Every sales professional encounters difficult clients from time to time. How you choose to respond to these clients makes all the difference in whether you walk away frustrated or win a customer for life. Author Jason Aten says there are four key ways to handle difficult clients. We explore Aten's tips in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.
Know the difference between difficult clients and clients with difficulty. Aten says there's a huge difference and it turns out that it changes everything about how you should respond. Most of your customers are reasonable people, but for one reason or another, you haven't met their expectations or they are having a difficult time. They aren't difficult people, but somehow their expectations aren't aligned with their experience. Whatever the cause, you can likely help them through it and make them happy. On the other hand, difficult customers are the ones who can't be made happy. There's just something about them, that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, no matter what heroic effort you make, they won't be happy. It's not your problem that they are difficult.
Fire difficult clients. When you discover that you have a difficult customer, fire them. No questions asked. Too often, we entertain this abuse and allow these customers to suck valuable energy and life out of us. We think that, somehow, we might be able to make them happy, and we're afraid of what they might do if we don't coddle them. If there's nothing you can do for a difficult client, why on earth are you spending any time at all on the relationship? Aten says your responsibility is to fulfill any previous obligation to these customers and then terminate the relationship as professionally and swiftly as you can.
Understand that expectations are everything. You can often set yourself and your customer up for a win by taking time to clearly communicate expectations. From the very first encounter you have with a customer, your job is to create and manage their expectations. When you don't, they fill in the blanks based on their assumptions and understanding. Give them a clear understanding of your process, how you work, what they should expect and when, and how to reach you if they have questions.
By the time a client is asking you for something they thought they should already have, it's too late.
Take one for the team. Aten says that many times when we face a customer having a rough time, we get defensive about their problem and place blame and fault on them. Even if we think we've done everything right, the reality in front of us is that we failed to meet clients' expectations. In most cases, the best choice is to ask yourself what it will take to make this customer happy. Often the answer is much easier than it seems, and a simple apology for the misunderstanding, with an offer to make it right, goes a long way toward creating a win.
Sometimes, difficult circumstances give you an opportunity to create customers for life. If you face a difficult client, think about how you can apply the guidance above.
Source: Jason Aten writes the Tech Inc. column about the intersection of technology and business.
This article was originally published in PCT Today, July 18, 2019. Used with permission from PPAI.
The Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC), serving the promotional products industry in Southern California for more than 30 years, has announced the recipients of its 2019 SAAC Member Awards—Rick Greene, MAS, HALO Branded Solutions, Honorary Life Member; Beverly Walter, Brown & Bigelow, Volunteer of the Year; Robert Collins, Collins and Associates, Representative of the Year; and Paula Cortes, PromoShop, Customer Service Award recipient. The award winners will be honored at the SAAC Awards Reception during the 2019 SAAC Expo in San Diego, California, on August 7.
SAAC’s Honorary Life Member Award is presented to a long-standing, dedicated member with over 10 years of service to the regional association. The award recognizes members who exemplify eagerness to assist in SAAC matters, demonstrate a creative spark and dedication to the association, and are selfless in time and effort in SAAC matters and business.
“Rick always has SAAC top of mind and has a desire to see the association grow and thrive, and advocate for the association and our industry,” says his nominator. “He is consistently positive and will support SAAC no matter the situation.”
The Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding association volunteer whose unselfish and dedicated service to programs and events has made a significant difference, and mirrors the commitment to success in our professional ranks.
“Serving as a chairperson for the Foundation for SAAC, Beverly has been instrumental in re-energizing the board and executing some of the most successful fundraisers for our members,” says Walter’s nominator. “Her involvement with the Jim Buesher Golf Tournament has made it one of SAACs best-attended and most positive events.”
The Representative of the Year Award is presented to an inside or outside sales representative from a member company who exemplifies integrity and professionalism for their company and the industry, while also elevating the industry and its members by exhibiting excellence through best practices.
