The State of the Promotional Products Talent Market | 2021

Finding great people is always a challenge. However, your odds of finding and hiring great candidates are significantly increased if you have a firm understanding of the talent pool that is available to you. In other words, knowledge is power.

Our team of sourcers and recruiters have had hundreds of conversations with hiring managers and job candidates every week. To provide managers and candidates with a better understanding of the promotional products talent market, we’ve tracked these conversations over the past twelve months. The results of our analysis have provided the insights below.

If you’re planning to grow your firm and add to your team in 2021, here’s what the promotional products talent market has in store for you:

DISTRIBUTORS

Executive-Level

Within the distributor-side of our industry, executive-level job candidates are much more available than they were in 2020. Most of these candidates are in senior management positions and are weathering business downturns with their current employer. These are the people in the $160,000 to $225,000 compensation range. They’ve been smart to stick with their current employer during the pandemic but are looking to make a jump at the nearest available opportunity.

Management

Experienced distributor managers find themselves in for the long haul with their current employers. These folks face a bit of a logjam. Most distributors have made a concerted effort to bring in relatively young, savvy senior managers from outside the industry. Unfortunately, many of these candidates find themselves with little room to advance and a job market that they don’t quite trust yet.

Marketing

Demand for marketing managers and marketing support reps fell off a cliff in 2020. Many distributors still struggle to grasp the real ROI of their marketing efforts and often view marketing as a cost center. With most distributorships tightening their belts, marketing expertise has been pushed to the side until end-user spending stabilizes.

Sales

The talent market for distributor-side sales reps continues to tell the story of two different models. Both have taken their lumps during the pandemic. Demand has been very strong among distributorships with a commission compensation structure. The reason for this is simple economics. Demand for sales reps with firms using a salary plus bonus compensation structure is keeping pace. These firms have fine-tuned their branding agency business model and are investing in new salespeople with promotional products or adjacent experience. More and more we’re seeing veteran reps swing to the agency model for financial stability.

Customer Service

Distributors, large and small, continue to have a difficult time fully staffing their customer service and sales support teams. An increased customer focus within many distributorships has put these job candidates at a premium. The growth of many distributorships with a commission compensation structure also adds to the demand for these candidates. Experienced, knowledgeable customer service people remain very sought after in today’s talent market.

Vendor Relations/Sourcing/Merchandising

Vendor relations, sourcing, and merchandising professionals were highly sought after on the distributor side throughout 2020. Unlike marketing, most distributors view vendor relations and sourcing expertise to be critical to their cost controls. We expect compensation for more senior roles to creep into the six figures by the end of 2021.

SUPPLIERS

Executive-Level

Despite the effects of the pandemic, the game of musical chairs has continued on the supplier-side of our business. This movement was due mostly to mergers and acquisitions that continue to change the face of our industry. Several top 40 firms are looking to expand or make changes to their executive team in 2021. Real innovators, candidates who are embracing the large-scale changes coming to our industry, are in particularly high demand.

Management

At the management level, there are far fewer opportunities than in 2020. We’ve seen very little movement at the director-level over the past six months. This is largely due to the pandemic as even unhappy professionals are hesitant to make a risky career move.

Marketing

Suppliers recognize marketing as an important differentiator. However, due to instability within the industry, suppliers have been standing pat with their marketing teams as currently constructed. Owners are scrambling a bit to find new ways to set their businesses apart without taking on new costs.

Sales

The traditional game of supplier sales rep musical chairs has been replaced with a large number of out-of-work promotional product professionals. There’s a significant pool of experienced and successful supplier sales reps who are seeking their next career opportunity.

Customer Service

Suppliers are no longer adding staff to their customer service teams. Layoffs haven’t had a significant effect on this group as suppliers understand the importance of providing distributors with positive customer service experiences.

Sourcing/Merchandising/Purchasing

Vendor relations, sourcing, and merchandising professionals were in high demand throughout 2020. Suppliers have been quick to seek out new vendors as they work to cut costs and pivot to PPE sales.

RISE OF REMOTE

Last year our State of the Promotional Products Talent Market analysis provided insights into the promo job market for five separate regions of the US. It took a global pandemic, but our industry has finally embraced alternative officing (remote or work-from-home). Technology has made this move relatively seamless for most distributors and suppliers. We’ve talked with many distributors who have closed down their traditional offices and will be 100% virtual moving forward. It will be interesting to follow this trend over the coming years and see which companies opt to go back to traditional office spaces.

