6 Traits of Highly Profitable Distributors

6 Traits of Highly Profitable Distributors

Throughout the promotional product industry, there are highly profitable distributors that are rock solid year after year.  These companies consistently buck downward economic trends and outperform other firms.

6 Traits of Highly Profitable Distributors

What secrets drive their outstanding performance?  Actually, there’s no secret at all.

Ownership Matters

  • Many profitable distributors are owned by successful former sales reps  
  • A focus on sales carries throughout the organization and creates an environment of success
  • The owner’s industry sales success gives him or her instant credibility with the sales team

Value of Customer Service

  • Management and sales efforts must be focused on providing outstanding customer service and value

Out in The Field

  • Owners and management look for chances to assist in providing leads, making joint sales calls, and closing deals for the benefit of the sales team

Not Afraid to Make Money

  • Top companies thrive on making margin when a great value benefits their clients and sales reps alike


  • They don’t keep secrets from their team
  • Too many owners blow years of credibility trying to grab a small piece of extra revenue 

Clients Come First

  • The focus of every department is supporting the work of the sales team and over-delivering for clients

Is your business highly profitable? If not, what are you going to do in the short, medium, and long-term to change that?

6 Traits of Top Performing Sales Reps

6 Traits of Top Performing Sales Reps

6 Traits of Top Performing Sales Reps

We all know a few sales rep who are able to grow their business year after year despite any obstacle. They bring in the big clients and profitable programs. 

What leads to their consistently strong performance? All that separates them are these 6 traits.

Customer Service

  • Top performers are intensely focused on customer service.  Service is not a trendy catch phrase for this group, it is a way of life. Their extreme dedication to service creates passive referrals from their clients and sets the tone for proactive referral requests.

Order Size

  • Peak performers average order size is often two to three times the industry standard. No, they don’t load clients up with products.  They do look for great values which allow clients to consolidate purchases for multiple locations.

Margin Matters

  • This group is not afraid to make margin as a result strong client relationships, providing value in every purchase, and intense customer focus. Often top performers exceed industry average margins by 3-5%

Quality Counts

  • Peak performers don’t cut corners!  They don’t substitute inferior products to make more money. They follow every step needed to deliver quality merchandise from perfect graphics, to precise virtual and production proofs, to on time delivery.

They Are Problem Solvers

  • Top promo reps never assess blame.  First, if problems arise, they retrieve defective merchandise from the client as quickly as possible. Second, they move to supply the right product.  Only later do they sort out the details of what missteps where taken in the delivery channel.

Work Smart

  • Peak performers are an elite group in the promo industry because they work harder to satisfy clients than the rest of the pack.  The result is customer loyalty, referrals, larger orders and higher margins than their peers.
How to Attract Sales Reps To Your Business

How to Attract Sales Reps To Your Business

Sales talent is the life blood of your promotional product business. Great sales reps can boost your revenue, build your brand, and win huge orders. We all know that great reps are critical to success, but how do you get them on your team?

The first step is to make your business attractive to them. You can attract great sales reps and staff by building a strong reputation, creating a business that is easy to root for, and delivering on your promises.

Here are 8 simple things you can do to help attract top talent to your promotional product business:

  • Treat your sales reps and staff with respect, honest, and fairness. The culture of your company matters. It can either draw great people to your business or repel them.
  • Be a servant leader—you and your business exist to support your sales reps and their clients.  Providing flexible solutions is a win for everyone and will get you referrals.
  • Avoid use of non-compete agreements. Either you trust your sales reps or you don’t. You have to earn their trust and loyalty with every order. Hiding behind a non-compete agreement allows your business to provide substandard support and compensation, and forces your sales reps to put up with it. While your lawyer may insist on these agreements, they are bad for business in the long run.
  • Be good to your suppliers. This group can either refer new sales reps and staff to your business or tell them to stay far, far away.
  • Deliver on your promises and partnerships. It’s one thing to talk about how you will work with someone. It’s another thing to deliver as promised. Your reputation is a huge part of the company culture will attract new sales reps.
  • Pay your bills and commissions on time. There’s no better way to create loyalty and win fans for your business. Loyal fans will tell their friends and new reps will follow.
  • Communicate often with everyone involved with your business. No one likes surprises, but they do respect owners who tell the truth in good times and in bad. Honesty and transparency are a prerequisite in today’s business environment.
  • Be loyal to your team and they will return that loyalty. They will also help you build your business so it will be around for the long run.

These tactics aren’t difficult and should really be common practice. However, you ‘d be amazed at how many businesses fall short. Their failure is your opportunity!

Now that you know how to attract top talent to your business, where do you find that talent?

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!

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?

Secrets of Promo Sales Superstars

Secrets of Promo Sales Superstars

Sales SuperstarThroughout my career, I have worked with many Sales Superstars.  From my observations, they have all shared some unique habits that made them Superstars.

