Inbound sales involves positioning your products and services as the best solution to a client’s unique goals and pain points. You may get inbound sales from blogs, podcasts, newsletters and other types of content. Unlike outbound sales, which requires proactively contacting prospects to get them interested in your offerings, inbound sales focuses on creating and distributing content that attracts potential buyers to your company.
One study from The Aberdeen Group found that 62% of salespeople who do not use inbound social selling end up missing their quotas. Want to get better at inbound sales? Read on. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share best practices from Sushant Shekhar, the founder of SalesBlink.
Make it easy for buyers. It’s most important to keep your communications with prospects direct, pleasant and concise, Shekhar says. This means not contacting prospects when you know they are busy, making your value proposition clear and letting prospects take the initiative with the next step.
Add value. Be sure not to work off a scripted sales pitch. Tap into your experience in the industry and sales in general to add to the discussion. Shekhar says that a true professional will bring value to every stage of the sales cycle.
Establish rapport. With inbound sales, the overall goal is to build connections with prospects. Shekhar suggests adding a personal touch to every phase of your sales cycle to help you develop a relationship with prospects. Don’t be afraid to add humor when it makes sense. This can help you build rapport quicker.
Write well. Remember that the first impression is the last impression, Shekhar says. Make your message clear and concise and pay attention to your style and tone. He says that by striving for stellar copy, you can better engage potential buyers.
Remember time and tact. Make sure you understand your audience so you can connect more meaningfully. This means basing your decisions on how your prospects behave, Shekhar says. To turn prospects into devoted clients, you should constantly be working on cultivating loyalty and trust.
What To Track
How can you tell if you’re successful with your inbound sales process? Track these metrics:
Your reach. Your reach is a foundation for other processes of inbound sales, Shekhar says. Tracking your reach will let you know what strategies you need to focus on more and what is not worth the effort.
Your click-through rates. Take a look at how much traffic your website or blog gets and examine the type of content that is driving more visitors.
Your lead conversion rate. Lead generation is the ultimate goal of any marketing strategy, Shekhar says. Let this metric guide you to improvement. Think about what you could do to convert more leads into buyers.
Take your inbound sales to the next level by applying the pointers above. You’ll be guiding potential buyers through the sales cycle by providing relevant content for each phase. When your sales team aligns with prospects throughout the process, you can provide these prospects with exactly what they’re looking for and increase your chances of closing the deal.
Source: Sushant Shekhar is the founder of SalesBlink, a sales outreach automation tool.
Use With Permission From PC Today
Southern California’s industry nonprofit, The SAAC Foundation, is dedicated to granting scholarships to the family members of Specialty Advertising Association of California's members has announced its 2022 SAAC Foundation Scholarship recipients.
The SAAC Foundation Scholarships continued to be funded by generous donations from companies and individuals within the Southern California region and the promotional products industry. The Foundation's Scholarship program allows industry youths to continue to reach their goals academically at the college level.
View the 2022 Scholarship recipients here, as well as; donate to the foundation and learn more about the SAAC Foundation.
Bob Levitt, SAAC president, is pleased to announce Ryan Paules, Radar Promotions, has been appointed to the SAAC Board of Directors to fill one open distributor position.
Paules, the owner of Radar Promotions, is known for specializing in the non-profit world, customer service, and his commitment to the promotional community.
“The SAAC board members look forward to the expertise Ryan brings with him to this role as we work together to represent the promotional products industry in Southern California,” says Levitt.
Interested in learning more about SAAC or serving on the SAAC Board; go to SAAC.net. Nominations for the 2023 SAAC Board of Directors are now open; submit your nomination today.
Despite advances in technology, soft skills such as emotional intelligence and resilience remain the most critical traits for building successful client relationships. A study of more than 600 respondents, in a range of industries including retail, health care, financial services, technology and manufacturing, found that two-thirds of respondents believe that building trust with customers is one of the most crucial customer service skills. The study was conducted by Mursion, an immersive virtual reality training provider, and Future Workplace, an advisory and membership organization serving human resources leaders.
