Estimated Read Time: 11.5 Minutes
When was the last time you took a hard look at your sales style, your company’s values, and the true direction you and your company are going?
It’s probably been a while, right? That’s pretty common when you’re busy selling, running a business, and dealing with the crazy day-to-day. It’s hard enough setting time aside for the monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals, much less finding time to reflect and analyze.
So, take a few minutes of your time, you’re already taking some time to read this blog anyway so you might as well use a little bit to consider what I’m discussing and then reflect.
What makes you special?
How do you define the value that you provide clients? Is it your experience? Is it your creativity? Is it your deep understanding of the target audience?
Or do you define your value as fast turnaround times and competitive pricing?
How do you stand out from your competition? What do you tell your prospects what differentiates you?
On top of that, do you actually stick to what you say? Does your value proposition talk about creative design and agency-style consultation, but at the end of the day, your main focus is price?
Warning: A Different Opinion Ahead
If you want your value to be solely based on price and if you want to turn yourself basically into a commodity, read this article and please go away.
I haven’t even been in the industry for long and I’ve already discovered that the idea of a consultative approach with research, questions, and ROI is “outside of the box” thinking that is often frowned upon. Or many tell themselves that they are an agency but don’t act like it at the end of the day. So, if you are one of those people who hate differing opinions, especially one that suggests a more agency-style consultative approach, then you have been warned.
If you understand that to survive in this business you need to have competitive advantages and bring more value to the table, then the goal for this blog is to provide some insights, ideas, considerations, and possibly inspiration. Because at the end of the day, the more value you can provide clients, the more you can sell your worth, which should be more than just a price-checker.
Here’s a list of 8 services, values, and benefits that you can bring to the table, which clients will appreciate and keep coming back for. Why? Because you bring something different, you bring value, and you stand out from the price-checkers and order-takers. When you bring value, you are worth bringing business to over and over again.
Value 1: You Ask Questions
Sweet Spot Strategies wrote a great article a while ago about the value of asking questions and even provided some good questions to ask. We also wrote an article about how to grow your current business by asking questions. Both provide insights into questions that every distributor should be asking if you want to be more than an order-taker that’s competing on just price and timeline.
Questions get to know the important why. In order to better serve your clients or prospects it’s good to ask the usual: price, timeline, what are they looking for, and so on. But at the end of the day, if you ask why for all of those typical questions, you will delve even deeper and often make an extra sale or two. At the very least, be able to provide expert advice (more on that later).
Here’s an example situation.
Client: Hi, I want to order some shirts.
Distributor: Great! I can help you with that - no problem. Why do you need them?
Client: We are celebrating our 50th Anniversary for the company.
Distributor: Congratulations! What are you planning on doing?
Client: We are putting on a big celebration for our employees, major partners, clients, and so on.
Distributor: What a wonderful way to celebrate! What are you planning to do?
Client: Actually, we will be putting on a festival street fair-style event during the day. We’re going to hand out shirts and stuff to our employees. Then later that night, we will invite our exec team, top clients, and partners to a more formal dinner and event.
Distributor: That sounds like fun, but why a street festival?
Client: That’s how our business started. Our founder started selling XYZ product at fairs.
Distributor: I love the historic tie-in! I have some thoughts and ideas for the festival and the banquet after. Would you like to hear them?
Client: I’d love some ideas, there’s so much to do and I need some help.
Alright, that might not be exactly how a conversation will flow, but the point is that due to asking why the distributor got more information to assist with the project and opened up an opportunity to offer more products.
Here, the distributor can offer creative ideas for the festival event, from shirts to cups and everything in between, for prizes at the booths, and the swag bags. The distributor can also offer ideas for commemoratives or awards for the partners, clients, and executive team that will fit the theme but are still high-quality.
Do you see how a conversation leads to more understanding, trust, and opportunities? If the distributor just asked about the shirts and didn’t ask why the client wants the shirts, then the distributor would have lost out on a lot! Worse, the client might have gone to someone else for those items.
The order grew at least 5 times what the original order was going to be. And to the client, the distributor was helpful, knowledgeable, creative, and took the time to understand their needs while providing insightful and valuable solutions.
That is added value!
Value 2: Provide Expertise and Advice
You have the knowledge and experience that your client does not have. Leverage that and provide insights to help solve their problems. When you provide your expertise, then their campaign, project, or other reason for contacting you is more likely to succeed because you are good at what you do.
By giving your advice on the project and sharing some of your insights or wisdom, your client will appreciate the assistance in navigating those dangerous and often unfamiliar waters. The more insightful and helpful the advice, the more they will value and lean on your opinion, advice, expertise, and assistance.
Sounds like a key ingredient to a repeating customer, right?
Value 3: Creativity
You are the one that goes to the shows, from PPAI and ASI every year to the EMEs scattered throughout the year and everything in-between. You know the current trends and have your own creative ideas to draw from, so leverage that!
Clients appreciate creative ideas because they don’t really know what’s out there quite like you do. Combine that with questions and your expertise, and you will be a force to be reckoned with; so much so that your client will be thankful that you’re on their side.
