Sales: Being A Small Distributor Is Your Competitive Advantage
The news about Walmart entering the promotional products industry was the hot topic on various forums this fall. From fear of losing market share, to speculation that “my clients won’t go to Walmart,” to jokes about their in-store customer service, many shared their views.
Whether you are afraid that Walmart will take a piece of your cake or you think you have nothing to worry about, the big lesson is that the market is changing. You must take action to make sure you make the right moves so your business evolves—especially if you are in a growth phase.
First, never take your competition lightly—especially the big ones. Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, and it has been directly competing with Amazon by expanding into e-commerce. To enter the promotional products space, Walmart has reportedly partnered with an industry company who will ease their transition into this new market.
Despite the fact that Walmart is a household name with many resources, I believe that the buyer who will go to Walmart—or any other big online seller—for promotional products is not the same person who prefers to work with a small distributor.
That said, we live in an age where online research is often the first step for potential clients who are searching for solutions. Studies show that by the time buyers contact a company, they have pretty much made the decision to work with that company. In today’s world, your ideal clients are turning to Google and other online sites to perform their due diligence ahead of time. Once they figure out what they want, they contact their chosen company.
The promotional products business is an account-based, relationship-driven business. And thanks to the information that’s readily available on the internet, today’s clients are more educated than ever, so they have higher expectations of their sales reps’ expertise. As a small business, you can, without question, provide a much higher level of personalized service than mega online sources. Studies back this up. In a Harvard Business Review report, 72 percent of decision makers said a sales rep’s ability to help solve their business objectives is a major influence on their buying decision.
This is where your opportunity lies—and it’s huge. To attract your ideal buyers, start now by following these six steps that will put you on the right path:
1. Know your ideal clients well. Find out who your clients are, what their jobs are like, what they care about and what they need to do to succeed. Gain deeper insights by using surveys and interviews. These tools will give you the insight you need to make your interactions with clients relevant and meaningful.
2. Know what your ideal clients value about working with you. Why do your clients choose to work with you? Chances are, your clients value your knowledge and guidance through the buying process and the product ideas and creative use of potential products that you recommend. By knowing what they care about and responding accordingly, you’ll create a relationship in which your client is confident that part of their job is taken care of.
3. Target those clients where you deliver the most value. Focus on the client types where you’ve had the most success with the least amount of effort. Walk away from the rest.
4. Go the extra mile. Streamline your processes so you deliver a consistent experience that sets you apart from the rest of your client’s vendors. Make it easy for your clients to do business with you. Build a culture of continuous improvement to help your team grow strong.
5. Become their trusted partner. Ask yourself, what else is there? Consider that just like every other business, your clients’ businesses are also evolving. By becoming more involved at a higher level, you will uncover opportunities to add both value to your clients and sales to your portfolio.
6. Market your business online. Online giants invest in marketing and advertising. Just like any other business on earth, you need to do the same. No one will find you when they are looking if you are not there. Set a reasonable budget to market your business online so you have a presence where your ideal clients are hanging out.
There are many great, potential clients looking for providers just like you. Your challenge is to be found by them. This won’t happen by chance. Make it a point to be where they are spending time online. Be proactive in building your business culture, online presence and operating procedures.
The good news is very few distributors are doing it.
Gloria Lafont is a small business marketing consultant with 30 years of experience in branding and direct response, and an early adopter of online marketing. She is the president of Action Marketing Co. in Plantation, Florida, an agency that offers branding and promotional merchandise to select organizations, as well as comprehensive marketing services to small businesses.