“Customer service and sales roles have changed dramatically in the past year,” says Jeanne Meister, managing partner at Future Workplace. “These professionals now must have a mix of digital and relationship-building skills to meet the new challenges of the hybrid workplace and achieve goals for growth.”
In reporting on their survey results, Mursion and Future Workplace noted that developing essential human skills comes at a time of heightened stress for sales and service professionals due to the effects of the global pandemic, as well as the rise of increasingly automated customer interactions. Sales and service associates are being tasked with handling more difficult customer conversations alongside internal pressure to meet quotas and hasten speed to resolution or close. These transformations in the workplace have put an elevated emphasis on the mastery of such social instincts as active listening and empathy.
“Sales and customer service require faster, more complex and personalized service than ever before,” says Mursion VP Christina Yu. “Many of the tools and technologies available to frontline professionals hold incredible promise but also raise expectations. And we’re living in the ‘age of the review’ where service quality is more transparent than ever. Social instincts, cultivated with repeated practice, are the key to survival in these times; they empower professionals to thrive in even volatile and uncertain circumstances.”
The survey found that 68 percent of respondents say artificial intelligence has made “human touch” more critical for sales. And respondents in industries that are early AI adopters—financial services, manufacturing and technology—were more likely to say that AI has made the human touch more critical for sales.
Also, 71 percent report that emotional intelligence is becoming more important than cognitive intelligence for customer service jobs. Respondents named the need for faster service, expectations of personalized service, increasingly complex technologies and a quickly changing competitive landscape as the biggest changes to customer service over the past five years.
The full report, “The Human Edge in an AI World,” can be found here.
Still faced with ongoing challenges from the pandemic, many promotional products suppliers, distributors and business services firms made employees a top priority this year, with internal development geared toward nurturing, supporting and encouraging team members to do and be their best.
Common sentiments expressed by employees of the 47 companies named to the 2022 list of PPB’s Greatest Companies To Work For were appreciation for an uplifting and motivating workplace culture with a family-like environment, and work-life balance perks such as flexible scheduling and team-building activities that carry over this value. Despite the disruptive nature of supply-chain issues, order delays and tariffs, these companies show that it’s possible to successfully ride the waves of change by becoming stronger together.
Made up of “micro” companies with as few as five employees, to large firms with teams numbering north of 1,000, this leading group of industry businesses from across the U.S. and Canada is reimagining how to bring employees together, particularly in work environments with in-person, hybrid and remote workers. Whether they’re logging in from a home or company office, employees feel “fully supported in expanding my knowledge and skills,” per one response, “provided with so much education and feedback,” says another, and have the “freedom” to express ideas and needs, whether personal or professional.
“Although the survey questions of employees and the standards for qualification were the same, fewer companies met the bar this year—from 52 in 2021 down to 47 this year,” says Josh Ellis, publisher and editor-in-chief of PPB. “The entire world is grappling with the effects of worker disillusionment and disengagement coming out of the pandemic, and our industry is not immune.
“Still, we see dozens of companies in promotional products that are keeping their employees happy, inspired, challenged and thriving. The achievement of these 47 companies is even more impressive considering the environment.”
Since reinstating the annual competition last year, which has run annually since 2011, industry leaders and employees alike have demonstrated an unmistakable priority to back one another throughout. PPB congratulates this year’s Greatest Companies To Work For.
Read more about them below; click each company's unique link for words from their employees about what it's like to work there, as well as perspectives from the organizations' leaders on how they've created the industry's best cultures.
(In alphabetical order by size)
Employee counts reflect full-time employees as of February and March 2022, when rosters were submitted.
(Five to nine employees)
MARCO Ideas Unlimited, Inc.
North Georgia Promotions
Wall Street Greetings, LLC
Ward Promotional Marketing Solutions Inc.
Blue Dog Merch
Flywheel Brands Inc.
Stowebridge Promotions Group Inc.
