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“.


"Sell Me This..."

This One Exercise Tells You Everything You Need to Know

There are thousands of questions that can come up in an interview.

There are standard questions: “Tell me about yourself.”

There are abstract questions: “What’s your favorite fruit and why?”

There are behavioral questions: “Tell me about a time when you encountered a difficult client. How did you handle it?”

No question can tell you everything you need to know about a job applicant.  However, this one exercise should sum up how a promotional products rep sells.

"Sell Me This..."

Hand the sales rep a blank promotional product and tell them, “Sell this to me.”

The sales rep’s response will to you a lot about how they approach promotional products. Responses will fall into one of three categories.

Product-based responses will focus on the specifics of the item that you hand them. They’ll talk about the imprint area, decorating options, or the great quality construction of the item. This is the worst of the three responses. These reps love and know the products, but don’t sell solutions.

Solution-based responses will address the business need that the product can fill. They’ll talk about the results achieved from using promotional products, such as an increase in trade show traffic, a boost in employee morale, or higher brand recognition.

Inquiry-based responses focus on questioning. These reps will need you to tell them more. What events do you have coming up that this product might be a fit for? What business challenges are you facing now? They’ll ask questions that give them all the ammo they need to sell you the item.  In fact, they might even have you sell yourself.

This exercise will give you a terrific insight into the thought process and value proposition utilized by a promotional products sales rep. Here are five additional questions that will help to fill out the picture even further.

  • “What do you like about prospecting?”
  • “What’s your social media skill level?”
  • “How do you feel about face-to-face networking?”
  • “How long do you think it will take you to put together a sales plan and begin to execute it?”
  • “What is the first thing you would do when you realize that you’re in a sales slump?”

To read more on how to evaluate promotional products sales reps read our article on the “6 Traits of Top-Performing Sales Reps”.

What are your go-to questions when interviewing sales reps?

How to Attract Sales Reps To Your Business

How to Attract Sales Reps To Your Business

Sales talent is the lifeblood of your promotional products 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 eight simple things you can do to help attract top talent to your promotional products business:

Treat your sales reps and staff with respect, honesty, 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 using 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 that 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 sales reps will follow.

Over-communicate with everyone involved in your business. No one likes surprises, but they do respect people 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?


Planning for Promo Success in 2015

Planning for Promo Success in the New Year

Planning for 2015As you come out of your holiday daze it’s time to realize that the new year is already here. If your sales plan is in place and backed with the tactics and strategy to achieve your goal, we applaud you.  You are in the very small minority who understands that behind every “lucky” sale you make is lots of work and preparation. You also understand that every “overnight success” comes only after years of experience in the trenches.

If your plan is still a dream waiting to be written down, it’s time to pull yourself and your scraps of ideas together. No success is sustainable without a plan and no plan comes together without focus and hard work.

There are many excuses to not plan for the coming year. We’ve heard just about everyone. However, there is one compelling reason to plan your year that’ll trump any excuse. You must plan for success to make the money for you and your family.

How Do You Start?

You will need information about last years’ sales and top accounts. You also want to look at your margins, top prospects, and your marketing plan.

Top Clients

Start by reviewing your top 20 clients from last year. Do you expect them to increase, hold, or decline in sales this year?  Be realistic here. Your plan cannot be based on hope. Go through this process client by client, adding or subtracting as needed. What does the total tell you about the coming year? Do you need new clients or is your business outlook pretty good?


How about those margins? A 5% increase can have a huge impact on your income. You can make this increase a reality by buying better and/or developing greater confidence in your pricing strategy. Either way, a bump in margins helps you and your company, and it is pretty achievable.

Account Development

Referrals and account development are two similar sales-building techniques that are very effective. If you currently work with an HR buyer, it’s very easy to ask HR who else in the business buys promotional products. Ask your buyer to make the introduction and you’re in. Account development involves a plan to move from a handful of buyers to a broad network of buyers. It’s easier to build within clients than it is to get into an unknown client. By using email, social media, mail, phone, and referrals, a large network of buyers can be won over in a fairly short period.

Buddy System

If you have a sales manager or mentor who will help this process, be sure to utilize their support. If not, team up with another account executive so you can work on this project together. It’s going to take four to five hours but is well worth every minute you spend.

Ultimately you are accountable to yourself and your family to make this year the best year ever. Plan your activities, work the plan, and check on your progress every week.


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’s the truth! You must take control of your time to take control of your income and career. Only then will you have the focus and energy you need for success. Here’s how you get started.

To-Do Lists

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

Controlling In-Bound Communication

Idle conversations with co-workers, suppliers, and customers are bound to happen. But are they revenue-generating? Are they on your daily to-do list? Probably not. Time management is about taking back control of your daily schedule and using that time to build your business. It’s not about chit-chat and instantly responding to every interruption.

  • Forward your office phone 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.
  • Disable email notifications. 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.  This year, 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 the first of the year, 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 this year, 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 would be happy to help with that—here is their number.”

Most promotional products sales reps will tell you that time management is a major challenge for them. Most will tell you that it’s an area that they want to improve in. They will listen to a talk on the subject and read the handout material. However, it’s rare for a sales rep to actually 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!


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 so much at stake, an 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 ten simple tips and you’ll greatly improve your presentation skills and your chances of winning that big order!

Preparation matters! Know your material, know your audience, and be prepared to address any questions or objections that might come up.

Dress to impress! If you don’t look like an expert, you’re already in the hole.

Don’t rely on live demos. If you’re presenting an online store, always use screenshots. The number one warning with technology is that it will always fail at the worst possible time.

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.

Avoid text-filled slides. Images can capture the imagination. Use them liberally.

If PowerPoint is your game, keep it under 20 slides.

Be repetitive! Tell them. Tell them what you told them. Then summarize what you told them.

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.

Interject your personality. Robots can regurgitate information. Be a human and make a genuine connection with your audience.

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 our careers, we have worked with many sales superstars.  From our observations, they have all shared some unique habits that set them apart from average producers.

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”!

Superstars are client-focused and work as the client’s advocate for pricing, terms, delivery charges, and quality control. They work as an extension of the client’s team to achieve and contribute to a common goal. Whenever they help their client achieve their goal, the superstar wins.

Follow-up habits fill the superstar’s day. They spend their time servicing the sale and the client to be certain that every order is done right and delivered on time. They check and check again to get everything right.

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.

Admittedly, sales superstars have a tendency to be a little quirky, but their success gives them the right to be quirky! We would take a small team of eccentric superstars over a large team of average producers anytime. The superstars are just much 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.  Watching a sales superstar in their stride is a thing of beauty!

Promotional Product Commissions

5 Ways To Easily Add 5-10% To Your Commissions


Here are five tips that we’ve used and coached throughout our promotional products careers. When used correctly, these techniques can add 5-10% to the gross profit of any distributor sales reps. Please use these tips wisely and often. Enjoy the extra spending money!

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.

“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 enhancing your bottom line a bit.

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.

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 large industry suppliers. Give your customer a high-quality product and give yourself higher commissions by using trusted, value-driven suppliers.

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 makes closeouts something you can’t afford to ignore!