Collins’s nominator says, “Bob has served in the promotional products industry for almost 45 years and as the SAAC president in 1984-1985. His knowledge, integrity and great character help to better our association.”
The Customer Service Award Recognizes a member who exemplifies superior customer service, reliability and integrity consistently in their daily professional life. It is awarded to members who serve as an example of integrity and professionalism for their company while making contributions to elevate the industry.
“Paula is a pillar of integrity and professionalism in the workplace,” says Cortes’s nominator. “She is consistently kind and committed, getting the job done at 110 percent every time. Every vendor, account team and internal staff member expresses joy at working with Paula, as she operates in a way that allows people to do their best work in every setting.”
This article was originally published in PPB Newslink, July 11, 2019. Used with permission from PPAI.
What is your title/role within your company? National Key Accounts
What do you like best about your company?I work for great bosses that truly know how to run a company and actually listen to my suggestions. The family atmosphere and the fact that we pride ourselves on being a different product out in the market.
How were you introduced to the promotional products industry?I was recruited by an apparel in the industry which I’m grateful for. I was able to learn and get my feet wet in promo.
If you had to pick one, what is your favorite promotional product?100% ALight Promos #11456 Alarm Clock! No bias here but it’s been something I’ve used as a night light around my house and I travel with one.
Tell us something about you that most people may not knowI aspired to play professional basketball in the NBA when I was young but I came to the realization that it wasn’t going to happen when I stopped growing at 5’10.
What is your title/role within your company? President/CEO
How were you introduced to the promotional products industry? I was introduced to the Promotional products industry when I worked for Newport Printing Systems in Irvine, over 18 years ago. There I was asked to sell everything to my clients. So, I learned what my clients needed and in many cases it was promotional items. Through my prior sales experience of solution selling from Vanier Graphics I helped create solutions using promotional items and logo wear programs for my clients.
If you had to pick one, what is your favorite promotional product? The 12 oz. double wall stainless steel camper mug from ETS Express. Keeps my coffee warm for hours and no need for plug in warmer.
There are clients—and then there are high-profile clients. These VIPs often have very different expectations. When you have a chance to work with a high-profile client, preparation is paramount.
James Harris, co-founder of Bond Street Partners and star of the hit television series Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, says working with high-profile clients presents many exciting opportunities. The trick is to take time to understand their needs. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Harris' tips for succeeding with customers who are considered VIPs in their companies, industries and communities.
1. Always use discretion. Harris says that high-profile clients appreciate discretion and confidentiality. No one wants their personal information given to perfect strangers. High-profile clients are no different except every move they make is under a magnifying glass. Never broadcast your client's next step. Not only is it an invasion of his or her privacy, but it's also a security issue. Harris recommends using your discretion as a selling point. By understanding the importance of your client's privacy, you will build a reputation for being dependable and trustworthy.
2. Be respectful of their time. When working with a high-profile client, Harris says it's best to keep your communications succinct and only reach out when necessary. Try to schedule calls and meetings in the morning as early as possible. As the day progresses, it only becomes more difficult for your client to remove themselves from their business to speak with you.
3. Stay flexible. High-profile clients typically don't work a traditional schedule. They expect you to be available 24/7 as they travel and may be in another time zone when they call you. Make sure you take their calls and respond to them on their schedule—not your own.
4. Provide top-tier service. High-profile clients rely on you to ensure that all their needs are met. They are typically involved in large transactions and expect your service to be in line with what they are spending. Harris says it's important to take yourself out of the equation. When dealing with high-profile clients, it is all about their needs. Put your ego aside and put them first. Your clients may not necessarily need the things they are asking you for, however, you must listen to what they want and deliver. If you don't, they will think you are wasting their time.
5. Anticipate their needs. Actively listen to your client and pay attention to what they are requesting. Make note of little nuances like their daughter's recital or corporate functions. By taking note of relevant information and applying it to the clients' needs, they will appreciate that you were listening, and you will service their needs accordingly. Harris also suggests noting any allergies, dislikes and uncomfortable moments. If your client mentions that she is allergic to shellfish, you don't want to make the mistake of making lunch reservations at a seafood restaurant.
