SUPPLIER ASSISTS How can suppliers help you sell? Here are ﬁve stories
of awesome teamwork that turned into sales.
BY SHANE DALE
t pays to be picky, especially with suppliers who That’s because Norwood Promotional Products rience and you’ve seen it work, you’re speaking a little
can help you make or break a deal. specializes in calendars, and Dustin Wicks, the more intelligently.”
Do your research on each supplier you work account manager who works directly with Ziskind, Wicks says that a good supplier rep remembers
with, says Chris Piper, former promotional product knows his stuff. that, while he or she may be an expert on a given item,
sales rep and current owner of distributor-consulting Wicks is an invaluable tool to have at meetings with there’s a good chance that the distributor isn’t. “A dis-
ﬁrm Breakout Strategic Merchandising. Your suppli- clients, Ziskind says. “He’s not only showing poten- tributor working with thousands of products may not
ers should be providing solution-oriented program tial layouts of what their calendars will look like, but know much about how calendars work,” he says.
sales around their products. “Anyone can sell prod- there are a lot of technical questions that he’s there Ziskind’s company has recently been trying to woo
uct; it is those who present creative solutions using to answer,” he says. “The average rep won’t know all the business of a ﬁnancial company. Without Wicks,
the product that will succeed,” Piper says. the answers, so when he comes along, it’s impressive. he says he wouldn’t have a prayer of winning the
Here are qualities favorite suppliers bring to the He adds value. The guy has expertise, and the more company’s business. “They have a big calendar pro-
table, as shared by the distributor partners who love knowledge you can share at the meeting, the better gram that they’re running with a local printer. I guess
them. chance you have of closing the deal.” things aren’t running smoothly with the current cal-
Cutting through the garbage with clients is crucial endar provider.”
Quality: Product Expertise in helping his distributor partners win a sale, accord- As usual, Wicks provided his outstanding mockups,
Mark Ziskind isn’t an expert on calendars. Fortu- ing to Wicks. “What I try to do is present not so and attended the initial meeting with the prospective
nately, he doesn’t have to be. “Hands down, the best much the ﬂuff, but more speciﬁcs,” he says. “So, I client. “He can go in and say, ‘I’m from the factory,
supplier partner to have on a call is the Norwood cal- ﬁnd out what type of customer the distributor works and here’s how many millions of calendars we do,’ ”
endar group,” says Ziskind, COO of Caliendo Savio with, and instead of the show-and-tell mindset, try to Ziskind says. “So much of our business is just having
( 7 be a lot more consultative. When you have the expe- continued on page 68 >>
WWW.ADVANTAGESMAG.COM JANUARY 2010 67
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more than that very basic level of service to complete
Wicks is effective because he recognizes that his sales and build conﬁdence with its current and poten-
distributors’ success is important to his own: tial clients. One of his primary supplier contacts
is Jack Keegan, sales executive for Cutter & Buck
“With the economic times in the industry, it’s tough (
(asi/47965). “He knows how clients think, who the
buyers are we should be talking to, and gives us some
out there, so we really try to stress that partnership competitive market info,” Redondo says. “He says,
‘These are the other brands you’re selling against,
– if you go down, I go down.” this is the perception about this product in the mar-
ketplace, this is what’s reality, and this is how you can
the conﬁdence that you will do what you say you will economic times in the industry, it’s tough out there, communicate.’”
do, and he helps with that. That’s huge.” so we really try to stress that partnership – if you go One of Keegan’s best assets is his ability to con-
In every part of the sales process with this client, down, I go down, so why not try to pick it up and be vince Redondo’s clients – many of whom have a rigid
from the creation of the mockup to the product pre- aggressive with it?” he says. “Once you have that trust, budget – to spend more than they had originally
sentation, Wicks is an active participant. “It’s not you start being aggressive and go after that market.” planned. Keegan says he likes to use an analogy of
that I know everything or that I’m answering every spending more on a piece of equipment, such as a
question,” Wicks says, “but it makes the end-user Quality: Pricing Perspectives copy machine, that will save the end-user money in
feel good knowing that they have someone from the To some suppliers, ad specialty distributors are noth- the long run if it lasts longer than a cheaper machine.
manufacturer and that we can answer questions and ing more than faceless buyers. “I buy from a lot of “Especially in a down economy, you don’t want some-
keep the ﬁre lit.” promotional product suppliers, and a lot of them thing that’s going to wear out or have a lot of replace-
Because of the added value that Wicks brings to don’t know who we are,” says Pete Redondo, director ment costs or repairs,” he says.
