A distributor asks:

Walking into a large business cold is one of the most difficult tasks for our salespeople. What are some effective ways to approach front desk staff and successfully connect with the right decision maker?

If walking into a large business cold is one of the most difficult tasks for a salesperson … don’t do it. Why go in ‘cold’ when you can turn up the heat a bit? First, collect your intelligence. When you identify a large prospect, spend some time doing some research via Google, LinkedIn and city and state business sites. Put the name of the company in a Google search and add ‘vp of sales’ or ‘director of marketing’ and get the names of your targets. Read articles about the company, understand their challenges, their lingo, their competition. If you want to knock their socks off, first verify that they are wearing socks.

Then, work with SAGE or your favorite small-programs site developer and launch a simple webstore with their branding and logos on the product. It’s easy and inexpensive to do, and when you tell them, “I’ve taken the liberty of working on and launching a company store website for you,” you are showing them that you can take initiative to make promotional magic happen. Then you aren’t going in cold—you are showing them that your intention is to partner with them and join their marketing team, not be just another vendor.

Send the presentation or link and then follow up on that, so you aren’t walking in blind and explaining what you do. When you follow up on the site link or the virtuals you had done, you have already baited your hook and cast the line. They know who you are and what you do—and it’s time to reel them in. Most people won’t take the time, effort, creativity and expense to approach landing a large account like this, but if you do, you’ll set yourself apart from the salespeople and show that you are a promotional force helping them to achieve their marketing goals.

Rick Greene

Regional Vice President

HALO Branded Solutions


Don’t assume that obtaining the contact information and seeing that contact have to happen on the same day. Your objective is to learn, not to sell, and the relationship with the company starts with the front desk. Dress for business and be considerate of incoming calls that must be handled. Share that you represent a promotional marketing firm and would appreciate obtaining the correct contact information so you can make an appointment. The receptionist probably has some branded product on his/her desk. Point it out to explain that you work with companies on their branding and marketing programs. Be certain you have something to leave. Don’t just hand over a pen (or whatever the item may be), but explain why you enjoy writing with this pen or drinking from this particular mug. Leave a business card. It may be pitched; or, if that front desk meeting goes well, it could be passed forward, thus making your follow-up call easier.

Sometimes the necessary information can be obtained through a phone call. Again, explain that you want to make an appointment and are seeking the correct contact. Before making that appointment, you might send a letter (or self-promotion mailing) to introduce your company. Then follow through in a timely manner. You may also learn contact information through articles in your local business paper. And rather than focus on companies where you don’t know anyone, why not concentrate first on your contacts and friends who may make recommendations and introductions for you, especially within the companies where they work?

Marsha Londe


Tango Partners

UPIC: TangoP

I have approached cold calling in two different ways:

1) Use a direct-mail approach (send one to five mailers, including a promotional product in each, over the course of 15-20 days so the prospect receives something from me every three to four days. This creates a buzz and most prospects find it humorous and usually want to speak with me to tell me thanks or talk with me about my efforts). When calling to qualify the prospect as a good lead, I strike up a conversation with the receptionist/gatekeeper and make sure and get their name and information (location) and include them on my direct mail list, using a handwritten note to thank them for assisting me in locating the correct person to send my info to in their company. I also do this with administrative/executive assistants for C-level prospects. If I can get the assistant to be interested in my services, I can usually get them to help me secure a meeting with their boss or connect me to the correct person.

2) Drop off something that really stands out to the receptionist/gatekeeper (in person) to meet them and thank them personally for assisting me in my prospecting efforts. Examples include Mrs. Prindable’s chocolate-covered apple, cookies, candy or a self-promo item.

Karen Foy, CAS


Gorman Foy, Inc.

UPIC: gormfoy

I think the answer is simple. I encourage my new sales reps to take care of the “gatekeeper.” Spend time getting to know the gatekeeper. I drop off a small gift or, if I am leaving an item, I make sure she/he gets one as well. I also try to remember birthdays and to make them feel special.

Larry Bauer

Division Manager

Nordic Premiums

UPIC: Nordic

New Question:

A Distributor Asks: I’ve heard a lot about how social media can benefit a small business by helping to build our brand and further relationships with our customers. However, our company is really small and I have no one who can take this on, even part time. If I’ve only got a couple of hours a week to devote to promoting my company through social media, where should I spend my time? What activities are most important?

Email Question@ppai.org to give your answer. Deadline: November 20