6. Deliver value. Harris says that just because high-profile clients are successful doesn't mean they don't appreciate the value of a dollar. They want the best investment possible, which means they want a service that fits their needs and bottom line. Harris notes that high-profile clients aren't difficult—they're just busy and need a partner who understands how they do business.
Landing a high-profile client can be an exciting opportunity. Use the tips above to manage expectations and focus on their needs. When you do, you lay the groundwork for a long and fruitful partnership.
Source: James Harris is co-founder of Bond Street Partners, director of The Agency Real Estate and co-founder of thepls.com. Harris is also the star of the hit television series Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, which airs on Bravo.
An article in January’s issue of PPB Magazine shared recruiting ideas for finding good hires in today’s tight job market. This month we’re focusing on some ideas for retaining your best employees as the market continues.
In a strong economy, your business could be at risk of losing its best employees as your competitors work to lure them away. Maybe your employees are just looking around for a higher salary or more opportunities. Maybe they’re just plain unhappy where they are.
A 2018 Conference Board survey reported that only 43 percent of employees are happy in their current positions. That number is up slightly from previous years, but the percentage of happy employees still represents the minority of the workforce.
So how do you keep your best people without breaking the bank? This, too, is a complex issue with no simple solution. There are some steps, though, that you can take to increase retention. And the good news is they don’t all involve big salary increases.
Invest time and dollars in your managers and supervisors. According to a recent Fortune.com survey (and lots of other surveys, too), the No. 1 reason people leave their jobs is because of bad supervisors and managers. “Bad” supervision and management comes in all shapes and sizes. Employees may feel their work is not recognized or appreciated, they may not be given clear direction, or they may receive little to no feedback on their performance until appraisal time, when a host of issues that might easily have been addressed sooner suddenly appear.
To be fair, employees who are promoted into supervisory and management positions often lack the skills to succeed and aren’t given enough guidance and support by their supervisors and managers. And if they’re not successful and leave the organization or move to another position, that means another new, inexperienced supervisor may assume the role. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to hear employees say, “I’ve had six different supervisors in the past 18 months and I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing.” Investing in your managers and supervisors can help your organization avoid this chronic problem.
Be proactive. Often, employees don’t get asked about their intentions for staying with an organization until they announce they’re leaving. Being pre-emptive and proactive—through regular employee communication using both formal and informal channels—can help identify employees who may be thinking of leaving. In 2014, recruiters at Credit Suisse started calling employees identified as being at risk of leaving and notifying them of openings within the company. By taking this action, the company estimates they successfully retained 300 employees and saved $75 - $100 million in recruiting and training costs.
Start thinking—and communicating—total compensation. Most organizations don’t do a good job of thinking about and communicating total compensation to employees. A typical total benefits package is worth 30 to 35 percent of base salary, and a robust package may be worth almost 50 percent. Add in incentive and profit-sharing plans, and your total compensation package may actually exceed that of your competitors. Make sure your employees understand that. And just like it’s possible to create a customized benefits package for a potential new hire, offerings like an extra week of paid vacation or an increased contribution to health insurance can be useful tools for retaining an employee you don’t want to lose.
Restructure jobs. If you’re balking at giving each of your customer service reps a $10,000 raise to match the salary of that new CSR, consider restructuring or adding more responsibility to their jobs. Do they handle more complex calls? Do they work more closely with the sales representatives? They may already be functioning as senior CSRs but without the pay. However you choose to address this type of issue, be sure that you are rewarding them with something tangible and meaningful. Most importantly, be transparent. Remember, your employees will talk about it.
Offer a variety of training and development opportunities. According to the same Fortune survey cited above, after bad bosses and compensation, the third most frequent reason for employees to leave their jobs is lack of opportunity. There are multiple ways to provide your employees with training and education to prepare them for new opportunities. These may include formal training courses, industry conferences, webinars and online learning or inexpensive alternatives such as providing a mentor or a cross-training opportunity.
