Posted by: brandextenders | February 28, 2011

Do You Show Up And Throw Up?

Learn About Your Customers and Prospects

Order taker or trusted advisor to your clients? Most assuredly if you sell on price alone you are the first, but even if you don’t, you may not be the second. My business is called promotional products and yet I work to make products secondary or even tertiary in the way I do business. Why? Because products are a commodity and if all I’m selling is stuff (trinkets and trash as many fondly, or maybe not so fondly, refer to it) then I’m selling a commodity that is price-driven. However if I’m selling ideas, concepts and ways my customers can effectively engage with their customers, then I’m selling value. It’s about solution based selling, not product based selling.

How does one go from being an order taker to a trusted advisor? It’s not easy, it’s not quick and it will require you to not show up and throw up on your customer’s desk the promotional products or any other products you might sell.

I was fortunate enough recently to be part of a training class called Impax Strategic Account Sales. The process they teach is centered on researching your prospects and clients and building a network of coaches within. Only after you understand their business can you begin to formulate solutions to the challenges they face. The steps in the process include:

  • Gathering and analyzing data and information that strengthens your knowledge of your prospects and customer’s businesses
  • Conduct research meetings with coaches and contacts in these businesses
  • Deal effectively with gatekeepers who want to block you
  • Deliver high-impact presentations that focus on the business fit between your companies and result in new or additional business

I’ve been guilty many, many times of taking a quick look at a website before going in to call on a new customer. As a result I know very little about them and end up, more often than not, focusing on what my company does in hopes they’ll already know what they want and the timing will be right so they’ll just go ahead and buy it from me. By doing this I’m positioning myself as a show up and throw up kind of guy and price will inevitably rear its ugly head.

The way to differentiate myself though from the competition is to learn ahead of time as much as I can about the company. And just looking at a website isn’t enough. Here are some additional places to thoroughly research the company, and person, you hope to win over as a customer:

  1. Annual Reports: These aren’t just a bunch of numbers that may not make sense to you. One of the best parts of an annual report, in terms of research, is the letter from the CEO. Many times you can find out what the company’s challenges are, their objectives and strategies. If it’s a public company, most times they will have these on their website under the Investors tab. Take notes as you go through the annual report so you can develop questions that add to your understanding.
  2. Form 10-K: This is a document every publicly traded company must file with the SEC. In it you will find financial highlights, risks, opportunities, strategies, trends and much more. Good stuff to know about a company you hope to do business with.
  3. Google and Other Search Engines: Search the name of the company to see what you find. You can also search the name of the CEO and you’ll sometimes find speeches they’ve given as well as searching the name of the person you will be meeting with or other coaches you might have within the company.
  4. Company Newsletters: If you can find newsletters or other publications the company puts out you’ll usually find a treasure trove of information. Also look for magazines related to the industry the company is part of and you’ll many times find articles or other information that can help.
  5. Other Ideas: is a website where you can gather some company information if you don’t subscribe and a lot more if you do. Ask friends and business associates about the company you’re working on, call the company and ask for a press kit or other marketing materials that might be available, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are also places to look as well as YouTube. You never know where you can find nuggets of information so be inquisitive, dig around, but know that at some point you’ll need to say enough is enough.

Bill Larner, the wonderful facilitator of our training class, asked if we knew how to become a millionaire? The answer to the question, asked by Steve Martin in one of his comedy routines, is that you first have to get a million dollars then you’ll be a millionaire! Easy, huh?

It isn’t easy to gain customers for life and move beyond being seen as an order taker. You need to understand who your customers are, what are they trying to achieve, what keeps them up at night and what strategies are they using to achieve their goals? Only then can you begin to see if indeed there is a business fit between your company and theirs.

I work with my customers to evaluate their promotional marketing needs and develop creative and measurable solutions based on those needs. I build long-term relationships to become a trusted advisor my clients turn to for their brand extension, promotional product, incentive and other branding needs. Contact me at


  1. Invitation to be Guest Blogger.

    This blog is listed on a key Promotional Product Blog listing (

    Since brand extenders is a key blogger in the Promo Gift industry we also recommend you to become a Guest Blogger on the



    • Thank you for the invitation to guest blog and I will take a look at the site and see what I can offer.

  2. Immensely helpful post, Steve. If folks’ business is just to show up, talk about self and then hope to get an order or even a few orders out of you, that’s very short-sighted. This post reminded me to excel in creativity and giving something to the customer other than vending machine style service. Offer solutions they didn’t think of, improve their range and make them look like a rock star in front of their customers. I’ll probably be preaching your blog in China. Loved the title too…who wants to “throw up”? Not me….

    • Those who are truly successful in sales care about their customer’s needs first and foremost. Without that empathy it’s impossible to understand how your products and services can help. Thanks for your note Jacob and should I translate this into Chinese? 🙂

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