10 years ago, I walked into a YMCA in Grand Forks, ND. It was my first sales call. I had several catalogs, my smart phone, a price book, and an order pad. I had practiced for days what I would say to this YMCA director. I imagined I would greet the front office person and then be ushered back to his or her office. As I greeted the front desk lady and asked for the director, the person to the right of the lady said, “that is me”. I was panicked because it was not going as planned. So, I handed my catalogs to the director and without another word, walked out.
I can thankfully say that was my worst presentation. It was also my first. But, we have all felt that letdown when we walked out of a presentation and we know it did not go as planned.
Preparing for a Presentation
Before anything, you need to know your product. Spend time with your nose in a price list and price out the likely items with decoration. Be ready to give pricing to the customer on the spot. I like to warn the customer that the pricing is not “exact”, but that it can give them an idea. Knowing the lines you have in your bag is equally important. Know why an Under Armour Locker T is more expensive than a San Mar ST350.
Samples can separate you from the competition. It’s hard work to bring a rack of samples in the door, haul the samples up-stairs, find a classroom, and then make a presentation. It’s worth it! Don’t be lazy. Everyone likes to touch and feel product and it will help create a lasting impression that your customer remembers.
Know the Specifications
Part of the preparation for a sale is knowing the specifications of your product. When I am selling a product to a customer, I like to share the details. For example:
- Know the thread or stitch count. How does that compare to your biggest competition? Believe it or not, a lot of people still like quality.
- Can the customer fill in on this product? How long can they do it for? Is it easy for them? For you?
- What is the warranty on the product? How well does the vendor back up the product? Do you have any prior experiences that showcase how well the vendor takes care of issues that you can share?
- A lot of products are polyester and advertise moisture management capabilities. How many washes will the application stay in the garment?
- Is there a branding component to the product? Will the brand help bring excitement to the program?
The list can go on forever, but hopefully this line of questioning will create a spark in your mind and you can continue to create new points of why your product should be purchased over the competitor.
Quality, Service and Time. You often can provide two out of the three, but not all three. If you try, you are going to go broke.
In a previous post, I discussed getting the order early. This is a way of getting all three metrics to the customer. If you are hitting the deadline you were given, it’s just that you start months earlier —-This sentence needs rewording, but I am not sure what exactly you would want.
When you first meet with a customer, it is good to listen instead of talk. Find out what their needs are and what is most important to them. You can’t try and sell a $20 Locker T, when all they need is a camp shirt. Make sure you spend the first part of your presentation asking your customer questions about their needs.
- When do you need the product?
- Will it be worn or used a lot?
- Do you want to invest in the best product or the best value?
- What else have you seen that you like? Don’t like? Why?
Each situation can require a different set of questions, but these are good baseline. Hopefully, your questions will help you determine what the most important two variables are (Quality, Service or Time). Once you find out what their needs and wants, then you can sell in the product that best fits.