An increasing number of employers are also offering tuition reimbursement for education not related to an individual’s current position. Many traditional tuition reimbursement plans limit reimbursement to course work related to a current position, but a 2015 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans survey reported that 46 percent of survey respondents offer tuition reimbursement for any course work, regardless if it is related to the work currently being performed.
The bottom line is to get creative and ahead of the game to keep your best employees.
Susan Palé is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, Inc., PPAI’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations, such as PPAI, and their member companies. www.affinityHRgroup.com
This article was originally published in PPB Magazine, July 1, 2019. Used with permission from PPAI.
Is your sales strategy focused mainly on price? To reach their quota, many salespeople resort to lowering their prices. While everyone loves a bargain, savvy B2B buyers know that you get what you pay for. They consider more than price when reviewing providers and making purchases. That's why it's important to explore alternatives for turning prospects into buyers.
Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates, says sales professionals should avoid relying on price as a differentiator and instead focus on understanding the prospect's unique needs. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss Thomas' thoughts on what to do instead of dropping your prices.
Focus on features that fit a unique need. Thomas says this accounts for the largest degree of differentiation, regardless of an industry, and is typically what product education focuses on. What features, functions and deliverables do your B2B solutions provide that are ideal for a particular prospect? How are these an improvement over what already exists in the market or within the company? Can you cite specific customers who have seen quantitative improvements since adopting your products or services? These brief stories will stick with the prospect, especially if they were battling similar business issues.
Offer more favorable terms and conditions. If you're in a crowded field or your solution is now commoditized, you may distinguish yourself by offering more favorable payment terms or extended product warranties.
Save time by delivering convenience. Time equals money, especially if a company lacks internal resources for anything but a quick deployment. How easy is it to explore your offerings? Does a contract come with 24/7 support online or over the phone? Do you offer free resources? Think about how you can provide value by offering convenience.
Provide a higher level of assurance. Thomas notes that this advantage typically goes to industry leaders with a proven track record of delivering quality goods and ongoing support. If you are a startup without a strong client list, tout the expertise of your staff to assure prospects of your solutions' durability, flexibility, security and any other highly sought feature or function. Most B2B entrepreneurs were first successful somewhere else; that's why they went out on their own. They also tend to bring solid talent with them. Leverage that expertise to quell any concerns about the lack of long-term successes.
Don't strive to be known as a low-cost provider. Instead, aim to become known as someone who provides the best value for the price. Whether you're working with a prospect or a long-time client, make sure you show how your vision for success and their vision match. This is where differentiation makes all the difference.
Source: Julie Thomas is CEO of ValueSelling Associates. She has personally consulted and trained in a wide variety of industries and corporations, including The Ken Blanchard Companies, ON24, Adobe, NCR and PrimePay. Thomas serves as a board member to the Value Selling and Realization Council and is the author of ValueSelling: Driving Up Sales One Conversation At A Time.
Hello Fellow SAAC Members,
It's hard to believe it is already May—a big month for our industry as we celebrated Promotional Products Work! Week.
It has been a rapid three months since we’ve partnered with PPAI and brought on board Jennifer Bingham, our new executive director, who has been working diligently to ensure a smooth transition while utilizing all of the assets and resources available to us. Some of the priorities for SAAC include:
The SAAC website has been streamlined and updated for functionality. Please visit the site and check it out if you have not already done so.
· 2019 SAAC Expo
The details are taking shape for the SAAC EXPO in August. The exhibitor list is robust and growing daily. Please click here to see who has signed up to exhibit, then check back often. Distributor registration is now open and you can click here to register. The schedule, floor plan and educational sessions available will undoubtedly provide numerous opportunities for attendees to exchange ideas as well as grow their business and relationships. As we close the show floor on day one, we are thrilled to be hosting members, at no cost to them, during a cocktail reception prior to the re-imagined SAAC Awards. You will start receiving notifications and information about the 2019 EXPO with regularity in June. In the meantime, be sure and save the date for August 7-8.
