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How to Beat Out More Experienced Awards and Recognition Competitors

Learn to take on big accounts and sell on the prospect's turf

Have your system in place and make sure it has been tested before you strike out to obtain the big account. First, the big client takes a big credit line, and your facility must be large enough to house the raw products and completed product line. Think before you leap. On the other hand, if you don’t try, you will never grow and obtain those accounts.

No matter how large or small you are today, you need to have enough of a line of credit to satisfy your suppliers on time and prove to your clients that you are stable and financially sound. The large contracts with big accounts often ask you for a surety bond that guarantees that you will deliver on time or pay a fine. If your credit is good, the insurance surety companies will approve you much easier. This can be true of state and federal accounts if you don’t have a proven record.

What questions should you ask the prospect?

Know you usually wouldn’t ask the questions one after the other but slip them into the conversation. However, if it is a bidding situation and you are working with a third party, it is sometimes best to ask the questions quickly and directly.

  • Who has been the supplier up to this time? If you have done your homework, you will understand what you’re up against: Does this competition have a reputation for on-time delivery? Are they creative? Do they manufacture, or are they buying and selling the product that others make?
  • Ask the prospect why they are looking for other vendors (this is good, mainly if you are talking with the third party). On several occasions, the third party has told me what the exact problem has been—delivery, quality, price, or the salesperson’s attitude who doesn’t take care of the order after they receive it. The buyer can have many concerns, and we must always pay attention to the buyer. They may not directly tell you the problem, so get to know the buyer to understand when they are satisfied and not. It is not always a direct statement of dissatisfaction.

Come to the prospect prepared

  • Start to work on designs and presentations immediately. Show up prepared, organized, and professional. On bidding, I have seen the entire gamut of presentations. Competitors have shown up dressed in shorts or have carried their samples wrapped in newspaper, or even brought the samples in boxes with their supplier’s name and phone number on the box.
  • Put forth a notable presentation that tells the prospect you are sincere, prepared, professional, and able to do the order. Many orders take a great deal of capital, so let the prospect know you have the capacity to take on the order.
  • You have to be convincing to the prospect. Let your face show you are excited about your company and its offerings. The prospect will pay attention to you and what you say, especially how you say it.
  • Talk enthusiastic but calm, determined, and confident.

This is different than selling in your showroom. First, you will be on the buyer’s turf, and you won’t be in control, so prepare to react at a moment’s notice with the right answer. There are many ways to take your business to the next level, and some of you will seek other means, but presentation selling has always been one of my favorites because the rewards can be unbelievable.

Stephen L. Capper

Stephen L. Capper, along with his wife, Nora, and their daughters, Jami and Toni, owns and operates A-1 Awards, Inc. in Indianapolis. He has been associated with the awards and recognition industry for over 45 years, and has given numerous seminars since 1979.

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