June 18, 2010
Filed under: Tip of the Day
On some level, most salespeople are the same. They call clients, pitch their products and services, cold-call prospects and, ultimately, try to close deals. Some do it better than others. And some simply live for the deal – doing everything they possibly can to get a client to agree to sign on the dotted line.
But what sets good salespeople apart from the rest? In a word, creativity. It’s the salesperson who calls with an original proposal, who offers a unique promotional idea, who creates an out-of-this-world brand for themselves that truly succeeds in the ad specialty and decorated apparel market.
Indeed, in today’s market, exceptional creativity may be the best way to do that. But does that mean you have to spend a fortune on outlandish exhibits or extravagant thank-you gifts for clients? Hardly. Here are two great case studies about companies that are using inexpensive, creative ways to grab client attention.
A soothing, Southern-accented voice on the company’s phone system prompts callers to dial the appropriate extension for departments like superhero sales or superhero customer service.Visitors to The P.O.P. Shop’s Web site are greeted by the company’s superhero family – El Deflecto, Creative Inferno, Flythang and others. Each one has a bio detailing his or her superpowers – a lead pencil for a fingertip in the case of Creative Inferno, for example. The seamlessness of how The P.O.P. Shop is branded – from the phone system to its superhero-based sales presentations – is a crucial selling technique, says Brian Beam, one of the company’s marketing superheroes. “We believe in the fact that if you can’t brand yourself, then how is the client going to trust you with their brand?” Beam asks.
The Beams create regular promotions for their own firm, in part to give clients a sense of how creative they are. In February, for example, they launched the “What Do You Love?” sweepstakes in which clients were asked to type in what they love – about anything – on the company’s Web site. One winner received a $200 iTunes gift certificate.
Responses include, “I love a slice of pizza in the morning” and, “I love Starbucks.” The first two days of the promotion brought in 39 new registrants to the company’s Web site and 28 new P.O.P. Shop followers on Facebook, which is linked to the What Do You Love? promotion.
Consistency in branding is crucial to creativity and sales success, says Steve Carroll, CEO of Lee DuBois Technologies, a sales consultancy in Ft. Myers, FL. The P.O.P. Shop’s heroes are professionally illustrated throughout an organized Web site and clever phone system, as well as in communication pieces. It’s gimmicky, but it works. Other decorators, Carroll cautions, may want to make sure that any theme they incorporate so pervasively throughout their business model doesn’t confuse prospects. The key to this kind of creative branding and sales strategy is to stick with it – make it a part of everything you do, and clients will come to expect it.
The Ultimate Drop-By
A recent attention-grabber was a small cage built by Beckman with change inside. “This was in a box that had a question on the outside asking if the recipient was ‘Afraid of Change?’ ” he says. Inside was a card letting the recipient know that Proforma-BPM could help them find a new distributor – namely, Proforma-BPM.
On another occasion, Beckman dropped off a decorated gift box with a small clock inside and a card explaining that his company was giving prospects the “gift of time,” since the prospects, Proforma-BPM promised, would “save time by working with us,” he says.
Taking direct mail one step further, Beckman says it’s crucial sometimes to deliver mail himself rather than waiting for the post office to do it. “If you mail something, you have no idea when they’ll open it,” he says. “If you drop it off, they get a phone call from the front desk and they have to open it.”
This is a tactic Beckman relies on monthly, usually delivering original pieces to somewhere between five and 10 prospects. “These are people I’ve never met before,” he says, but they’re ones he’s targeting based upon a demographic he’s interested in working with or a type of company he’d like to do more business with.
After dropping off the cages of change to five prospects, Beckman landed two meetings, as well as a request to call back the following month. Two others never responded. But a response rate of more than 50% isn’t bad, he says – much better than a massive direct-mail campaign that would be far costlier.
When doing a drop off a mailer, Carroll suggests that decorators think carefully about how the package will be received by the prospect – not just physically, but also psychologically. “How do you want them to feel when they open up the box?” he asks.
The beauty of such drop-offs, if done right, is that they “avoid the ‘breathing brochure’ syndrome,” Carroll says. If what a decorator presents through direct mail or in person is essentially the same information found in a company brochure, marketing materials or a catalog, the prospect or client is likely to think, “I can read the brochure and I don’t need you,” he says. “That’s a breathing brochure” – a problem that makes a decorator obsolete. “You’ve got to go beyond that and do something special.”