Are You a Proficient End-of-Year Seller?
When facing high-pressure situations that require us to outlast the competition, it’s natural for our minds to turn to sports. Take baseball, for example, where relief pitchers are tasked with stymieing feverish comeback attempts and securing thrilling victories for their teams. Though we dub those hurlers “closers”—an extremely relevant term for sales professionals—coming through at critical junctures in a timed sport like football or basketball usually holds more weight, as fans of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James have often witnessed.
Those fourth-quarter conquerors possess an enviable knack for using all they have observed in a game’s first three stanzas to prove their legendary statuses over and over again in the final stages. Like those dynamic athletes, distributors have frequent opportunities to stand out among their peers at crucial points, and this time of year serves as their equivalent to Brady’s two-minute warning drives and James’ waning-seconds jump shots. Print+Promo connected with Nate Robson, director of promotional sales for Raining Rose Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Kelly Shermer, director of marketing for Pop! Promos, Philadelphia; and Rhonda Reilly, CAS, sales manager, promotional products for Pilot Pen, Jacksonville, Fla., for tips on how to be comparably clutch and end the year with a fourth-quarter fortune.
Time and Tide
No matter the vocation, pressure can prove a pest at the most inopportune moments, and since time and tide wait for no man, woman, child, animal or insect, sales professionals must bulk up their resolve as the calendar sheds its pages. While many grant the fourth-quarter exalted status, because it often finds companies striving to unite their concepts and creations with clients whose promotional budgets are shouting, “Spend me,” our sources stressed thinking of the September-through-December period not as a stretch to reinvent the wheel, but as a term to keep the existing disk spinning.
“As a distributor, I would focus on being more proactive with customers and making sure their planning stays on schedule during those months,” Robson said. “I would also inquire about budget dollars that need to be used and look for cost-effective, high-value products that allow them to maximize those remaining funds. Looking for add-on products to enhance existing programs or initiatives is also a great way to allow them to leverage those dollars effectively.”
That advice speaks to the value of making early outreach if one wants to secure enviable profits. Being a last-minute Lucy (or Lucas) might give many distributors an adrenaline rush, but they can save themselves frustration by plotting in advance and letting the transitions from summer to fall and fall to early winter be busy rather than chaotic undertakings.
“We have found that the best ways to ensure a successful fourth quarter are to follow up on all projects from throughout the year and to create an organized sales and marketing plan for the quarter,” Shermer said of her workforce, a recent Philadelphia SmartCEO Future 50 Award winner. “Following up on projects that fell through throughout the year is a great way to kick-start new projects with that client or to restart the project that fell through. An organized sales and marketing plan for the fourth quarter creates a stress-free environment that allows you to focus on what is most important for the end of the year.”
While Shermer and her contemporaries and Robson and his peers have made prominent pushes to welcome the winter with a smile, Reilly and her associates are enjoying their inaugural push for the fourth-quarter gifts and incentives market. Having previously lacked a pen style suitable for the season, they now have an ink series and a pen/pencil set ready to delight the masses.
“A lot of good things are happening [for distributors] within the promotional products industry,” Reilly said. “I presume many suppliers want to partner with them now because there are so many benefits to pushing through any earlier quarterly setbacks and showing some serious gumption.”
Chief among those boons is seeing the power of branding. From Pilot Pen’s perspective, end-users encounter brand every day and, therefore, want to use brands that will include their logos.
“Distributors need to challenge their clients to spend a little more for a brand and know the quality will be there, as well as show they care about their products,” Reilly said.
Speaking of care and consideration, the fourth quarter—for all its skill at bringing out the best in hot-shot rookies and accomplished hires—also sets pulses racing because of its holiday-heavy nature. In order to revel come New Year’s Eve, everyone involved in the promotional products industry, especially distributors, must cheerfully channel energy into each endeavor no matter how tempting it may be to rely on past success.
“I think the fourth quarter is a challenge partly because you are dealing with two major holidays,” Robson said of Thanksgiving and Christmas, although other celebrations abound. “Those holidays serve as pretty good distractions, and more things become last-minute than desired. Without being proactive, you find yourself leaving sales and opportunities on the table.”
He and Raining Rose Inc. personnel target end-of-year prosperity by looking to link companies’ remaining budget allotments with high-value promotional items that will not break the bank. Appreciating that the fourth quarter often finds folks thinking about rewarding employees and customers, his company—with few high-dollar goods in its line—kits some of its products, too, for those who might want to spend a tad more.
“[No matter what we try during the fourth quarter,] we feel customers get a great value for their dollar, and the key is to effectively educate them on those benefits,” Robson said.
Distributors who are looking to distinguish themselves as fourth-quarter powerhouses can also give credence to custom packaging options, which Pop! Promos uses to great effect when less prepared peers are scrambling to try to stand out.
“Custom packaging is a great way to present clients with an idea for their fourth-quarter gift that not only shows that they care, but also increases profits,” Shermer said. “We include packaging options in many of our virtuals in the fourth quarter because it is a great add-on that many companies don’t realize they need for their corporate gifts. A simple message saying ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Thank you for your great work’ can go a long way to increase employee dedication.”
In striving to write a productive script for industry figures, Pilot Pen might be a newbie at developing fourth-quarter gifts and incentives tactics, but the Sunshine State occupant is beaming with enthusiasm over what its ingenuity and efforts by suppliers and distributors alike can achieve as 2018 beckons.
“So many people fall prey to price,” Reilly said of an end-of-year hurdle. “It’s easy to overlook these months when you’re in the midst of, say, spring, and fall seems far away, but if you use existing resources well and go after a few more, you won’t put off having great ideas to discuss with distributors. They will then be able to make a splash. It’s all about preparation, and it all has to occur earlier and earlier so you can say, ‘Oh, the fourth quarter is coming. Bring it on.’”