted key clients and enjoyed lunch with your co-workers. Make your to-do list for the Monday after Thanksgiving so you will hit the ground running when you return to the office.  At the top of a legal pad, write “Sales Plan”.  You will start on this on December 1st.

Enjoy the rest of the week with your family and friends.  We will get into your Sales Planning process soon in another post! Remember that a plan is just a dream until you write it down!

Effective Time Management

Top 5 Tips of Effective Time Management

What if I told you that how you use your time dramatically affects your income and the level of success you achieve in your career?

Well, that is exactly what I am telling you! You must take control of your time to take control of your income and career. Only then will you have the focus you need for success. Here’s how you get started.

To-Do Lists

End each day with the 5 actions items you must accomplish the following day. 4 out of 5 of these actions must be revenue generating.  If they are not revenue generating, rewrite your list.

Controlling In-Bound Communication

I know, you are very social and love to catch up with suppliers and CSRs at your office, and it’s great to chat with the occasional customer who might call.  Are these conversations on your daily list? Probably not. This is about taking control to build a business, not about instant responsiveness.

  • Forward your land line to voicemail.  Check it 3 times each day and respond only if urgent.
  • Silence your cell phone ringer and text notification. Check it 3 times each day and respond only if urgent.
  • Review incoming mail over a trash can, pitch what is irrelevant and save what you need to review for Friday afternoon when the pace is slower.

Allocate time for the following activities each week

  • Client research and prospecting
  • Order follow-up and “thank you’s”
  • Product research/quotes
  • Social media interaction
  • Brief check-ins with your team—CSRs, graphics, AR, referral sources
  • Face-to-face with 1-2 clients

Managing your time involves changing your clients expectations.  You can do this easily with a holiday “thank you” note.

“Hi Jane, Thank you so much for your business and friendship this year!  You are the reason I love my job so much.  In 2015, I have set aside Thursday afternoons to focus exclusively on helping you with your promotional calendar. I really look forward to kicking this off on 1/8/15, and know it will make your life easier….”

Fire time wasting clients.  You know who they are and it’s time you set them free to get better service elsewhere.

“Hi Steve—starting in 2015, I have changed the focus of my business and no longer embroider the 6 fishing team shirts you buy at Costco once a year.  ABC Embroidery is happy to help with that—here is their number.”

Most promotional product sales reps will tell you that time management is a major weakness of theirs. Most will tell you that they want to improve their time management skills. They will listen to a talk on the subject and read the handout material. It is rare for a sales rep to improve their time management skills. Why?  They can’t keep up, they don’t have the time, they can’t get organized, not enough hours in the day, they’re working on it.

You can be the one who improves their time management skills, increases their income and achieves greater career success. Just get started now and stick with it!

How to Write a Resume That Will Land You Any Job

How to Write a Resume That Will Land You Any Job

A resume is an ink and paper representation of your career. During the job search it can be the key to your next job. Like most things in the business world, it’s a good idea to stick with proven best practices. Below are several time-tested rules of resume writing.

Keep it simple and clean. Your resume should be built on your experience and accomplishments. It doesn’t need graphics, artwork, or “personality”. The structure and font that you choose does make a difference. Keep it orderly and easy to read. Nothing should detract from the content.

Include all pertinent contact information. This includes your cell phone number, personal email address and home address. Some younger candidates include social media handles. That can be helpful, but isn’t necessary in the promotional product industry.

Tell the reader what you want. This is your objective. Your objective needs to be a strong, bold statement about 1-2 sentences long. Follow this with your summary. This should be 4-5 sentences and tell the reader what they can expect to get from you.

Focus on your accomplishments, not your duties. Don’t tell the reader what you did, tell them what you got done.

If you can’t quantify it, it doesn’t exist. In the world of resumes, numbers are king. You grew your sales? Great. How much? You managed a team of sales rep. Cool. How many? Put a number to everything!