  1. Sales Superstars view “No” as a temporary condition to be worked around or solved. “No” isn’t a stopping point or ending; it is a bump in the road to “Yes”!
  2. Superstars are client focused and work as the client’s advocate for pricing, terms, delivery charges and QC. They work as an extension of the client’s team to achieve a common goal. If they help the client achieve their goal, the Superstar wins.
  3. Follow-up habits fill the Superstar’s day. They spend their time servicing the sale and the client to be sure every order is done right and delivered on time. They check and check again to get everything right.
  4. Superstars are driven to maintain a higher lifestyle comfort zone than most sales reps. They like nice homes, great trips and expensive cars. Since money allows them to maintain this comfort zone, they are money focused.  Always remember that it’s a lifestyle the Superstar wants, not a dollar amount.
  5. Ok, I will say it… Sales Superstars can be a little quirky and their success gives them the right to be quirky! I will take a small team of quirky Superstars over a large team of average producers anytime. They are more driven to achieve.

If you have a Sales Superstar on your team, consider yourself lucky!  Give them the tools they need for success and watch them go.  A Sales Superstar in their stride is a thing of beauty!

Promo Sales Assistant

So You Want a Promo Sales Assistant?

If you have a great promo sales assistant, count yourself as being very fortunate!

However, the challenge of producing the extra revenue needed to justify your sales assistant must be considered. In my experience there are many sales reps who develop the sales volume and need for an assistant. When logically added, an assistant will help a sales rep increase revenue.

Like many situations in sales management, logic doesn’t necessarily apply. Here are the reasons why:

  1. Sales reps are often not good managers. The skill set needed to be a great sales person and generate revenue is not the same skill set needed to delegate, manage, set expectations, and develop accountability. Assign a team lead to supervise sales support personnel, and make damn sure they understand sales.
  2. Lack of vision limits the sales rep’s concept of what they can accomplish. I have seen sales reps take all day trying to explain the tasks to be completed by a sales assistant. As a result, he worked longer hours and his sales dropped while a frustrated and talented assistant struggled to help him.
  3. Duties are not divided in a simple way. I like this method. The sales rep sells and sales support does everything else—including guide the day of the sales rep. It might sound crazy, but I don’t want great sales reps on my team doing tasks that can be completed by someone at a lower wage rate. If you do nothing else, put this simple rule in place to be sure sales reps are building relationships, identifying and filling needs, and closing deals.
  4. Don’t be a micro-manager. While your detail orientation might make you great with client and sale specifics, it can make you a difficult supervisor and a failure as a manager.
  5. Your sales assistant should be your opposite. You are the ying; they are the yang.  This balance makes a team work best, helps avoid duplicate efforts, and naturally divides turf and tasks.
  6. Trust is the key to successful sales support/sales rep relationships. Sales support trust that you will sell and maintain the need for their job. They expect you will assign tasks and get out of their way. And they know you want to sell more and make more money. The sales rep must trust that everyone’s best interests are aligned with one goal—increasing sales and income.

A great sales assistant is a rare find and the gives the sales rep a tremendous advantage. If you have a sales assistant, take the time to get the relationship right on Day 1. If you employ sales assistants be sure you are measuring sales rep margin contribution with the reps added cost. And you must provide proper management of both sales rep and assistant.

Promotional Product Commissions

5 Tips That Can Easily Add 5-10% To Your Commissions


Here are 5 tips that I’ve used and coached throughout my promotional product career. When used correctly, these techniques can add 5-10% to the gross profit of distributor sales reps. Please use these tip wisely and often. Enjoy the extra spending money!

  1. Never Use A Catalog

DO NOT ever give a catalog to your client. Pricing in our industry is 100% relative and based on perceived value. Set the perception and you set the price. If you give your client a catalog you are giving them exactly what they need to start price shopping. Give your client a catalog and you will GUARANTEE yourself a lower margin than you could have earned.

  1. “Read” Your Client

How experienced is your client? Do they purchase promotional products every day or is this their first time? Is this order a very important decision to him? Or does he just want to get it over with and off his checklist?

You need to be able to read your client and the situation. Their experience level will tell you a lot about where to price their project. If they lack experience, walk them through the ordering, production, and delivery process, but don’t forget to pay yourself for the service provided by padding your bottom line a bit.

  1. Understand The Value You Bring

We aren’t peddlers of trinkets and trash. We are professional branded merchandise consultants. We source products, negotiate, manage logistics, and protect the brands and businesses of our clients. Never forget that. Don’t minimize your value because that always leads to you minimizing your margin.

  1. Use Trusted Suppliers That Give You The Best Pricing

Not all suppliers are created equal, nor is the pricing they offer. Whenever possible present your clients with products from the suppliers that give you the best pricing. Special pricing is usually available from the large suppliers. Give your customer a high-quality product and give yourself higher commissions by using trusted, value-driven suppliers.

  1. Add “Closeouts” to your offering

Some reps view closeouts or overstock items as unsellable, obsolete products. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In many cases, adding closeouts to your product mix provides great value to your client, generates higher margins for you, and helps a trusted supplier move merchandise. There are very successful reps who make great livings selling closeouts exclusively. You can usually sell overstock items at a margin of 60%. That’s definitely something to be excited about!