Things change. Are you adapting?

The world has changed in the last year. Early on, the constant sound heard was “when things get back to normal”. As more time has passed and the world has evolved, our expectations of return and normal have changed. The reality is that things may not ever look that same. The key is, do you?

Evolve. Embrace. Change has happened. In business, change has happened and yes, even in the promotional products space, change has happened. Fear has reared its ugly head a lot this year, but don’t let it win. This is not the first year of change. Yes, it is far more dramatic than before but move beyond the what and figure out the how. Let yourself think big, dream big and then build the plan to get you there.

Think of it like you are building a house. You had the blueprints, and they worked well. You even built a few houses in the same neighborhood based on that plan, but your new piece of property has a smaller, hillier footprint. Are you going to use the same blueprint? Probably not. You still love the plan for the house, but it is going to need to be redrawn and adapted for the current situation. You need a new blueprint, or you can’t build the house.

Get out your pencil and your paper. What can you keep the same? What must change? Think about the end of the project, is there a lake view? Will the house line up to take advantage of the lake view, or are you keeping so much the same that part of the house facing the lake is just a windowless wall?

Yes, the change and the adapting are tough! Drawing the new plan will be worth it. Give yourself the view out the window.

The same goes with Sales. Yes, you have had great success in your career so far. But maybe the buyers look different this year and their methods for buying and what they are buying is different. Remember that you had a great outlook and perspective that has taken you this far. What was it? Your charisma? The way you made things easy for your customer? Maybe it was exceptional service? So, whatever “IT” was – keep it. Those are the parts of the blueprint to keep the same.

Now, the needs of our customers changed, and we have to adapt to meet those new needs. It may not be obvious at first, but keep looking and refining. It might have taken you a long time to get the perfect blueprint before and more than likely you won’t draw this one exactly right the first time either. Get out your pencil and redraw it until you are able to line the windows up overlooking the lake. Redefine what you are doing and how you are helping your customers meet their new challenges in this hilly environment. Now, use the parts that you were always good at and let yourself shine.

Embrace your best skills, adapt what you need to, and refocus until you find your new groove.

Happy Selling. Happy Customers. Happy you!

Keeping business moving during the holiday season

I don’t know about you, but it seems like during the two or so weeks leading up to the new year it is nearly impossible to get a hold of the people you want. Many people have either left on their holiday break or in a pre-holiday trance and hard to reach. 

So, what do you do during this time period? 

I always try to keep my momentum moving forward in any way I can so here’s some ideas of what I do:

  • Make a list. It seems simple, but I always like to make a list of either people to reach out to, or projects I want to complete.
  • Catch up on all the projects you didn’t have time to do before. Always wanted to put aside some time for creative PSA’s? Now’s the time. 
  • Build your marketing strategy and messaging for the coming new year. Put aside the time to create some marketing materials that you can use once business picks back up, to hit the ground running. 
  • Reach out to clients with a creative and fun email. Try to make the message personal and play into what you can offer them in the new year.
  • Take some time to reflect on the year. Complications of this year aside, what could you have done differently to help stride forward?
  • Set goals for the new year and commit to them.
  • Finally, take a little time for family and yourself. Once you have your goals set, make sure to take some time to relax and refresh, so you’re ready to hit the ground running for the new year!

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that keeping up the momentum and finishing projects that you’ve wanted to do is a great way to build for the coming here and keep yourself on track. 

We are thankful for…

It’s that time of year when we reflect on and give thanks for the many blessings we have in our lives. In addition to family, friends, and good health, members of our Vernon sales team shared with us what they love and appreciate about working with Vernon. Here are some of their comments:

Luke Sigle, Salesperson: I appreciate the friendship and care that Vernon leadership provides me as a salesperson.

Stephanie Vernon-Critchfield, National Sales Manager: I’m thankful to be part of the Vernon family that makes you feel that everyone is glad to help you be successful.

Jill McFarland-Packard, Salesperson: I am thankful to Vernon for the ability to keep my business healthy and active which I truly feel is because of the strong financial commitment Vernon has made to its Account Executives to keep orders moving even with so much uncertainty and chaos!! 

Kelli Denes, Director of Business Development: I am thankful for a company that treats its staff like family.

Maureen Helm, Salesperson: This year has certainly brought on its share of challenges, but I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to work from the safety of my home. I’m thankful for the Vernon home office staff who are supportive, kind, and always available to help me navigate challenges.

Eddie Moore, Salesperson: I’m thankful to be a part of the Vernon family that has such an amazing culture, I’m happy to call everyone not only coworkers, but friends.