You Name It Specialties, Inc.
Chameleon Like, Inc.
Concord Marketing Solutions
Cooley Group, Inc.
Goldner Associates, Inc.
Peerless Umbrella Co.
Picnic Time Family of Brands
Storm CreekTPS Promotions & Incentives
(More than 75 employees)
American Solutions For Business
EPromos Promotional Products
Orbus Exhibit & Display Group
Spector & Co.
Companies are required to have a minimum of five full-time employees to participate in the PPB Greatest Companies To Work For competition. Companies included had to be nominated by an employee. Nominated companies submitted their team rosters of full-time employees, with each listed employee receiving a 15-question survey to rate their company in five areas: benefits, resources, culture, leadership and company direction. Companies were also required to meet a percentage of completed surveys. The survey results were then tabulated and compared to a pre-established threshold to reveal this year’s winners.
Danielle Renda is an associate editor at PPAI.
Used with permission from PPAI
Do you ever feel like a little fish in a big pond – or maybe even more of an ocean – especially because the promotional products industry is so large? It can be easy to feel lost or disconnected at times. Were you encouraged to join a club or athletic team to make friends and fit in as a teenager? That same principle still applies today in the business world!
So, here are four reasons why you should join an industry association or organization:
With an industry as big as ours, it’s very likely that someone somewhere has already discovered the solution to a problem you’ve been dealing with. Industry blogs, webinars, podcasts, and newsletters can help provide awesome opportunities to find the answer. Or maybe you just want to expand your mind through thought-provoking discussion? Participating in organizations like PromoKitchen will undoubtedly provide a forum for conversation.
When you’re looking for a contractor, you want to make sure they are insured and bonded, right? Associations like Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), award credentials and certifications (CAS/MAS), and can help you build customer confidence in your company. Being part of an industry association shows that you’re committed to bettering your business.
When you join an industry association, you’ll often find that there will be exclusive opportunities just for those members. Take, for example, SAGE and PPAI’s partnership! First introduced in 2011, the SAGE and PPAI Partnership connects everything distributors need to grow and manage their business – what’s not to love about business growth? For one low membership price, you’ll gain access to not only SAGE’s impressive array of programs and tools, but you’ll get exclusive membership support from PPAI like discounts from FedEx or Quickbooks, both digital and in-personal educational opportunities, and organizational support through certification, awards, product safety, and more!
Joining organizations like PromoCares allows you to participate in social good programs that your customers care about. They encourage giving back to our communities and the environment through empowerment within the industry. They promote dialogue about where the industry is excelling and where it needs to improve, and they showcase leaders in the industry and what they’re doing to make our world a better place to live. And who doesn’t want that?
While these are just some of the amazing industry associations and organizations across the country and Canada, check out the map below to see which association is closest to you! For more information on joining a regional association, click here!
Betty Anderson, Marketing Content Writer
Editors Notes: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Used with permission from SAGE
FIND YOUR CHUCK
On July 10th our promotional products family lost Charles (Chuck) Robinson, Jr. President of Five Star Promotions. He was a genuine gentleman and an amazing human being. He leaves behind his wife Joyce who supported him the last many years throughout his various illnesses.
Chuck was referred to my company over 25 years ago and were lucky to “Find Our Chuck”. Not only was he a fabulous salesman but he was a caring person who would help anyone who needed his assistance.
Unfortunately, over the past several years he was in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices due to various ailments. He had numerous surgeries and each time he kept his spirit up and fought through it all. Unfortunately, he had 2 minor strokes over the past 6 months but again he pulled through. Over a week ago his wife broke her leg, and he became her caregiver and he fell one morning while helping her out of bed and hit his head and was taken to the hospital emergency room where he later had a heart attack and passed away.
Before becoming a salesman, he was a Fireman/Paramedic with the Anaheim Fire Department. An injury ended his career, and he entered our industry. He was extremely creative. His clients loved him, and he succeeded in building a great client portfolio.
