Eleventh in a series

Distributor owner and swag sales coach Josh Frey answers frequently asked questions on a wide range of sales topics.

I am frustrated by the lack of loyalty from my clients. It seems like every request that comes my way is a bid, and I’m constantly getting priced out by buyers I have worked with on past projects. I thought providing great service would have positioned me as their go-to for promo, but that hasn’t been the case recently. Any recommendations on ways to build more loyalty with my clients and prospects?


Let me start by saying something that may be a bit controversial: We have coached hundreds of distributors, and do you know the No. 1 answer we get when they are asked what separates them from the competition? It’s their “amazing customer service.”

So, if everyone is delivering amazing customer service and it was so important, would your client not tell you so and be loyal when it came to utilizing you for their promo needs?

The reality is even if you do have really great customer service, you can take it a step beyond the project at hand and really dig into the relationship by understanding your buyer, their job and how you can help them succeed beyond the promo. The more you learn and retain about the buyer’s needs, the more you can proactively help your client and get in front of the competition.

A few strategic questions up front can help you better understand your clients or prospects and separate you from the competition in their minds. Our job is to ask smart questions up front so the buyer thinks of us as more than just a promo guy or gal. You are not pitching anything yet. You are asking smart questions and learning.

The purpose of the questions below is to help you get a clear understanding of your buyer and the various ways they do business— both internally as it relates to recruiting and employee retention, as well as externally as it relates to sales and marketing.

Here’s a sampling of questions you can ask during the first meeting with a prospective client, or to reset the table with an existing one:

What is your role and aside from buying merch; what other responsibilities do you have?

How do you like to be serviced and communicated with when it comes to project needs like this one?

With regard to your company’s marketing and communications, what are the different branded items you print with your logo and branding internally (for employees) or externally (tradeshows, client gifts, etc.)?

Aside from logoed merch and apparel, are there any other items your company put its logo onto such as truck wraps or signage? 

Can you share with me some past examples of orders you have placed for promotional items with your logo and why you bought these items?


Would you be willing to share your annual budget for promotional items like the above?


Is there anything I am missing as it relates to what you have bought and for what reasons you are using the products?

Ultimately, if you can understand how your buyer does business and plug in products that you sell to help them with their business, you will be a valued partner that they will lean on for many of their needs. You will be an expert in their business and not only be able to support the buyer you are targeting, but anyone that works in the company or the same industry.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s an example of how to ask for that initial meeting in an email.

Hi Client Name –

Wondering if I can get 10-15 minutes of your time in person or by phone to learn a little bit more about you, your role and your company.

I am just trying to get a sense of how I can best be a resource to you and hopefully, by learning a little bit more about your business and the types of products you are currently buying (or general ways you sell and market, both internally and externally), I can then understand your needs better. And help!

Would you have time available on one of the following dates and times (you suggest three options to the client/prospect to box them in). If none of these times work, please let me know a date and time that does, and I will confirm.

Thanks so much –


By asking a few smart questions, compiling some data on your clients during these informational interviews and then proactively servicing these buyers, you will help your buyer help themself while positioning yourself as their go to vendor partner for many years to come.  

Josh Frey (Josh@swagcoach.com) is founder of Falls Church, Virginia-based distributor On Sale Promos and the Swag Coach Program. He is a 25-year industry veteran and front-line sales coach. Visit TheSwagCoach.com to register for his next Distributors Helping Distributors show and learn more about his promo coaching programs offered.