Dave Regan, Senior VP Sales & Marketing: I am thankful to work for a company that is financially stable enough to weather this 2020 storm.

From all of us to all of you, we hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and surround yourself with all the things that bring you joy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Time for a check-up

As we approach Thanksgiving and the end of the calendar year, it is important to set aside some quiet time to review your personal and business goals to see where you stand. Today we will steer clear of your personal goals, yet we will take time to explore the business side.

How can it be that I feel five years older now than I did in January and February, pre-covid? Holy cow! The fact of the matter is that most of us began the year with goals. It does not matter whether you are an individual business owner, or you find yourself working for someone else, you had goals.

“I want to make $100,000” (Salesperson)

or

“I want to have my company sell more than $3 million” (Distributor Owner)

And then what happened? The calendar flipped to March and all of us (and I mean all), lost control of our ability to reach our goals. That helpless feeling set in. We all experienced it.

I am certain that it took some time but eventually, most owners and salespeople came to the realization that goals needed to be reset. Any goal setting training will start with the premise that “goals must be realistic and attainable”.

Our company realized that we needed to furlough people to bring our costs in line with the number of orders and amount of business that we were receiving. We were early to the game of restricting travel resulting in saved expenses since every dollar was more important than ever. We canceled some national meetings and made decisions to postpone some incentive trips. We essentially had to “right-size” our company.

Our account executives found that orders were hard to come by and since they are commissioned salespeople, they had to adjust their personal budgets to better align with their income.

All of us took whatever support we could find, but the reality is that even at the end of October, nine months later, things are different. Companies and individuals that were “supported” by PPP (payroll protection plan) and unemployment insurance and other programs are faced with a future of surviving and moving forward without that assistance.

Now is the time to look toward the future of your own business. I don’t believe that it is politically incorrect to reference Thanksgiving as a time for all to appreciate what we have as owners and salespeople that have helped us through the tough times and to identify those people and services that have helped you steady the ship and say, “Thank You”. Now is the perfect time to establish your 2021 goals and set the plan to achieve them. It is also a time to consider help and support if you need it.

Unfortunately, many business owners cannot survive heading into 2021 with 30%-40% less business. Some salespeople cannot survive if they find themselves in situations where valuable support services or employment benefits have been reduced or eliminated. These are the owners and salespeople that need to look at their options.

The message here is not intended to say that everyone needs help or doesn’t need help or that they need to make some changes. However, I do believe that everyone does NEED to assess and evaluate their situation so that they are NOT surprised when we turn the calendar to 2021. It is always prudent to review your personal situation at the end of a tax year. It has never been more important than this year due to the current situation.

P.S. If your self-analysis reveals that you should explore some options to change, we might suggest that you request our White Paper titled “Is the Grass Really Greener” which outlines important questions to ask during your due diligence process.

Communication is King

Nearly a century ago, fans of the American comedy duo Abbott and Costello were made familiar with the popular “Who’s on First?” comedy routine they performed regularly. The premise of the sketch was that Abbott was trying to identify players on a baseball team for Costello, but their names and nicknames were interpreted as non-responsive answers to Costello’s questions. What’s interesting about this comedic back-and-forth exchange is that it was both right (both parties were correct in what they were saying) and absurd at the same time. That’s probably what makes it so funny, even to this day. And what it underscores now more than ever, is that communication is key in life – and in business. In fact, a recent study conducted by LinkedIn shows that the number one skill hiring managers are looking for is the ability to communicate effectively.

So what happens to your business when there’s a communication breakdown?

  • Basic tasks fall to the wayside
  • Schedules become disorganized
  • Roles and functions are not assigned
  • Salespeople and staff get frustrated and restless
  • Customers can feel neglected and lose interest

Why is communication important in business?

Every aspect of your company depends on effective communication. From internal communications to scouting for new business, interaction with someone else is a part of daily culture. Excellent business communication is crucial to maintain healthy workplace relations between the employer and employees. It is also just as necessary to create and maintain lasting relationships between company and clientele. 

Business communication skills include:

  • Verbal communication over the phone or in-person
  • Written communication via e-mail, chat, or text
  • Collaborating and working with a team for a common goal
  • Active listening and problem solving
  • Networking and negotiating

Regardless of the size of your business, you will benefit from assessing how your business communicates internally and externally. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your business communication for success.

Set Clear Goals and Expectations

If you have a clear vision of your goals, you are off to a great start. But it’s important to must communicate these goals in the best way so that all parties involved are on the same page and can carry out what is necessary to complete objectives. That way, everyone knows what’s expected from them and what challenges they may face along the way. Everyone will also understand what they are working towards which will improve overall work performance.