the table, “It looks like there’s a good chance that we of value-added services for Regency Print Solutions “Using that analogy, it kind of brings the end-user
might win this program,” Ziskind says. (
(asi/306196). “You have an inside salesperson who you
6 to an area where they’re familiar. If it’s said to have a
Wicks is effective because he recognizes that his dis- never hear from unless you call them.” longer life, they think, ‘We should pay a little more,
tributors’ success is important to his own. “With the But a new distributorship like Redondo’s needs continued on page 70
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year longer than the previous shirts. The 100-shirt
The company decided to spend 25% more on the order resulted in a 40% proﬁt margin for Regency.
Birds Eye Polo shirts that would last them at least a “Not only are we in the door on apparel, but they
said they have a trade show coming up in March and
year longer than the previous shirts. The 100-shirt they wanted to talk to us about helping them plan for
that,” Redondo says.
order resulted in a 40% proﬁt margin for Regency. The key, Keegan says, is to never settle for selling
your clients a subpar item, even if they insist that they
won’t spend more. “Some people get into a routine of,
‘OK, this is how high my customer will go,’ but you
but in the long run it’ll be the most affordable option.’ That’s when Keegan advised Regency to ask prob- need to go talk to the customer, especially new ones,
So, we’re taking something from the end-user’s world ing questions, such as whom the shirts were for, the and talk about how quality garments actually are the
and bringing it into their promotional decision.” image that the company wanted to portray with the least expensive,” he says.
When Redondo was trying to sell an international shirts, if they would be worn in public, and for what
air-and-sea freight company on a series of logoed occasions they would be worn. Quality: The Speed You Need
men’s and women’s polo shirts, for instance, Kee- These questions led Redondo to discover that the A mark of a top-notch supplier, according to Bar-
gan convinced him to encourage the client to spend company’s previous polo order had lasted them less bara Burcham, owner of Ad-Specialties More Ltd.
more than the initial budget. “We were up against than a year, at which time the shirts wore out and (
(asi/113357), is its ability to quickly turn around last-
some other distributor and they had a ﬁxed budget,” were no longer wearable in public. So, he put one minute requests. That’s why she loves Crown Prod-
Redondo says. “We were told, ‘We need to buy x of Cutter Buck’s shirts, a blue Birds Eye Polo, in ucts ((asi/47700). “They will go out of their way to
amount of shirts, and the budget’s really tight and we the hands of the client’s reps. “So, they’re touching make sure an order goes smoothly, even if it means
do not get to deviate, period.’ ” it and thinking, ‘Hmm, which one would I rather they have to work overtime,” she says.
While Redondo was willing to make the sale at the wear?’ ” he says. Recently, Burcham had a rush order for back-
price they wanted, that would have led to Regency The company decided to spend 25% more on the packs in a special material and special color for one
“cannibalizing our own proﬁt margin,” he says. Birds Eye Polo shirts that would last them at least a continued on page 72
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70 JANUARY 2010 WWW.ADVANTAGESMAG.COM
The aptly named Kevin following week – and again, Speed came through.
“He got them out again in record time,” Burcham
Speed was able to says.
A short time later, Speed came through again
quickly come up with an with another order from MillerCoors. “He saved
alternate backpack – at the day when we had another supplier drop the
ball,” Burcham says.
a higher price, no less – This time, MillerCoors wanted 600 football-
shaped hand-clappers for a football game in Ala-
and the client loved it. bama. “We sent our order into another supplier,”
Burcham says. “They accepted the order and then
had a question, placed our order on hold and then
completely forgot about it.”
of her best clients, MillerCoors. Initially, Miller- more expensive because of extra bells and whistles Naturally, Burcham turned to Crown Products.
