“It’s all about the imprint,” said Expo East speaker Diane Ciotta to her audience during her keynote luncheon presentation on Wednesday. However, she was quick to point out that she was not talking about decorating promotional products—she wasn’t talking about products at all. Ciotta’s point was that her listeners had the power to make a mark or impression on their customers through their motivation, passion, integrity and ability to relate. “It’s not about making a sale, it’s about making a difference,” she said. “That’s the impression we leave on people.”

Ciotta’s presentation was one of more than 50 professional development programs offered by PPAI in advance of Expo East held this week in Atlantic City.

Now a professional speaker, Ciotta started her career in retail sales and was frustrated when she was told she couldn’t go past a certain physical point in the store to approach customers. She had to wait for them to come to her. In contrast, she said, promotional products salespeople must go where their customers are in order to solve their problems. However, she cautioned listeners to remember to put customers’ needs before their own. “’What’s In It For Me is the only language your customer speaks,” she said. Without that, potential customers will stereotype you as pushy, self-centered, money hungry and even dishonest. Instead, you want them to see you as helpful, knowledgeable, caring and interested in their needs.

Integrity is another quality that’s critical to effective and successful salespeople. “It’s something that can’t be compromised,” she said. “You can’t rationalize it. Integrity isn’t something you pay for but if you lose it, it will cost you everything.”

She also emphasized the importance of being able to tailor sales approaches and follow-up calls specifically to the individual business of each client, whether that means wearing a business suit to call on a bank, dressing in jeans and boots to visit a farm equipment supply company or making yourself comfortable on a large block of cheese, as Ciotta once did, in the makeshift office of a pizza restaurant when a chair wasn’t available.

“Every call is different because every client has a different story and a different type of business,” she said, adding it’s this ability to genuinely recognize and meet individual client needs that can make the biggest impression. And that’s the imprint you want your customers to remember.