TAKE ACTION

What are your growth and hiring plans for 2021? Do you have the talent you need to succeed?

PromoPlacement has the insight, network, and expertise to ensure that your team is made up of the best talent our industry has to offer. Contact our team today to discuss your business goals!

 

Promotional Products Job Interview Questions | Sales Representative Edition

Most job interviews are a challenging experience for everyone involved.

The candidate is nervous and on edge. Most candidate’s greatest fear about a job interview is that they’ll be open, honest, their best self will shine through, and they still won’t get the job. To hedge against this, most rehearse their answers to standard interview questions. At best, this process results in stiff, inauthentic answers, at worst, some answers are flat-out lies.

The success or failure of most job interviews comes down to how much the interviewer prepared for the interview ahead of time. The biggest mistake a hiring manager can make is to come unprepared and simply take a candidate’s answers at face value. We all know that talk is cheap and it’s up to you, the interviewer, to get to the truth.

Canned Responses and A Wasted Hour

Here are 5 very common traditional interview questions that you’ve probably asked or been asked many times.

  • “What are your greatest strengths or weaknesses?”
  • “What did you enjoy most/least about your last position?”
  • “Describe the best boss you’ve ever had.”
  • “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”
  • “How would your coworkers or supervisor describe you?”

9 out of 10 times these questions get you absolutely nowhere. You’ll learn little about your candidate and be no closer to discovering what they would be like as a co-worker. Candidates have prepared and rehearsed answers to these questions to death. These canned answers are designed to make the candidate look great and tell the interviewer what they want to hear. As a result, the interviewer and the candidate part ways knowing very little new, honest information about each other.

How can you be expected to make the very expensive decision of hiring a new employee with such murky information?

Behavior-Based Interviewing

The solution to this predicament is behavior-based questions. These questions are built on the philosophy that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Traditional interview question: “How do you handle stress?”

Behavior-based interviewing question: “Tell me about a time you had to perform a task or project under a lot of stress?”

20 Terrific Interview Questions for Sales Representatives

“Tell me about a time when a client came to you with a problem. What did you do?”

“Tell me about a presentation that you made to upper management. What was it about? How did it go?”

“Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see/do things your way.”

“Describe a situation where you had to collect information by asking many people a lot of questions.”

“Describe a time when you facilitated a creative solution to a problem in the workplace.”

“Describe a time when you took personal accountability for a conflict and initiated contact with a client/coworker to explain your actions.”

“Tell me about a time you felt you needed to be assertive in order to get what you felt you or your team deserved or needed.”

“Give me an example of a time you effectively used your people skills to solve a customer problem.”

“Tell me about a major project you recently completed. How did you set project goals and monitor your progress?”

“Tell me about a time when you used your interpersonal skills to build a network of contacts to reach goals.”

“Describe a time where your patience in gathering information paid off.”

“Describe a time where you took the initiative to act rather than waiting to be told what to do.”

“Describe for me a situation when you had to build and maintain a new relationship in order to accomplish a business goal.”

“Give me an example of a time when you were a good listener.”

“Give me an example of a time when you had to juggle several important activities and projects in a limited amount of time. Did you stay on top of all of them? How?”

“All jobs have unpleasant tasks. Tell me about the most unpleasant tasks you were required to do at work. Were you successful in getting it done? Why or why not?”

‘Tell me about a big project you had to plan for work.”

“Describe the most significant presentation you have had to give.”

“Give me an example of an important goal you have had and how you went about achieving it.”

“Tell me about the greatest business risk you have taken.”

The job interview process and the results garnered from it are greatly improved when hiring firms move from the tired, old interview questions to behavior-based interview questions.  The answers that come from behavior-based questions give the candidate a chance to truly reveal who they are, what they’ve done in the past, and what they can contribute to the hiring firm.  With this knowledge, hiring firms can make quality decisions that reduce ramp-up time, improve retention, and increase their chances of making a great hire!

 

Your PPAI Expo Networking Guide

Your PPAI Expo Networking Guide

The PPAI Expo is an event largely built around the products in our industry. There will be thousands of new products, specials, and closeouts lining the seven miles of booths. With so much to see it’s highly recommended that you go into the show with a plan of what booths you need to hit and which products you need to learn about.

