Industry Tip: How to educate your customer in embroidered apparel

Dumb Mistake #4: Letting customers make all the decisions about what you should sell them.

What some argue is a downside is, to my way of thinking, just the opposite. “What?! I shouldn’t take out the wholesaler’s pretty catalog, not put it in my customers hands, and not let his fingers do the walking?,” they say. That’s exactly what I mean. Instead, show instead YOUR OWN mini-catalog for the key volume items. It’s easily constructed from your vendors’ websites and printed out on your computer, on heavy stock, or put in clear plastic sleeves in a 3-ring binder.

Taking the time to organize these key items as such means virtually every time you show only the limited selection to a walk-in customer or one you’re calling on means that order is done more quickly and you maintain better control of the price, the quality, and the outcome. The time you save then can be put to better use in upselling imprint colors or additional locations for printing or embroidery, upselling graphics or specialty inks, showing complementary items, or educating your customer about additional products and services you offer. Everybody wins — especially YOU!

The same limited selections on key items can be done on your website in conjunction with your vendor’s entire gamut of offerings. You simply present your own recommended selections in the key categories via an “express section” for quick ordering. In time, your customers will understand why it’s easier for them to source from this section instead of wasting their own time looking at a plethora of redundant choices. By the way, the subtleties of colors printed on paper, which are difficult enough to discern, are even more indistinct to customers seeing your products online. In Chapter 16 I’ll help you construct your own express catalog.

Many of the clients I work with no longer even show the vendors’ catalogs or links to their websites — except when, once again, the customer is an experienced pro. In this case, the nice, pretty catalogs are made available and the full-line website version is controlled by a password given to the customer. The result? As most of these clients report, “Our customers, even the big players, generally don’t want to waste their time either and are quite happy with how we’ve made it easier and more convenient for them.” Quod erat demonstratum!

The big lesson you should understand about of this chapter is that showing garment selections to your customers and prospects should be part of a process that includes a whole lot more than simply letting someone choose what he wants — or thinks he wants. The selections he’s offered should be determined in conjunction with a buying strategy that enables the seller to sell efficiently AND to buy intelligently.

To illustrate the principle here seen through the eyes of a promotional products distributor, the firm’s sales rep offers a prospect a low-end ball-point pen solution — say, one selling for $.25 to $1.00 each. She could furnish her customer with 10 or 20 catalogs with very similar selections in each. But how many buyers really want to look through a stack of catalogs for every possible nuance among the essentially redundant item groups — or have the time to do so? The sales rep does herself and her customer a favor by limiting the choices to one catalog, and in so doing gains her company more leverage with that manufacturer over time by building up sales volume. Read: loyalty and credentials to earn end-quantity pricing and/or other benefits and advantages. You get the idea, now. Right? Good.