Build a More Dedicated Team

Open communication in the workplace will help create a more cohesive team that can flow from one project or challenge to the next. When employees feel like they are valued and that their opinion matters, they will contribute more and have a better attitude doing it. Increased efficiency and productivity will result. Also, if the team unit is secure, employees will become loyal not only to each other but to the company itself. They are less likely to jump ship when problems arise. If there is an issue, you already have the lines of communications open to put out the fires as the spark. 

Earn the Trust and Loyalty of Your Customers

The same goes for how you communicate with potential and existing clients. If you use effective communication strategies, you will earn their trust and loyalty over time. That means you must anticipate their needs and keep reaching out to them after the initial handshake or sale. Follow up to make sure they are still happy, and if not, find solutions to the various hiccups that can happen after an initial business transaction or decision. Companies who show clients that they understand them, know their needs, and want to help, are more successful every time. 

Improve Customer Service

There is nothing worse than getting negative feedback about your customer service. It only takes one of these unhappy experiences to turn a loyal client against a brand forever.  Be sure your team understands the importance of business communication in customer care. How they react and attempt to solve customer issues will directly impact the company positively, and just as easily affect it negatively. The truth is, so many companies fall short in this department due to poor communication on the company’s end. The best brands are those known to take care of their customers well after purchase.  

Ensure Transparency

Transparency and effective communication will help you manage customer expectations and reduce negative reviews by teaching you how to deal with angry customers and solve problems. The same goes for dealing with your employees. If you’re upfront and open, your staff and salespeople will be more likely to voice their unhappiness or concerns in certain situations that could otherwise bring down the entire team. In turn, they will be more inclined to trust upper management’s decisions in the future.

Sales strategy and effective marketing techniques may rule your business, but communication will always be king when it comes to success inside and outside your organization.

Nothing is Normal

Well, here we are. It has been six months since Covid-19 shook our world, and I am getting tired. I have finally realized that the term “new normal” means nothing is normal anymore. This is a huge admission for me and probably for many others as well.

Anyone who has any familiarity with what a 12-step program is (I am a member) knows that accepting where you are is critical in learning how to survive. Don’t worry as I am not going to get preachy, but I think this is important for all of us to understand.

There is one other strong suggestion that is communicated to people looking for a better life, and it states that we should not spend a lot of time comparing things today with the past. Doing this is a huge waste of time and extremely counterproductive. It can lead to one feeling down and depressed or feeling like things are okay and that there’s no need to change anything.

The reality for all of us is things have changed. We need to accept where we are now, and we need to react accordingly. The cards have been dealt, so now we have to “play the hand” or fold!

Below are some steps that each of us can take to survive, not in the new normal, but to survive in business today and into the future.

  1. Business owners need to get their financial house in order. Bring expenses in line with your current sales NOW! Don’t budget based on 2019 sales! Enough said.
  2. Salespeople should review all customers to examine their viability for the future. This is your pipeline for income. Will your current pipeline provide you with what you need for income? The answer today for most people is NO. Oh-oh… I need to act to change this!
  3. Salespeople MUST acquire new accounts. Look towards companies or industries that are coping or adapting well to today’s world as they will provide the best opportunities for future income.
  4. Owners and salespeople should have all their suppliers vetted. Consolidate your sales with those that provide the best support and services and those that have a strong financial foundation. Many companies are very unstable (both suppliers and distributors). Partner with those that are here for the long term!
  5. Learn how to source and provide Personal Protective Equipment to your current customers and to NEW customers. These sales will help offset unexpected losses in other areas like event planning.
  6. Hone your communication methods and skills to meet today’s new marketplace. Reach out and talk to customers where they are. Also, find prospects where they are. The quality of your communications and presentations say a lot about who you are and what you bring to the table.
  7. Surround yourself with positive people. This might be easier said than done today but doing this or not doing this will have a great impact on your results.
  8. Do not be afraid to ask for help! You can ask industry peers who you know in your local associations. You can call some of the larger industry distributors to see what assistance they might be able to offer. Remember it does not hurt to talk and it just might help!

The ultimate goal is to stay in business and to be successful going forward. To do that, you’ve got to take the time to look at your situation today and to make a solid plan for the future. Once you’ve done this, you can begin taking the steps needed to grow and thrive.

The Vernon Company is recognized as one of the largest and most successful promotional product firms in North America. Founded in 1902 by F.L. Vernon, we serve more than 40,000 customers from our Newton, Iowa corporate headquarters.

Contact Us

  • Enter your email address here to always be updated!