Having a pre-show plan in place will allow for plenty of time to take advantage of the real value provided by the PPAI Expo–networking. Over 12,000 promotional product industry professionals will be managing the booths, walking the floor, and pulling the levers at the slots. No one can connect with everyone, but stick to our PPAI Expo Networking Guide and you’ll optimize your time in Las Vegas.

Starbucks

Outside of the food court, the Starbucks that sits along the walkway to the Expo is the closest place to get a coffee or a bite to eat. It tends to be hectic but will be littered with fellow promotional product industry professionals from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening.

Border Grill

The Border Grill is the closest restaurant to the show floor. It’s moderately priced, perfect for a mid-day margarita, and will be slammed by the lunch crowd. It’s a great place to grab a bit with old friends or talk about your latest RFP opportunity with your favorite supplier.

Orchid Lounge

The Orchid Lounge is located on the casino floor of the Mandalay Bay and is the ideal spot to have an after-show cocktail.

eyecandy

eyecandy is in the center of the casino floor and, though a bit loud, is a very popular spot with industry folks. The small club has no cover charge. It’ll usually kick off around 10:00 and stays open until 1:00.

House of Blues

The House of Blues is at the Mandalay Bay end of the long (and expensive) walkway that connects Mandalay with the Luxor. The music and food are great. If you have to entertain a large group or want to treat your sales team, the House of Blues is the place to go.

Shark Reef Aquarium

The entrance to the Shark Reef Aquarium is just to the left of the food court. It’s really the only major attraction close to the show floor. The aquarium is beautiful and can be the perfect, quiet break from the craziness of the show floor. Tickets are $25, but who can put a price on a little relaxation.

Cirque du Soleil

The Las Vegas nightlife presents a great opportunity for industry managers and team leaders to initiate some teambuilding. Seeing a Las Vegas show is the perfect group activity and there’s none better than Cirque du Soleil. It’s a bit pricey with cheap tickets ranging from $40 to $70 depending on the show, but there’s just something about seeing a grown man bend himself into a pretzel that makes your stretch sales goals for the coming year seem much more attainable.

Regardless of where you spend your time at the PPAI Expo you will have a great time. It’s a wonderful show and you’ll be surrounded by all of the great people who make our industry. Have a blast!

Are you exhibiting at the PPAI EXPO or will you be walking the floor and checking out the new products? Read our top tips for success at our industry’s largest trade show!

 

A Guide to PPAI Career Resources

PromoPlacement was recently invited to spend the day at PPAI headquarters.  PPAI is a terrific organization and it was a great day. It was wonderful to meet all of the men and women who are directing our industry’s future.

“Happy to spend time with Patrick McHargue, Director of Talent at PromoPlacement. Always looking for ways to bring new talent to industry companies and help promotional professionals find the right opportunities. Thanks for making the trip from St. Louis for the visit!”

-Paul Bellantone | Chief Executive Officer of PPAI

After meeting with the professional development team at PPAI, we were very impressed with the education and career tools available through PPAI. We were so impressed that we want to remind you of all of the great PPAI career resources at your fingertips.

Resume Posting

If you’re actively seeking a new opportunity in our industry, the resume posting service provided by PPAI is a great place to start. To make the most of this resource, you simply upload your resume and complete a short form. This platform allows you to get your background onto a platform that’s well-traveled by industry hiring managers looking to add to their team.

http://www.ppai.org/industry-professional-resumes/

Job Board

The PPAI job board is quite popular with industry hiring managers. Essentially, it’s the inverse of the resume posting platform. Hiring managers who are looking to fill opportunities fill out a short form and upload a job description. You can even see the date the job opening was posted so you can be sure that the opportunity is still active.

http://www.ppai.org/industry-job-board/

Online PPAI Education

The online education portal on PPAI.org is really the hidden gem of career resources. To access it, you’ll need to know your PPAI username and password. Once signed in, you’ll get access to a myriad of live and on-demand educational seminars. These seminars aren’t exclusively focused on career advancement but are an invaluable asset when looking to round out your industry know-how and expertise.

Topics covered in PPAI’s online education platform include SAGE, client development, decorating methods, supply chain, social compliance, social media best practices, and industry-specific sales practices.

https://onlineeducation.ppai.org/

If you’re looking to advance your career or searching for a new opportunity in our industry, these PPAI resources are excellent places to start your journey!

