How to Enhance Your Sales Cycle with Custom Merch
On average, it takes 7 to 13+ touches to make a sale. Rather than pestering prospects with repetitive cold calls, adding branded merchandise into your strategy is an effective way to initiate and nurture relationships throughout the sales cycle. When done well, these items take it a step further by building a positive and emotional connection with your brand.
Custom merchandise can include a wide variety of branded goods. Of course, there are more traditional promotional products such as branded pens, coffee mugs, and pads of paper, but today's customers expect to be wowed by more creative items that add value to their lives. Curate a collection of apparel and products that can individually be gifted at each stage, and eventually come together to tell a cohesive story about your brand.
Prospecting and Appointment Setting
If you can get custom merchandise into the hands of prospects before the first conversation, then you gain the benefit of immediate name recognition, even if the prospect isn't entirely familiar with what you have to offer. For example, you might consider sending branded items along with mailers to prospective customers while asking for a call to generate inbound leads.
When setting appointments, it can be easy to simply refer to items you sent to the prospect, which should include your company's contact information or a note with your business card. Asking something like "did you receive that hat I sent over? My number is on the insert inside. Feel free to call anytime you're ready to meet up," will make it easy for the customer to remember how to find more information or get in contact with you to set an appointment. If the item conveys a sense of value, the prospect may even agree to your proposal to set an appointment simply because you have extended an act of generosity first. This can be a great first step towards building a relationship of mutual trust and compromise.
Qualifying Prospects and Making the Pitch
Gifting prospects with items that are truly useful is the key in this part of the sales process. At this point, you've already made initial contact and set an appointment, and a few days may have passed since your first conversation. If you've provided the prospect with a branded item that brings him or her value, or that is designed well enough to make him or her want to use it and show it off, then you can be sure that they have made a connection with your brand's logo or name, and thus think about your company, at least once between the time you set an appointment and the time you give your presentation and qualify his or her needs. This one small step in strengthening brand recognition can make the prospect more familiar and acquainted with your company during this time.
These items can also make great conversation starters. For example, if you enter your prospect's office and notice that she's wearing the custom hoodie you sent her, you might make a comment about how awesome it looks, or ask her if she likes it. The result can be instant rapport that can lead naturally into your explanation of benefits or a discussion of your company's culture and values.
Overcoming Objections and Closing the Sale
These two stages can be tricky when it comes to using your branded merchandise strategically, but it can still help. The same boost to name recognition mentioned above can subconsciously lean your prospects more toward your brand rather than competitors, without them even realizing it. Again, especially if the item is useful in their daily lives or work, they will have some level of mental association with your company and the solving of a need, which is exactly what they need to feel in order to accept your attempts to overcome their objections and seal the deal.
You might even take the opportunity to provide another unique piece of merchandise (without going overboard, of course), to further ingratiate the prospect or make a deeper connection between your brand and his or her daily life. This simple strengthening of a positive mental association can make tough conversations less adversarial and more collaborative. Rather than feeling like a battle, overcoming their objections can feel more like two new friends overcoming a challenge together. This makes it all the easier for prospects to give you the "yes" you're working toward.
Providing After-Sale Support
Some sales professionals may not consider customer service as an actual stage of the sales cycle, but this last touch is critically important to securing repeat business and strengthening the relationships you've began building throughout the previous steps. Just as in the prospecting stage, making sure that your customers have a useful piece of custom merchandise on hand can make it easy for them to get in touch with you or your customer service team in the event that they need support. This can make them see you as more readily available and easy to get in touch with compared with competitors who may list customer service contact information three pages deep on their website, for example.
Promotional items designed with your company's branding do not have to simply be cheap gimmicks. Rather, they can be a strategic tool to help you move prospects throughout the sales process and into long-lasting customer relationships. Using the tips above as a guide to generate your own creative ideas, you can maximize the impact that branded items can have on your bottom line and overall sales effectiveness.