How to Be Successful in Promotional Products Sales

How to Be Successful in Promotional Products Sales

This month, I decided to bring in a new voice to show what it takes to make it in this ever-changing industry. Crissy Manwaring, an industry veteran and expert specializing in business development and recruiting talented salespeople, was kind enough to sit down with me to discuss what it takes to truly be successful in the promotional products industry.

Pat: Thanks for sitting down at the quote-unquote fireside with me, Crissy.

Crissy: Thank you so much for having me, Pat. Let’s chat!

Pat: Let’s! So, what does it take to be a successful salesperson in the promotional products industry?

Crissy: I think what it takes to be successful is, first and foremost, listening. That is, understanding what your client really wants. And then, having enough supplier relationships that you possess a full database of product ideas in the back of your mind, a database that you can pull from to deliver products that will provide the results that your client is looking to achieve. And if you don’t know those products off the top of your head, then it’s extremely helpful having relationships with suppliers you can reach out to and brainstorm with. It is incredibly important to know who you can contact for new product ideas, and to find distributors who have this synergistic mindset. Successful salespeople view their supplier and manufacturing partners as resources for creative collaboration.

Pat: What do you look for in adding sales members to your team?

Crissy: When we’re looking at a distributor salesperson to add to our team, we’re looking for somebody that embraces the culture of collaboration—it increases your resources as an organization. One of the things that makes us unique is that even though our internal salespeople are technically in competition with each other, we’re really not. We’re there to support each other. We have a culture of plenty. There is plenty of business out there. It’s a mindset of abundance, and we can share ideas in abundance with each other. The more effective promotions we can each individually showcase, the more business there is for all of us.

Pat: What about your company culture sets you apart?

Crissy: We’ve all heard the term work hard, play hard, but when we put Embrace the Fun as one of our five Core Values, we’re serious about that. We recognize that we are in a very fun industry, and even though we work our butts off, we have fun doing it. We’re fun to work with, from the suppliers to the clients to our peers. We come out of meetings (Zoom and otherwise) with our cheeks aching because we’re smiling the whole time. All of our Core Values are very human-focused and don’t have the air of being drafted up as a corporate document and fed to us. We feel and embrace and live them, in and out of our jobs.

Pat: What’s the overall importance of business planning?

Crissy: Good inspiration comes from good information. And even though as salespeople we tend to trust our guts a lot, it’s a lot easier to trust our guts when we have the data from last year’s spend. It helps to look back on the previous five years and understand why some products and some campaigns worked and others didn’t, and then learn from those numbers to translate into future successes. I also think that taking some time to do some business planning gives you the opportunity to get out of the weeds a little. This is a very reactive industry—if I have more than 25% of my day planned, I know I’m going to fail, because I’m going to have phone calls and emails that request I spend two hours sourcing for a new project that wasn’t originally on my radar. Pulling back and taking time to develop a business plan ensures that maybe one hour of my day (aka my “Power Hour”) is dedicated to working on my business rather than simply working in my business.

Pat: In a previous article, I focused on our Technology Services Team. How does having an internal team like this help your business?

Crissy: Having access to a team like this elevates you from a vendor to a partner. With our internal Tech Services Team, a salesperson is not just a broker of services A, B and C. Instead, we have the ability to recommend the best overall solution to the client. Sometimes, that means building something that doesn’t even exist yet, and very few distributorships have that capability to truly design a unique solution for every client. You know, my strength is in product and the purpose of the promotion. Having a team that is fully dedicated to the technologies that deliver those solutions to scale and meet the needs of complex organizations is critical to success in this ever-changing environment.

Thank you so much to Crissy for engaging in this Fireside Chat with Pat. I hope it was instructional, helpful and more than a little insightful as all of us progress into 2021.