· Internal Operations
Less exciting, but equally important, Bingham has also been working on internal operations to maximize efficiency and minimize expense. Additionally, SAAC is focused on enhancing value for its members. This includes refining features already in place and streaming communication, so members can maximize their membership benefits.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, with much more on the horizon. Thank you all for your continued support through these operational changes. Please reach out with any feedback or questions you may have. Your input is vital and encouraged as we work to shape the future of our Association.
Thank you also for giving me the opportunity to serve as your president. I look forward to our future working together.
What is your title/role within your company?
I am the president/CEO and Chief Cat Wrangler
What do you like best about your company?
The size and flexibility of our company allows us to make decisions that are meaningful to us and our clients. The environment is a huge personal concern of mine, so if I want to make a decision about using less invasive freight methods or promoting eco-friendly options to our clients, I can make it a priority without having to wait or ask for permission.
How were you introduced to the promotional products industry?
I’ve been in the business for a long time. I was originally a manager at the Disney Store and applied for a buying position within the Disney corporation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were looking for a promotional products buyer rather than a merchandise buyer. The division was a new one for them, so the entire group of buyers built the department together. It was a chaotic but eye-opening experience. I've switched careers several times over the years but kept returning to promotional products. I guess it’s just in my blood.
If you had to pick one, what is your favorite promotional product?
Customized food and snack products - everybody loves getting a snack!
Tell us something about you that most people may not know
My top sales executive, Karyn, is my niece NOT my sister (yup, I am that old) AND we are not the same person. Everyone calls and asks for Taryn or Kerrie, but there are two of us. If I happen to answer her phone, everyone assumes I’m her because we sound so much alike. However sometimes I think we share the same brain. If I can’t think of a name or an item, Karyn always seems to know what I’m talking about and vice versa.
I am the Western Regional Sales Manager for Next Level Apparel and work with a fantastic group of reps. We are in the field to support the market and make sure as many people as possible can see and feel our products. The goal is simple, but powerful… create a favorite tee from superior fabrics in an assortment of sizes that is worthy of your message or design, eliminating the notion of the disposable garment.
Next Level Apparel has some of the softest fabrics, even after they have been run through my primitive laundering style. I’m not sure how we do it, but it is part of the secret of the brand and why many of you are using it for your projects already. If you aren’t already using us, you really should try Next Level Apparel. You will see, when you look through our product offering, that Next Level Apparel is an inclusive brand, with style options for so many personalities. As a mature woman, at least in years, I really appreciate that I can find fashionable styles that are comfortable. The only downside to how fantastic our offering is would be the increased number of shirts my family now owns. The inclusive feeling of the company and the product we offer is one thing I really like about Next Level Apparel.
Twelve years ago, I was saved from being the victim of a company downsize when I was offered to interview for a segment of business I did not even realize existed in the corporation I was working for, promotional t-shirts. I owned a few, but never thought about the industry behind the promotional items. What a fun change in pace with a fantastic crossover into so many various businesses. I had the branded products and now I was working in the industry that created them. What a creative industry, finding new segments of business to support with swag. I mean, who doesn’t love swag!
T-shirts, of course! Although I prefer the t-shirts I can wear over and over. Always disappointed to see the event shirts from my kids that sit in the drawer, never to be worn again. If only those school events and sporting clubs had given us better shirts, we would be showing them off. I also have lotion, lip balms, chip bags, stickers, phone cases, cups, photos printed on glass and metal, key chains, and so many pens. Each of those logoed items remind me of a place or company or person, which is absolutely the goal of our promotional products industry.
Tell us something about you that most people may not know.
That would be a very long list because I do not post on social media, so I am a bit of a mystery.
SAAC & The Foundation for SAAC
PO Box 2394
Camarillo, CA 93011
p: 805.484.7393 e: email@example.com