 

How to Make Internships Work for the Promo Industry

Making Internships Work for the Promo Industry

Our industry, like many others, has a rapidly aging workforce. In many ways, this is a wonderful thing. There are thousands of promotional products industry professionals with decades of industry knowledge, connections, and expertise. This experience and expertise has greatly improved the service that we can provide to both customers and end-users. Experience is invaluable, but all industries require new talent in order to survive.

Where do you find the new, young talent your organization needs?

#1

Engage with the career center of your local college or university. Most institutions will welcome you with open arms.

#2

While onboarding your new intern, establish a schedule of activities to include a company overview, short-term and long-term projects, and a rotation through sales, sales support, marketing, and operations departments.

#3

Special focus should be given to the intern’s major and how education translates to real-world applications.

#4

Unlike a permanent hire, with internships, you must begin with the end in mind. Plan the beginning, middle, and end of the intern’s workload.

#5

Assign an experienced mentor to monitor your intern’s daily activities.

#6

Assign an executive to provide training input and broaden the intern’s view of the business and industry.

#7

Pay your interns and expect them to provide a return on your investment. You will be amazed at what they can accomplish!

#8

Stay in touch with past interns and keep them engaged in your business if you wish to bring them on as permanent employees.

Establishing a successful internship program is a very attainable goal. However, it does require commitment and investment. Focus on making the experience a win-win for both your organization and the intern and you have the opportunity to bring some strong new talent into your business!

Are you looking to add young, energetic promotional product professionals to your team?

Contact our team today to discuss how you can effectively cultivate and attract new talent.

 

6 Traits of Highly Profitable Distributors

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.

What secrets drive these outstanding performers?  Actually, there’s no secret at all. Let us break it down.

Ownership Matters

  • Many profitable distributors are owned by successful former sales reps  
  • A focus on sales drives the organization and creates an environment of success
  • The owner’s promo 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 every opportunity to assist the sales team by 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

Integrity

  • 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?

 

Mark Graham

PromoPath with Mark Graham

Welcome to the fifth installment of what will be an ongoing series of blog posts. Our aim is to explore and learn from the various career paths of promotional product industry leaders.

Our guest interviewee is Mark Graham. Mark is a true superstar entrepreneur in the promotional product industry and was part of the driving force in creating three unique organizations that are changing the way our business works.

Mark Graham

PP: First things first, how did you wind up in the promotional product industry?

MG: I finished university in 1996 and started my career in the corporate banking sector. After three or four months working on Bay Street (Canada’s equivalent to Wall Street), I realized that I really, really hated it.

I’ve had an entrepreneurial streak my entire life and thought that it could be the way out of my job. Turns out a friend of mine was selling branded t-shirts. It wasn’t a formal business by any means at that time, but there was something there. We partnered up and ran the business together. That business became RIGHTSLEEVE in 2000 when my partner left for law school.

PP: What were the early days of RIGHTSLEEVE like? Did you ever doubt that it would work?

MG: Every day for the first two years, I was in desperation mode. I felt like I didn’t really know what I was doing. Most of peers had attractive corporate jobs, and I was running a t-shirt business out of my parent’s house. It wasn’t the sexiest business.

I had no network that could mentor me. I had to learn by doing. It was a really tough time.

PP: You spent 18 months as the President of the Toronto chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization. What does the promo business need to do to spur more entrepreneurship and innovation?

MG: That’s an interesting question. I’m a huge advocate for the entrepreneurial journey, and I consider myself an entrepreneur first and a promotional product professional second. I never set out to sell t-shirts. I set out to build a business and make a difference.

As an industry, I think we need to create an environment where it’s OK to take risks. Where it’s possible to learn what running your own business is really like. Move the focus of our business from pushing products to solving marketing problems for our customers. If we can foster the mentality that we are problem solvers, we can move up the chain in the eyes of our customers. But here’s the important thing, you have to develop a skill set as an organization that solves business problems, as opposed to being an organization that simply processes orders.

This is how our industry can grow from $20 billion to $50 billion. I think that we can, but not with the current outlook.

If you start a business and your only goal is to sell coffee mugs to companies, my feeling is that you aren’t truly an entrepreneur. You’re a distributor selling someone else’s product. It can be very lucrative and there’s nothing wrong with it, but you aren’t creating much value beyond the margin spread.