One of the proudest most of his career when Trevor Gnesin, President of Logomark, asked him to come his office. When he arrived, he was surprises to find out that Trevor had developed an incentive program for his sales staff called “FIND YOUR CHUCK”. The entire staff was present in the conference room which was decorated with a large banner, and they all wore buttons with his picture that said Find Your Chuck. In addition, he was given a substantial credit to towards any new orders he placed. The reason for this promotion was that Chuck had increased his sales with Logomark by over 300% in one year and Trevor wanted his staff to go out and find more customers who they felt could also increase their sales with the Company.
Chuck loved to fish, hunt and was a great cook. He would run the SAAC fishing trips which used to be held prior to the SAAC show each year.
Chuck was someone who cared, and, when 9/11 happened he immediately contacted the fishing community throughout Southern California and asked then to send their catch for the day to a central location. Those fish were collected and sent overnight to restaurants in New York City to feed all the first responders and volunteers who were working at the site. The name he gave his foundation was “Fish for America”. He was featured in an article in People Magazine for his efforts. That is a prime example of what Chuck did for others no matter whoever need his help. Two more examples were when Craig Spencer, a multi-line rep was suddenly diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and hospitalized. Chuck went to the hospital almost every day to see Craig until the day he died. Also, one of our salesmen was badly burned in a home fire and then put in the intensive care burn ward at UCI Hospital. Again, Chuck visited him almost every day until he also passed away.
This is the kind of person Chuck Robinson was. Caring, loving and with a heart of Gold.
So go out and Find Your Chuck!
Rest in peace Chuck, we will all miss you.
Friend, and former owner of Five Star Promotions
You’ve developed a vital muscle over these pandemic years, probably the most important muscle a business can flex: the muscle of resilience.
Distributors and suppliers faced challenges too extreme to even imagine prior to the pandemic.
But post-pandemic, you’re still standing with battle scars and wins to prove it all.
So, despite the ominous news making headlines right now—inflation, recession, the stock market—know that you have developed a super-strength that prepares you for whatever may come. For all its tragedy, the pandemic at least taught us how to adapt and survive, which is why news of a potential recession shouldn’t paralyze us into indecision but inspire us to action.
According to MarketWatch, back in January, 18% of polled economists predicted a recession. As of June 19th, that likelihood jumped to 44%. Some say we’re already in a recession; others say the warning signs have slowed. And if you want more mind-boggling volleys of opposing opinions, see what economists on both sides of the debate predict. And regarding predictions in general, watching the volatility of the stock market makes us dredge out Paul Samuelson’s famous quip that the stock market has predicted nine of the past five recessions. (In a bear market, like hiking the Appalachians, bear news travels fast).
Regardless of whether a recession is imminent, recession-proofing your business is not merely a survival tactic, it’s just good business.
These practices ensure the vitality of your ops, whether in good times or bad. Putting these practices into your weekly discipline now will sharpen your focus and tighten your grip on your operation should there be an economic downturn.
Here are 10 things you can do now to not only prepare for a recession, but strengthen your outlook, accelerate profitability, and grow, come rain or shine.
No. 1: Double Down On Sales And Marketing
If you have a weak business development plan, now’s the time to accelerate not decelerate investments in business development. Money flooded the market during the pandemic, and we (like many industries) are possibly oversaturated with demand. In flood times, salespeople tend to let new business development lax because they are struggling to keep up, but we can’t wait until our inboxes and calendars to dry up; invest now to reap the reward three, six, nine months from now.
Thriving in tough economic times is a combination of both defensive and offensive moves.
No. 2: Refine Your Customer List
Know who your top clients are by order of revenue and profit. It helps to know which clients mean the most to your bottom line and it’s likely that 80% of your revenue is derived from 20% of your clients. Do you know the VIPs in your client list? (Not the people who contact you the most but the companies whose revenue drives your profitability). Are you consolidated in only one or two industries/verticles?
