If you’re like many entrepreneurs in the promotional product industry, you’re always looking for new and innovative ways to grow your sales, but before you start investing hours in cold calls and random LinkedIn outreach, you should look no further than your CRM of current customers (or the Rolodex on your desk if that’s how you operate). Examining your database of current clients could reveal a gold mine of untapped sales and profit. Here’s how to leverage your existing relationships to increase your distributorship’s sales:
The common adage is that gaining new customers is five times more expensive than retaining existing ones,and in this researchthe author gives an example of how a 5% increase in customer retention resulted in more than a 25% increase in profit. Understanding your customer churn is an important starting point. You can make it more complex, but we like to keep things simple:
Customer Churn = (# of customers you lost in a quarter) / (# of customers you had at the beginning of a quarter)
It is important to understand, monitor and establish goals for customer retention. Simply put, your current customers are valuable assets to your company. So it’s important that you focus your efforts on them to ensure they remain your customers. Whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly, dedicate selling time to them on a regular basis — they should be a priority. Consider hiring additional sales reps or administrative support to achieve this.
In today’s rapidly changing environment planning may seem futile, however, there are still useful historic data points to consider when looking ahead and planning your sales strategy. At AIA, for example, we turn to a distributor’s customer data to assist them in creating reports so that sales trends, profit margins and purchasing habits are clear. These reports become powerful tools to forecast, plan and implement thoughtful strategies.
Click here to download our guide, Data-Driven Strategy for Promo Distributors: Three Questions You Should Be Asking and Four Metrics to Monitor.
If you don’t have a way of quickly sorting through large amounts of sales data start by evaluating a few of your key accounts. What have they purchased in the past and when? Were these purchases for annual projects? Do they sponsor or attend the same events every year? Are there win-back opportunities? Did you fail to get an order this year from a customer that you’ve won in the past? What can you do to win that business again? Simply examining purchase history will help you to start planning ahead.
Also keep in mind that while your end customers’ needs may have changed, it doesn’t mean that their plans don’t include promotional products. A company may not attend a trade show this year or throw its annual party, but chances are their management team is still looking for ways to engage with their employees, customers and prospective customers. Promotional products play a key role of bringing tangible items to virtual events and help remote employees feel connected.
Reach out to your key clients and schedule business reviews with them on an annual, biannual or even quarterly basis. This allows you to get in front of them on a regular cadence and learn what their needs are going forward. Ask what their goals are and then show them how you can assist them with meeting and exceeding those goals. Listen more than you speak, hear what their challenges are and present solutions that help them overcome those.
Expanding sales within your current customers’ organizations is a path to increased sales, often with less resistance. Take a soft sales approach when looking to expand here. Here’s a few ideas:
Start small. Ask to be their backup provider for something, and then send them a few items or ideas that you have. This approach can begin to open doors to multiple departments within a larger organization. Tell your clients, and then remind them, that you can help with projects beyond your current scope. If you only ever do apparel for them, for example, tell them that you can also help out with hardgoods. Start by sending an appropriate cross-product in any shipments you may be sending out (eg, a custom journal, hat or water bottle). Consistency is important — show your customers the BIG and fun stuff you do for others! Ask about projects for other departments. For example, if you’re always working with marketing, ask if their human resources department has a need. Better yet, show them a great employee welcome kit you put together for them. Or maybe they need safety equipment for their warehouse. Examine all areas of their business and how you can assist. Position yourself as a one-stop shop for all things promo (and beyond). Vendor consolidation for companies is important — give your clients the opportunity to do that. Use the relationship you already have to position yourself as a reliable, trusted vendor and remind them of everything you’re capable of — whether it’s promotional products, PPE or office supplies. A company may not know the person supplying pens can also solve all of their PPE challenges unless you tell them. Also, consider ways you can expand your offerings. At AIA, for example, promo distributors can easily expand their product lines through . As one distributor put it, “I was always their promotional products guy, now I’m also their office supplies guy.”
Your clients may not know what’s possible when it comes to promo products, but YOU do. Go beyond an order taker and be their idea person — the person who is proactive in product ideas and brings creative, fun ideas to the table. Leverage idea generators to help you — use idea centers, planning guides and trade shows (even virtual ones). And don’t forget about your suppliers! AIA’s MVP suppliers, for example, have regular webinars to introduce new and exciting products and are more than willing to assist distributors with a project.
Focus on adding value with each and every client interaction you have!Being a source of creativity and knowledge differentiates you and brings value to your customers that they may not be getting from other distributors (especially large, online ones).
Don’t forget about company stores! They remove the burden of order processing and handling and are an easy gateway to more sales. Companies can use them for marketing programs, employee reward programs, onboarding, pop-up solutions and more. Assisting your customer with an e-commerce solution for promo only adds to the relationship and increases your value as a vendor.
Your current customers are undoubtedly one of the biggest assets of your distributorship. Leveraging the relationships that you’ve already spent time and resources cultivating is important and when done well, results in more sales and increased profit.
Click here to download more information about AIA’s Sales Coaching & Planning. Or, email us at LearnMore@aiacorporation.com.