Many employers and recruiters will load your resume into a database immediately. They’ll use this database to search for job candidates just like you and I use Google. Take advantage of this and make sure that your resume contains keywords that make sense for the position that you want.

Your resume is not one size fits all. You need to customize, customize, customize! Customize it for each job and each company that you are applying for.

No matter what job you are applying for you have to highlight your qualifications for that specific position. Make it very obvious to the reader that you have everything they could want in an employee.

Resumes can quickly become stale and out of date. Set a recurring reminder to update your resume every 3 months.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, looks worse than grammatical or spelling errors in a resume. It shouts “Unprofessional!” Please proofread and have 2 others proofread it as well.

Promote yourself! Resumes are not for being humble or giving credit to others. Own your accomplishments and SELL THE READER! Provide all the evidence needed to convince even the most skeptical reader that you will be a difference maker for their business!

8 Signs That You Work in a Dysfunctional Office

Do You Work in a Dysfunctional Office?

Promotional product sales offices are crazy places. They have a unique dynamic that drives the culture, mood and productivity of sales reps and assistants who call the office home.  The tone of the office is set by the onsite sales manager, office manager or regional executive who is responsible for providing a productive home for all employees. Unfortunately, intra-office dynamics can develop that detract from productivity and camaraderie of the sales office.

In other words, some offices suck.

Do you work in a dysfunctional office? Here are the 8 warning signs:

  1. Whispering and gossip between employees
  2. Closed office doors
  3. Lack of sales support from your manager
  4. Staff who say, “That’s not my job!”
  5. Ideas and creativity are not shared between sales reps
  6. Flare-ups of overwrought emotions, including anger, tears, frustration and neglect
  7. Shared office chores aren’t completed because some feel put upon
  8. There is no sense of common mission or team spirit

You need to be aware of these signs of dysfunction and meet with company management to address your concerns. Ultimately the mission is to serve your clients.  If your office isn’t supporting your efforts, you owe it to yourself and your company to change things.

10 Tips That Will Get Your Client Presentations In Great Shape

10 Tips That Will Get Your Client Presentations In Great Shape

Big orders, career changing orders, usually require some sort of face-to-face meeting. With much at stake email will simply not do. Presentations are the way to go if you absolutely, positively must win a big order. However, standing in front of a professional audience can be intimidating. Follow these 10 simple tips and you’ll greatly improve your presentation skills and your chances of winning that big order!

  1. Preparation matters! Know your material, know your audience, and know what questions or objections might come up.
  2. Dress to impress. If you don’t look like an expert, you’re already in the hole.
  3. Don’t rely on live demos. If you’re presenting an online store, always use screenshots. The number one guideline with technology is that it will always fail at the worst possible time.
  4. Don’t rely on call-in participants. If you can’t be in the room for the presentation then butt out. Bad reception, missed calls, calling at the wrong time and loud background noise are just a few of the problems you can create when you call in.
  5. Avoid text-filled slides. Images can capture the imagination. Use them liberally.
  6. If PowerPoint is your game, keep it under 20 slides.
  7. Be repetitive! Tell them. Tell them what you told them. Then summarize what you told them.
  8. Keep your audience focused on you. You and what you are saying are the only things that matter. Handouts are a big distraction and can wait until later.
  9. Interject your personality. Robots can regurgitate information. Be a human and make a connection with your audience.
  10. Know who the real decision maker is and find a way to connect with him or her.

What other tips have contributed to your success in client presentations?

Finding Your Spark

Finding Your Spark

Spark

How are you doing today?

“Eh… so-so.”

“I’m hanging in there.”

“Not too bad.”

These common responses are symptoms of a big problem. Your fire has gone out. Maybe you never had one in the first place, but if you want to succeed, I mean really succeed, you MUST rekindle it. Without out it, days drag on, projects become boring, and your work suffers.

Starting a fire from nothing is not only daunting, it’s impossible. So, begin with something simple, a spark. A spark is the excitement that you feel when you find a great new product for a client, the rush you experience after a good meeting, or the boost you get from a positive email. One spark is all it takes and sparks can be found everywhere if you know how to look for them.