Can you diversify your book of business? And mostly: Are you providing high-touch and high-service through a steady stream of new ideas to your top clients? When a recession hits, often, companies will consolidate vendors: You want to be at the top of that essential list if consolidation comes. Moreover, you want to help your clients get ahead of recessionary reactionary measures by helping them invest (more) in their own sales and marketing now.
No. 3: Analyze Your Strengths And Weaknesses
Reviewing your team and analyzing their strengths is not a step toward wholesale overhead reduction; you want to make sure every team member is functioning in a role that drives the business forward. Bain & Company called this “restructuring costs without cutting muscle.” One company actually increased its workforce by 10% in a recession through a restructuring process. By analyzing their strengths and underperforming categories, they were able to put amazing talent to work in other areas of the business and their post-recession growth soared.
No. 4: Know Your Numbers, Then Act On Them
If we asked you right now what your EBITDA is, could you say? And if not EBITDA, perhaps your total YTD sales figures, operating expenses, margin, and net profit? And if you’re a salesperson, can you name your YTD revenue and average margin for your top three clients?
A savvy promo pro not only knows their numbers, but understands how these fluctuate within the rhythm of their business. Knowing is only half-wisdom, the other half is acting on what you know. Example: If your average margin for a high-demand client is lagging, or if sales are declining with that client and you haven’t addressed it yet, now’s a great time to shore it up. Know your numbers and act on them.
No. 5: Reign In Receivables
It’s not a draconian move; sharpening your collection skills now is simply good business. If you have clients who are late in owing you money, now is the time to collect.
In boom times, we get lax with receivables because projects are coming in fast, but the downstream effect of a relaxed attitude toward collections is dangerous water. Keep receivables tight and develop a process to review outstanding accounts regularly. Eight-two percent of businesses fail because of cash flow issues, often due to not paying close enough attention to margin, expenses, and receivables. And if you’ve grown comfortable with offering longer terms to clients, now is the time to consider reducing terms that might be a tad too generous.
No. 6: Know Your Cash Buffer
JP Morgan Chase produced a massive research report surveying over 600,000 small businesses and discovered that the average number of days a small business could pay out of its cash reserve is about one month.
On average, businesses are substantially more resilient if they hold a reserve of 62 days or more. Question for you: If inflows slow (i.e., sales decline or drop precipitously) how many cash buffer days do you have? Knowing your cash buffer helps you plan your cash flow in the event of an emergency, and it helps you think through the next tip.
No. 7: If You Need It, Secure Additional Financing Now
If your business has rebounded post-pandemic and you’ve experienced a growing season, it might be possible you’re sitting on a decision to increase your line of credit. Increasing access to credit can be a lifeline in volatile situations (as we’ve all learned painstakingly through the pandemic). According to Kiplinger, the average recession (post-WWII) lasts 11 months: Review your cash, your line of credit, and prepare contingency options now.
No. 8: Invest In Tech
Investing in technology consolidates your business, and makes you lean. Becoming agile is one of the smartest moves you can make to prepare for a downturn.
Efficient tech levels the playing field, and those that invest in infrastructure efficiencies prior to economic hardship end up more profitable during a recession; they roar out of a recession due to efficiencies gained. Particularly with companies who have bloated infrastructures, or archaic processes, investing in tech helps create a lean, agile operating team and allows you to focus on the most important thing in your world: growth.
No. 9: Talk To Your Team
Sticking your head in the sand is not how smart leaders deal with bad financial news in the headlines. Kate Ivory, the owner of GIDI Promotions, has been through a few recessions and shared this tip, “Take care of the people you have. We have already started talking about a possible recession with our team. Especially if you are a small business, they may wonder if they will have a job. We want to take the edge off, and not have it live in a constant dark cloud of the unknown.
“Stop the water cooler talk if possible. Be open with your team and engage them in the conversation.”
Talking with your team about potentialities does not create a negative atmosphere unless you let it. By opening up the topic, you enlist their brilliant minds in solving a potential problem, not hiding from one that is painfully everywhere in the news. You’ve hired a brain trust in your team: Use it.