Besides, a creative campaign or project is more likely to be effective, right? Which, results are key in this business, too.
Value 4: You Do Your Research
Have you ever researched your client? What about their target audience? What about their competition? You have? Did you learn about that from our blogs?
If you don’t do research yet, you need to:
- Read our blog about promo product selling tips
- You need to start researching
It’s always best to be one of the most knowledgeable people in the room. Yes, you will learn about the client when you meet them or have a phone conversation; however, wouldn’t it be better to do the reading before the class starts?
Plus, if you can provide further ideas and insights that your client doesn’t know, not only will you impress them but you will be providing value to the conversation. This will lead to more productive and valuable conversations and campaigns over time, which will generate more desired outcomes for the client.
Do you see where this is going? The more value you add for the client and the more successful work you provide, the more likely you will have an ongoing client that will grow with you.
Value 5: Consultative-Approach
I know I’ve mentioned this a few times, earlier in the blog and in previous blogs, but a consultative-approach means taking the time to ask questions and getting to know your client and their business so much that you could be an easy fit into their company. However, you are still an expert that provides valuable insight, expertise, and service.
You ask them about their upcoming project and then utilize your active listening skills to better understand their needs and desires. The point is to remember that they came to you with a problem and it is your job (to sometimes identify what the real problem is and) to find a creative solution.
You guide and assist them throughout the whole process, but are still aware that this is a partnership. You should never tell them “this is the solution to your problem” without understanding what the problem is first.
Value 6: Respect and Communication
It doesn’t matter if you’re buying a dishwasher, getting food at a local restaurant, purchasing a stick of gum, or placing an order for hundreds of custom awards, at the end of the day; it’s your experience that you remember.
The same applies here. Your client will remember if you treated them with respect and had open communication, or if you didn’t.
Clients appreciate knowing that everything has been ordered without a hitch, that the products have been shipped, and getting clarifications passed along to ensure that the project is perfect. It makes them feel secure and in control of what is going on with their project with you.
However, even if things are not going well, such as you having to reschedule your meeting, if there was a mishap with the supplier, or if the shipping cost was higher than expected, it’s better to have open communication about the situation. Clients might not handle it coolly, but they will still appreciate your honest and open communication, as well as the respectful way you handled those situations.
Furthermore, your client might have sent you the wrong names and title list and didn’t realize it until much later in the process, but handling the mistake with calm respect will always be remembered by the client, as well as the supplier.
Value 7: Tracking Results, KPIs, and ROI
When was the last time you tracked the results of your projects, programs, or campaigns? You probably just ask clients if they saw an uptick or asked how many promo products they handed out. But do you do anything else?
In a recent blog post, I suggested a few ideas for tracking results – get those solutions here.
Now for a few explanations…
- KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators. A good definition is a metric which is one of the main indicators of the current performance level of an individual, project, campaign, department, and/or a company in achieving goals.
- ROI stands for Return on Investment. Many are more familiar with this classic business term, but just in case and in regards to this topic, a good definition for ROI is the revenue generated by a company’s marketing activities.
Please note that before you can identify KPIs or ROI, you must define the goal(s) for the project, person, campaign, department, or company. So, that requires a conversation on the goals for the project. Everything connects and comes together, doesn’t it?
Let’s all be honest here though, in this day and age, if you don’t deliver results, no matter how great your relationship is, you won’t last long. Companies expect results and many in management need hard facts (combined with at least a few values mentioned) to stay with anyone.
So, if you want to keep your client, be sure to provide the value of results.
Value 8: Customer Service
Customer service is at the heart of this industry. If you don’t deliver outstanding customer service, clients will question your value. Basically everyone in this industry claims to have superior customer service, so if you want to stand out and make that part of the value you bring, then be sure that it goes above and beyond. You need to have more than just open communication and honesty, you better deliver some extra values that customers expect, such as your expertise.
Customer service is now more than just having a smile in your voice. It means handling problems with a swift, professional, and respectful manner. It means listening to the problem before throwing products out. It means being a consultative problem-solver in an industry of order-takers.
If you do, your value will only increase in your client’s mind.
Whether it’s the value statement for your company or the value you bring to your clients, you should always stand out from your competition. Be more than the typical. And by bringing more value to every project and phone call, you will have more than a lasting customer; you will also have one that will recommend you. Word of Mouth is gold in the promo industry, so do more than beat the competition, grow what you already have and make your clients your spokespeople.
Now, take a few more minutes and reflect on what defines the value you bring and decide if you want to start bringing more value to your clients. It might take time to make some of those changes; however, you will eventually start seeing the growth in clientele, client happiness, your bottom line, and in yourself.
Be more, do more, get more.
Bonus: I stumbled upon this article as I was wrapping up this blog, which is a great follow up read. It emphasizes my point and gives some great tips. Read it here.
Kristina Hublar is the Marketing Specialist at Bruce Fox, Inc., which means she is the person behind the keyboard for the social media, emails, website, and other marketing efforts.
Bruce Fox, Inc. is a custom awards & displayable products supplier and manufacturer located in New Albany, Indiana.