PP: You helped to found both PromoKitchen and commonsku in January 2011. How crazy was the lead-up to both of these launches? What was your initial vision for these two organizations?

MG: Well, both organizations are near and dear to my heart. PromoKitchen was born out of a time when I was very involved in the PPAI education circuit. I connected with others on this circuit. PromoKitchen was born out of this trend of younger, tech-savvy, promotional product professionals embracing video, blogging, and social media. We thought that we should create something to bring the industry together.

It became an independent resource to help younger people who are getting started in the industry and to share really interesting content. That’s where the idea for education and mentorship came from. Today, PromoKitchen is the leading independent non-profit within the promo industry. It’s made up of a fantastic group of people and is open to everyone. It’s been a real joy to be a part of.

commonsku came out of internal challenges we were having at RIGHTSLEEVE. In 2004/2005 we were growing and running into problems with our technology and processes. We looked at what was available on the market and didn’t find what we needed. Then came the question: “How hard can it be to write our own software?” Famous last words. Turns out it was very hard.

Our passion and, in some part, our naiveté saw us through. Fast forward to 2010, we saw that we had something very interesting. We wrote a business plan and decided to market it to the promo industry. The whole idea was how can we offer a world-class, easy-to-use, beautifully designed, software for the modern distributor. We’ve really been humbled by the response to commonsku. It’s really struck a chord with a certain segment of the industry.

PP: What’s been the most satisfying moment of your promotional product career?

MG: There are two that come to mind. The highest high that I’ve gotten with RIGHTSLEEVE actually happened at PPAI Expo this year. Seth Godin was keynoting. I’ve known him for some time and have had the chance to do a couple of podcasts with him. He gave an amazing speech. He mentioned a few companies that have pushed the envelope and weren’t afraid to challenge industry conventions. He mentioned RIGHTSLEEVE as one of these companies. I had no idea it was coming. It was an enormous surprise that a hero of mine had recognized my business. It was great for all the people who helped build our company.

Our second skucon this year in Las Vegas was really a high for me. It was extraordinary to be in the presence of all of these great people who we have the privilege to serve through our platform. We got to see our original vision come to life. That this little idea we had is actually making an impact with these amazing people was really wonderful.

PP: Your wife, Catherine Graham, is a well know industry leader as the CEO of commonsku and President of RIGHTSLEEVE. What is it like working so closely with your spouse?

MG: It is a wonderful experience. We’ve been able to make it work through a clear separation of our roles. She handles things that I’m not particularly good at or fond of and the inverse is true with me. When it works, it’s all about respecting those divisions. However, those divisions are porous and we do collaborate a lot.

When it doesn’t work so great is when neither of us know the answer to something or one of us is giving an uninformed opinion of the other’s job. I’m usually the one committing that offense, but it never works out well. Outside of that we really make it work and are able to do a lot of things together while still growing individually. Mutual respect is critical.

Working together also gives us the flexibility to spend as much time as we can with our three young kids.  Working together isn’t a possibility for some couples, but for Catherine and I it makes everything work a little bit better. We have a shared interest and a common vision. It makes everything exciting.

PP: You mentioned Seth Godin’s participation at the PPAI Expo this year and it seems that he’s had more exposure to the promotional product industry over the last few years (largely due to PromoKitchen). Is there anything from Seth that has particularly resonated with you?

MG: I think that his best book, and perhaps the best business book of all time, is Purple Cow. It’s written in a very light way, but it’s extremely powerful. It’s Seth’s take on how to be remarkable in business. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I read it. It was May of 2006, and I was a time in my life when the business was doing OK, but after reading that I looked at everything in different light.

This single biggest idea of his that sticks with me is from his keynote at Expo: don’t be afraid of risk. “The inventor of the ship is also the inventor of the shipwreck.” Failure is part of the journey, but it should never hold you back from anything.

 

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 reps who are able to grow their business year after year despite any obstacle. They bring in big clients and profitable programs with ease. What leads to their consistently strong performance? All that separates them are these six traits.

Customer Service

Top performers are intensely focused on customer service.  Service is not a trendy catchphrase 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 a great margin as a result of 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 assign blame.  First, if problems arise, they retrieve the 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 were taken that led to the issue in the first place.

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.

To read more on how to evaluate sales reps read our article  “This One Exercise Tells You Everything You Need to Know“.

