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How to Accelerate Sales with Your Current Customers

As a promotional products distributor, you know the power of well-thought-out campaigns, and marketing yourself is no different. The first thing you need to do is refine your unique selling proposition and create a strategy around what makes your promotional products business stand out.

Dedicate Time to Your Existing Customers

The common adage is that gaining new customers is five times more expensive than retaining existing ones, and in this research, the 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 you must focus your efforts on them to ensure they remain your customers. Whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly, dedicate selling time to them regularly — they should be a priority. Consider hiring additional sales reps or administrative support to achieve this.

Schedule Regular Business Reviews

Reach out to your key customers 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.

Expand Your Share of a Company’s Budget

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 are 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 customers, 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 hard goods. 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 — allow your customers 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 OfficeZilla. As one distributor put it, “I was always their promotional products guy, now I’m also their office supplies guy.”

Position Yourself as Their Promo Product Expert 

Your customers 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 every customer 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). 

Leverage Company Stores to Boost Sales and Expand Into Other Departments

This one is important because it drives your marketing and communication efforts. Knowing exactly who your target market is, what they need, and how you can best reach them allows you to better focus your efforts on the customers YOU want to do business with. In this instance, take into account the 80/20 rule where oftentimes in business 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your customers. Who are those customers? What are the commonalities between them? These should be people you look to target. Also consider those customers that you prefer to avoid (e.g., the ones that haggle over price or take your ideas and go to a competitor).

What Keywords Do We Use In Our Current Messaging? 

Don’t forget about the 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.