Coors wanted 250 metallic drawstring backpacks that they could replace them with,” Burcham says. “They called us at the last moment and said, ‘Can you
that reﬂected the change on the Coors Light beer “We sent a sample of that on to the client. They loved please get these out on time?’” Speed says. “I pretty
cans of turning from white to blue for their “color- it and we went with that. much just told her, ‘Let me see what I can do.’ I con-
change” cans. “Not only did he come through with a rushed sam- tacted arts, prep and our production team. It was
When Burcham told the aptly-named Kevin ple, but he got the job out the door in time for their really tight, but we went ahead and got it out on time
Speed, territory sales manager and outside sales rep event. The factory stayed overtime to get them out for them.”
for Crown Products, that MillerCoors decided to in time for a jazz festival. The quality of the bags was And Speed didn’t even charge rush fees on the
increase the order from 250 to 2,500, Speed informed great and the imprint remarkably vibrant. Each bag order, according to Burcham. “He got us hand-clap-
Burcham that he was out of stock – but he didn’t let was $5.84, and they ended up with tons of them.” pers made that day and shipped to our client just in
that stop him. Five thousand, to be exact, as MillerCoors liked the the nick of time,” she says. “He is unbelievable.”
“Kevin immediately found another bag that was backpacks so much that they doubled their order the continued on page 74
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Your Suppliers Should Do This …
Chris Piper, former promotional product sales rep the representative’s territory and distributors within then include in their regular client contact materials
and current owner of distributor-consulting ﬁrm it, creating ease of process for both parties.” and presentations.”
Breakout Strategic Merchandising, says the supplier 3. Provide the answers. “Suppliers need to pres- 5. Give you free e-proofs. “Provide e-proofs at no
should: ent their product as a solution to the distributor’s charge or tie in an incentive for the distributor if the
1. Be part of your team. “The supplier representa- clients, helping the distributor separate himself supplier wants to charge for an e-proof,” Piper says.
tive needs to be seen as a partner, not a vendor,” or herself not as a vendor but as a partner with “The supplier should provide a random sample at no
Piper says. “A partner gains the trust and loyalty of their client,” Piper says. “Many suppliers present charge with the e-proof, which then creates a ter-
the distributor and provides the conﬁdence that he the product, not the solution their product can riﬁc presentation and sales tool for the distributor.”
or she is available to support the needs of the dis- provide.” 6. Offer proactive selling exercises. “Suppliers
tributor.” 4. Make success stories available. “Suppliers can should set up private Webinars that help the distribu-
2. Provide personal service. “The supplier rep- help by providing case studies that speak to the suc- tor sell the product,” Piper says. They should create a
resentative is usually seen and heard two to three cesses their products have had,” Piper says. “These self-promotional program, which engages the distrib-
times per year and at times is difﬁcult to reach,” Piper case studies would be available via Word docu- utor quarterly with their company, and they should
says. “The supplier should always have an assigned ments so the distributor can customize with his or put in place measurable help to track the ROI of the
inside representative that is knowledgeable about her logo and contact information, which they could distributor programs.
Just another day at the ofﬁce, Speed says. “At ners will put the same effort and quality into small respect and attention as the big orders,” she says.
Crown, we have the ‘Whatever it takes’ motto,” he orders as it will the large ones, according to Crissy “I don’t think anybody really enjoys doing 25 pieces.
says. Manwaring, owner of Manwaring Innovations LLC After all the time invested, it’s a write-off. But in our
(asi/258431). That’s why she enjoys working with In industry, we’re only as good as our suppliers.”
Quality: Fair-Mindedness Your Face Apparel ( (asi/62494). Manwaring speciﬁcally enjoys working with Brenda
A supplier that cares about its distributor part- “They treat the small orders with just as much continued on page 76
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74 JANUARY 2010 WWW.ADVANTAGESMAG.COM
Zavala, a sales consultant with In Your Face Apparel Zavala realized that, while this was a small order, the
who specializes in rhinestones and glamour imprints. “The artwork went back supplier-distributor business relationship can’t sur-
“She has been incredibly helpful in creating quotes
and suggesting the product or imprint method that
three or four times vive without her being prompt and coming through
every time. “Quick response is key,” she says. “I try to
would best accomplish my clients’ visions,” Manwar- before everyone was respond to distributors as soon as I get the e-mails.
ing says. For the most part, I answer within 20-30 minutes.