 

Promo Interview Questions

Promotional Products Job Interview Questions | CSR Edition

Promo Interview Questions

Most promotional product job interviews are a challenging experience for everyone involved.

The candidate is nervous and on edge. Most candidate’s greatest fear about a job interview is that they’ll be open, honest, their best self will shine through, and they still won’t get the job. To hedge against this, most study up on inauthentic rehearsed answers that they think the hiring manager will want to hear.

Often the interviewer is less than prepared and would rather be doing something else. The biggest mistake most hiring managers make is taking a candidate’s answer at face value. That’s not to say that they are lying, but talk is cheap.

Canned Responses and A Wasted Hour

Here are 5 very common traditional interview questions that you’ve probably asked or been asked.

  • “What are your greatest strengths or weaknesses?”
  • “What did you enjoy most/least about your last position?”
  • “Describe the best boss you’ve ever had.”
  • “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”
  • “How would your coworkers or supervisor describe you?”

9 out of 10 times these questions get you absolutely nowhere. You’ll learn little about your candidate and be no closer to discovering what they would be like as a co-worker. Candidates have prepared and rehearsed these answers to death. The canned answers are designed to make the candidate look great and tell the interviewer what they want to hear. As a result, the interviewer and the candidate part ways knowing very little new, honest information about each other.

How can you be expected to make the very expensive decision of hiring a new employee with such murky information?

Behavior-Based Interviewing

The solution to this predicament is behavior-based questions. These questions are built on the philosophy that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Traditional interview question: “How do you handle stress?”

Behavior-based interviewing question: “Tell me about a time you had to perform a task or project under a lot of stress?”

20 Terrific Interview Questions for CSRs

“Describe a time you exceeded the expectations of a client?”

“Sometimes sales reps will drag their feet in taking action on something or be out of the office and unreachable. Tell me about a time that quick action was needed on something and you took it upon yourself to lead the effort.”

“Describe a situation where you had to collect information by asking many people a lot of questions.”

“Give me an example of the kinds of issues you have talked to your sales rep about rather than handling them yourself.”

“Tell me about the most difficult customer with whom you’ve had to deal?”

“Tell me what tool you would use and how would use it to source 144 US-made hot pink widgets priced below $6.00.”

“Describe a time where your patience in gathering information paid off.”

“Tell me about your most challenging sourcing project and how you overcame the obstacles.”

“Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks?”

“Tell me about a time you needed to get cooperation from a vendor for you to be successful on a task or project.”

“Describe a time when you were able to become personal friends with a customer.”

“Tell me about a time when you caught an error that others had missed.”

“Describe a time you were not able to deliver a product to a client on time.”

“Give me an example of a time you identified a potential problem and resolved the situation before it became serious.”

“Tell me about the last time you missed a project deadline because you were not well organized.”

“Describe a time you had to make a quick decision with incomplete information.”

“Tell me about a time you had to work with conflicting, delayed, or ambiguous information. What did you do to make the most of the situation?”

“Describe the worst-on-the-job crisis you had to solve. How did you manage to maintain your composure?”

“Tell me about a situation in which a customer was so difficult that you just gave up trying (or were unable to satisfy him/her?”

“Describe the most creative work project you’ve ever completed.”

The promotional product job interview experience and results garnered can be greatly improved when hiring firms shift from canned interview questions to behavior-based interview questions.  The answers that come from behavior-based questions give the candidate a chance to truly reveal who they are, what they’ve done in the past, and what they can contribute to the hiring firm.  With this knowledge, hiring firms can make quality decisions that reduce ramp-up time and improve retention.

 

Jeff Solomon

PromoPath with Jeff Solomon

Welcome to the fourth installment of what will be an ongoing series of blog posts. Our aim is to explore and learn from the various career paths of promotional product industry leaders.

Our guest interviewee is Jeff Solomon. Jeff is a successful distributor with 23 years of experience, the publisher of FreePromoTips, and an industry leader and innovator.

Jeff Solomon

PP: First things first, how did you wind up in the promotional product industry?

JS: I stumbled into it at the direction of my brilliant wife. We had a successful screenprinting business and she thought it would be a good idea to also offer promotional products. Of course, she was right. Wives are always right, aren’t they? Promotional products added a completely different dimension to our company and gave us more tools to be creative with.