You can find your spark by:

  • Having an honest chat with a successful colleague
  • Remembering why you got into the business in the first place
  • Thinking about your family and loved ones
  • Reading uplifting blogs or articles
  • Making a change in your job focus or career
  • Completing a SWOT analysis about your career and your life

Sparks can be found everywhere, but only you know where to look for yours. You have to be open to honest self-reflection. How did your fire go out and how can you rekindle that passion?

The most important thing you can do is admit that your passion and drive has left you. This can be very tough to admit. Most of us want to truck on and work through it. That’s never the answer. Address your issue right away and immediately start searching your life for your spark. When you do find it, be sure to take better care of yourself and the fire that drives you.

PPAI Expo

Tips for PPAI Expo Success | Attendee Edition

Are you planning to attend the PPAI Expo? Make the most of your time (and survive Las Vegas) by following these simple tips.

  1. Start show preparation at least a month before the event. This is when you call your clients to discuss their marketing calendar and promotional product needs. Your clients’ needs will become your shopping list for the show!
  2. Set appointments with suppliers to discuss specific client projects. This one-on-one time should be focused, fast-paced, and impactful. Don’t waste time!
  3. Have manners.
    • Don’t block the aisles.
    • Don’t interrupt a supplier or sales rep because you’re in a hurry.
    • Don’t linger in a booth and dominate a supplier’s time.
    • If you’re looking for free stuff to ship home for the kids… really?
  4. No need to visit every vendor, especially if they visit your office regularly. Look for the suppliers you don’t see often.
  5. Ask suppliers about their best selling products and hottest markets.
  6. Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to walk between 5-8 miles!
  7. Everyone has a saturation point when you just can’t look at another cap, mug or pen. When you hit this point, do yourself a favor and call it a day.
  8. At times the night club or the craps table may be calling your name. Be prepared to say no (or at least turn in early).

Follow these time-tested tips and you’ll be able to get the most out of any industry trade show. Happy shopping!

Want to help an exhibitor make the most of their PPAI Expo experience? Send them our post on the topic!

PPAI Expo

Tips for PPAI Expo Success | Exhibitor Edition

The PPAI Expo is upon us. Haven’t started planning for it? Didn’t get the results you wanted last year? Do not panic! Follow these 8 simple tips and you’ll be on the track for PPAI success!

  1. Smile! Social media and email won’t help you here. Your smile is your brand. Practice it and use it often!
  2. Make eye contact. I’ve attended well over 100 product shows. I know I am “hooked” for a conversation when an exhibitor makes eye contact and smiles! Who can resist a friendly face and a smile?
  3. Act like you really want to be exhibiting. If you or your show staff don’t want to be part of the exhibit team, it shows. Save the time and money and stay home.
  4. Have a purpose! Use show time to build on friendships and business relationships. Know your top 25 clients and know what you want to discuss with them. Make a personal call to your top 25 the week before the show. Set a time and reason to talk. Probe for homework, quotes and spec samples needs. Your booth should not be a place to sling out catalogs.
  5. Don’t sit in the corner of your booth checking email! Better yet, forget the chair. I’ve seen hundreds of exhibitors who were relieved that I didn’t stop to see them. Make visitors feel welcome.
  6. Spring for the padded carpet in your booth. Your clients will stay to talk longer and your feet will thank you at the end of the day.
  7. Look sharp! Whether you wear a suit, business casual, or jeans and a pressed shirt, dress like you mean business! Impress your clients and be proud of your appearance.
  8. Stock-up on breath mints and hand sanitizer. You get the idea here.
  9. Follow-up on your show promises. If you said you would send a sample or spec or special pricing or resolve a problem–you have to deliver!

Have a great show! The PromoPlacement team will see you in Las Vegas!

Want to help an attendee make the most of their PPAI Expo experience? Send them our post on the topic!