Zavala came through on a 39-piece order for really happy.” “I love helping customers and I’m sure they can tell
Arbonne, a local cosmetics company. The order through the phone that I’m very quick about getting
included short-sleeve cotton/poly tees and long-
Crissy Manwaring, Manwaring quotes to them right away.”
sleeve shirts in a variety of sizes and colors. “Talk Innovations LLC (asi/258431)
about a pain in the butt to pull an imprint,” Manwar- Quality: Innovation
ing says. “I don’t think that any two were identical in Manwaring says the employees at Arbonne weren’t Melanie Fathali had been out of the industry for nine
terms of size and style.” quite sure what they wanted. That’s why the addi- years when she took a job with Logomark ( (asi/67866)
When Arbonne said that the original rhinestone- tional proofs saved the day. “The artwork went back two years ago. She was attracted to the six in-house
logoed shirt design looked “goofy,” Manwaring asked three or four times before everyone was really happy,” design centers that Logomark had opened around
Zavala for options. “I called Brenda, and she said, ‘Let she says, adding that it was remarkable for In Your the country. “Things have really changed, and I just
me call the art department, and they’ll have some- Face Apparel to exert so much energy for such a small thought the design center concept was brilliant,” she
thing back in two hours,’ ” she recalls. order and “to do a couple of rhinestone embellish- says.
“Our graphic designer is really good about improv- ments and design a shirt that just looks fabulous to These design centers allow distributors and their
ing our art proofs or revising if we need to,” Zavala the customer.” potential clients to come into a Logomark ofﬁce
says. “We’re able to turn it around within a day. Her Arbonne ended up with a series of shirts that it and view products, and discuss business on neutral
Arbonne customer was extremely picky.” really liked after a series of proofs. “They were able to turf. “The distributor can schedule time to be alone
Zavala’s team quickly sent Manwaring four differ- redo the plot until it was perfect,” Manwaring says. with the products and bring their end-users,” says
ent proofs at four different price points. Each placed “They did it in a few hours. It was just an amazing Fathali, whose ofﬁcial title with Logomark is design
the stones at different points on the shirt. customer service experience for such a small order.” continued on page 78
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76 JANUARY 2010 WWW.ADVANTAGESMAG.COM
Logomark has six in-house design centers around Tesla didn’t go with the pens or keychain, but Fath-
ali’s effort inspired the company to place an order with
the country. They allow distributors and their Graphics Cat for 50 badge pulls that cost Valdes only
75 cents each. “I couldn’t ﬁnd anyone that could beat
potential clients to come in and view products and that price,” she says.
discuss business on neutral turf. Fathali also allowed Valdes to meet Tesla’s two-day
deadline to complete the order. “I received e-mails and
center manager. “When they’re in the design center, together some quality spec samples,” Valdes says. phone calls to ensure that my order would be delivered
you see the bonding that goes on. You can see every- Fathali says she capitalized on the homework that on time,” she says.
body relaxed.” Valdes did in reviewing Tesla to help her appeal to the Soon thereafter, Tesla ordered 700 champagne ﬂutes
That’s one of the reasons that Michelle Valdes, company. “She did the research on them. She had the from Graphics Cat via Logomark for its annual Christ-
owner of Graphics Cat (asi/213057), likes working with
( 7 connections and she gained their trust,” Fathali says. mas party. “I couldn’t have done it without the help of
Logomark – so much, in fact, that she has stayed with Fathali took a look at Tesla’s logo and colors, along Melanie and the Logomark team,” Valdes says. “They
them through four different companies. with the feel of their products. “And then I just have always been so quick to respond, provide the best
“It has been a ﬁve-year relationship,” she says. “I get instinctively knew what products to offer,” she says. quality and, most important to me, have the absolute
more support from Logomark than any other supplier. “It’s easy to predict a lot of times what someone’s best service.”
They are always quick to respond, which is important going to like.” Fathali says she didn’t realize how much grunt
to me, and have never missed a deadline.” Ultimately, Fathali picked out three items on work was involved on the distributor’s end until
Simply put, “They make me look good,” Valdes says. her own – two high-end pens and a keychain – for she rejoined the industry two years ago. “A dis-
Another way that Logomark has made her look Valdes to present to Tesla. “All items were laser tributor spends a lot of time looking for accounts.
good is through providing options for clients who engraved with their logo already on it,” Valdes says, I think suppliers need to realize that,” she says.
aren’t sure what they want. Such was the case when who adds that Fathali had to act quickly. “I set the “They have to find the account, cultivate that rela-
Valdes was trying to win the business of Tesla Motors, Tesla meeting only five days in advance. They were tionship, and I really think that is a huge part of
an electric vehicle company. She immediately called not only impressed with the quality of the items their job.” ▲
upon Fathali to help. “Without hesitation, she put but that I had them done in only five days.” Shane Dale is a contributing writer for Advantages.
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