PP: You’ve been with All American Marketing Group since 1992. In any industry, 23 years is a long time! What about All American has led to such terrific job satisfaction?

JS: We truly care about meeting the needs of our clients. It’s never been about selling stuff…it’s always been about providing effective marketing and branding solutions. We have also been involved in our community and I have served on the board of directors of a few organizations. Currently, I’m the Vice President and Legislative Chair of Ad Pros LA, the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF).  Serving adds to your credibility.

PP: Have you ever been tempted to make a move?

JS: I’m always moving. While I enjoy parts of the product side of this industry, 10 years ago I created FreePromoTips.com, a content-driven program that distributors and suppliers benefit from. This gives me the opportunity to address what’s happening in the industry, with the help of a few colleagues. We are able to offer useful business-building information and industry commentary.

FreePromoTips has become a valuable resource showcasing what some great suppliers offer. Our new YourPromotionSolution.com video resource website features easy to share, short end-user-safe product videos that reside on YourPromotionSolution.com. The distributors who use them love them and suppliers love that their products are being shown to end-users through distributors.

PP: Throughout your almost 40 years in the ad specialty business, what have you found to be the biggest motivator of distributor sales reps?

JS: One might think it’s money, but from my perspective, it’s the opportunity to be creative. This industry seemingly revolves around commodities, but being able to effectively use promotional products to convey the desired message motivates me.

PP: What do you think the perfect distributor workplace looks like?

JS: I believe the perfect distributor workspace is about freedom. The distributor gig is typically not a 9 to 5 job…and that’s attractive to most people. I also think it’s about relationships with colleagues and supplier partners. The connections I have nurtured through the years have made the industry special to me.

PP: What advice would you give an experienced industry professional looking for a new home?

JS: The business culture needs to be the right fit. There are many great organizations in our industry. What is good for one person may not be right for another. People need to be comfortable in the corporate culture.

PP: PPAI, ASI, and the various regional associations offer promo professionals opportunities to network at events year-round. What advice would you give an industry newcomer about networking with peers?

JS: I believe networking and building relationships with peers are critical. The great relationships I have developed through the years are one of the key reasons I love this industry. It’s also important to take advantage of the educational opportunities that these events offer.

PP: Jeff, you’re very active on social media and with your award-winning website, FreePromoTips.com. What value do you see in social media?

JS: I love social media, but I think our industry doesn’t get it. Distributors and suppliers need to avoid posting a steady stream of product specials. Social media is a “river” with content flowing rapidly down it. It’s important to share content in addition to always promoting products.

I love to share this quote from Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media, “At a cocktail party, you wouldn’t walk up to someone and say, ‘Hey, I’m Dave. My stuff is 20 percent off.’ What you do is ask questions, tell stories, listen and relate to people.”

That’s social media 101 and it’s one of the reasons we are adding social media management to our business. While I hardly consider myself a social media expert, my team and I have invested time and money learning about this powerful communication tool. We can help others be more effective online.

Following up on the preceding question, social media also keeps us connected to colleagues even though we may only see them personally once or twice a year. We see what’s happening with their families and what they do for fun away from their business lives.

Early on, I felt that I didn’t want to have “colliding worlds” with my business and personal life…but now I really don’t care. If people see a video of my son playing drums at church, or my running and cycling pictures it’s OK.  They just get to discover who I am. Unless you are posting your crazy antics or being drunk, I think online social engagement is good for business.

PP: Can you tell us about your latest project, SuccessFit?

JS: SuccessFit was born from my own personal journey and I’m very passionate about it. I was a cripple for most of my life from a motocross racing injury.  A few years ago I had my ankle fused and encouraged by my wife and an amazing group of people from Team Runners Lane I started to run…albeit very slowly. But that’s OK.  I’ve lost over 25 pounds and by the time this is published I will have completed a half marathon.  (I hope!)  13.1 miles is a LONG distance!

From my experience, our team has developed SuccessFit 4 Life! a content-driven program to share, inspire and motivate others in their journey.  We are putting together a turnkey program that a select group of distributors will be able to offer their clients. Businesses and organizations benefit in many ways from incorporating a health and wellness program. SuccessFit 4 Life! makes it simple to provide this type of program. If distributors want to learn more about how they can be a part of this, they can contact me directly.

PP: Do your friends and family know what you do?

JS: Of course they do…and many are clients.