No. 10: Forecast Financial Scenarios
Bain calls this “stress-testing the P&L and balance sheet.” Model scenarios based on both growth and loss. Model cutting unnecessary expenses. Model declines in growth. Model increases in growth. Model tech investments contrasted against a bloated payroll. Modeling out scenarios helps you paint a picture with numbers. It allows you to think through contingency plans should you ever need them, and doing so offers you some assurance that you have—if even the faintest—an idea of a plan.
Finally, and above all: Remain optimistic and be bold. Boldness triggers purposeful action.
According to Bain, companies that ranked among the eventual winners through a recession moved deliberately to capture opportunities before the recession. “While they focused intensively on cost transformation, they also looked beyond cost. Think of a recession as a sharp curve on an auto racetrack (which is the best place to pass competitors, but requires more skill than straightaways). The best drivers apply the brakes just ahead of the curve (they take out excess costs), they turn hard toward the apex of the curve (identify the short list of projects that will form the next business model), and accelerate hard out of the curve (spend and hire before markets have rebounded).”
Winning companies behave differently before a recession, and eventually they roar out of one far ahead of the competition.
And a little preparedness will help prevent our industry from forever circumnavigating around that dreaded word “pivot” again.
Fortune—and a little preparedness now—favors the bold.
This article is brought to you by commonsku, the work-from-anywhere platform that powers your connected workflow enabling you to process more orders and dramatically grow your sales. To learn more visit commonsku.com.
On June 28, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 54 into law following its unanimous approval by the state senate. The new law will require all plastic packaging in the state to reach a 30% recycling rate by 2028, which will increase to 65% by 2032.
The legislation is part of Newsom’s broader plan to mitigate the effects of climate change. It creates an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program in an effort to minimize waste.
“This is a pretty big deal,” says PPAI Public Affairs Manager Maurice Norris. “We’ve been following policy proposals related to extended producer responsibility for a few years, and while California isn’t the first state to do this, it’s certainly the biggest. This is probably the most ambitious plastics packaging requirement in the country.”
Increased regulations in a state the size of California can have large ramifications for companies throughout the United States. Many other states may follow in California’s ambitions, creating a sort of plastic recycling standard for packagers.
August Recess is a month-long official break in the congressional calendar that occurs every year. This recess offers an excellent opportunity for promo industry professionals to meet with elected officials in their districts and discuss issues that are important to the promotional products industry.
This annual break in the congressional calendar also gives industry members the opportunity to establish and maintain relationships with legislators and their staffers, and it allows L.E.A.D. attendees the chance to refresh the connections they created during personal or virtual visits to Capitol Hill.
Industry members meetings and connections with lawmakers are especially important this year because of the numerous large issues Congress is trying to address before year’s end.
The conference committee proceedings on the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act have effectively stalled.
The precarity of the America COMPETES Act also resurrects a troublesome legislative proposal that PPAI has opposed, specifically the Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) Online Act.
Also, Senate leadership is negotiating a new budget reconciliation bill that involves potential tax increases for businesses as funding mechanisms to subsidize the various policy proposals. This is a pared-down version of the same reconciliation bill that was deliberated over by Congress last summer.
PPAI Makes It Easy To Act:
Considering the possibility of tax increases, the COOL Online requirements and no tariff relief, it is important for Congress to hear from promo industry members this summer. These meetings can take place in a variety of ways, including in-person or virtual encounters, PPAI members’ attendance at various town halls, legislators visiting regional events, and inviting legislators on tours of industry facilities.
For information about identifying members of Congress and contacting them for a meeting, PPAI's August Recess Advocacy page offers all the tools necessary to plan and execute meetings or worksite tours. PPAI staff is also here to help. Association members can reach PPAI’s public affairs manager, Maurice Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org, with questions about Tips For A Successful Facility Tour, help identifying and contacting legislators, or any other available resources.
Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC)
3125 Skyway Circle N
Irving, TX 75038
p:972.258.3070 e: email@example.com