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Wearables Business

Success is easy — just ask the right questions

Success is easy — just ask the right questions – Brief Article

Nowell C. Wisch

Palm trees are swaying in gentle breezes as I write this. A pin flag on the sixteenth hole is offering a tempting target to a couple of mediocre golfers who have been up very early, indeed. The scene is Hawaii, and I am pursuing my writing deadlines after completing several days of sales calls on distributors. And yes, I really was working over here.

During the last week, I had conversations with over a dozen Hawaiian distributors. My conclusion from these is that there is no practical difference between promotional product distributors anywhere in the country. For the most part, we have the same concerns and worries and everyone in every region is asking the same thing: “How’s Business?”

How full is your glass?

One thing that I noticed in Hawaii, as well as in the rest of the Western region, is that distributors who think things are going well have a greater likelihood of things really going well. The distributor who tells me that “Business is good,” generally finds that business is good. The distributor who complains that business is terrible, probably is not doing so well. One distributor I spoke with said, “My clothing sales are down by more than half,” while another one said, “Garment orders are just going through the roof!” Their offices were less than a mile apart.

This is not merely a perception issue. The distributors who take the view that the glass is “half full” seem to have some selling techniques in common. They are doing things differently than their less-positive counterparts and are reaping greater rewards because of their viewpoint.

The keys to the kingdom

Successful distributors are not searching for product. Even with the gradual slowing of the economy and the softness many distributors feel in the marketplace, the product that everyone is looking at to buffer the slowdown is the garment.

“Sell wearables and succeed; do not sell wearables and fail” seems to be the popular wisdom. Many distributors are singing the blues because their client base is not changing to corporate casual, and this, they feel, is the cause of their rough times.

While wearables may not be feeling the full effect of corporate belt tightening, there is some weakening in the market. This is being offset to a large extent by sales to smaller companies, who have not been traditional strongholds of wearable sales. In fact, many distributors are searching out these clients to bolster their sales this year. Their key seems to be in finding the opportunities and turning them into projects. As always, good selling techniques, not product selection or trend, is the most important part of creating success.

Several distributors who are successfully weathering the stormy Pacific Rim conditions taught me some techniques that work for them. These distributors are turning over new rocks and opening new doors to find exciting projects and sales under and inside. One distributor uttered the most memorable quote I’ve heard lately when she said, “Just because the economy here is bad doesn’t mean that my business must be bad, too. I’m finding new business that was there all along; it was just not there for me!”

The big questions

The techniques these distributors have been using are distilled into three questions, whose answers uncover great new selling opportunities. They ask these questions on every sales call and have seen dramatic gains in their business. If you add them to your selling day, you will find them to be helpful and profitable as well.

Question One: “What else is on your desk that I can help you with today?”

Before you bolt with the purchase order, ask your client what else they are working on. After all, you are getting paid to solve their problems. Why not find out what those problems are? Our clients focus on the problem they want us to solve, to the exclusion of other problems they need solved at the same time. This question will uncover additional sales opportunities that will make you more important to the client, and put figures on the board.

Question Two: “What else is on your desk that you don’t think I can help you with?”

Our clients only think of us as selling the things they buy from us. If we are selling them T-shirts, they may not think of asking us for polos, jackets or caps. If we are selling them pens, they may not think of us as providing garments. This preconception is a basic hurdle we must leap in everyday selling. Asking this question will break their concentration and let us learn more about their needs.

Remember, if your client only thinks of you as the “golf shirt guy,” then you may miss the opportunity to get the 700-piece jacket order for the next sales meeting.

Question Three: “Who do you know who buys what I sell? — and — Can I use your name when I call on them?

Everyone wants to be helpful to someone in need. If an acquaintance asks you if you know someone who can fix a transmission, you will refer them to someone you trust, because you can. If you don’t believe me, just think about the last time you refused to accept a phone call from someone who said, “So and so suggested that I call you,” and used the name of a person you know.

Your clients will help you if you ask them. They want their friends and acquaintances to be successful, too. If they are being successful due to their association with you, they will be happy to spread the news. There is a Catch 22 here, though. If you get a referral and do not use it, you will not benefit from the effort. Get the name and get on the phone.

The bottom line is just that

The future is on everyone’s mind because gross changes affecting our industry are making for a very tense present moment. Survival into the next millenium is not only possible but also likely, for the prepared distributor.

If you use these questions in your selling activity, you will build new business. Try this technique for a week. If it does not work for you, abandon it. If it does work for you however, jump on a plane to Hawaii and contribute to their economy! Spending some of your hard-earned profit in the islands will be a great way to say “Mahalo” (thank you) for the education!

Happy Selling!

Nowell C. Wisch, CM, is Editor-at-Large for Wearables Business. A 20-year veteran of the promotional advertising business, he now heads Nowell C. Wisch Associates, a San Diego-based sales representation and consulting firm for the industry.

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