Getting The Edge In Professional Selling
Terence A. Hockenhull

Last month, I conducted a review of our sales collaterals. 2016 saw us give away umbrellas, coffee mugs, insulated drinks bags, and calendars. Nothing very sophisticated; nothing particularly expensive. Notwithstanding, these freebies are an important part of marketing. Looking at printing charges for 2016, we ran through a couple of thousand brochures and flyers. Although my sales team equip themselves with a handful of flyers each time they go out to see their clients, most of the time we hand these out at exhibitions.

No question about it, this all adds up and becomes a real cost on our bottom line. Is it really worth it? I’m inclined to think our brochures are rarely read; certainly no one spends too much time studying technical data. As for our giveaways, who doesn’t have an umbrella or a coffee cup? Perhaps smaller companies can get away without giveaways; larger companies are expected to provide something useful bearing their brand name (even if it will never be used)!

Each year, we participate in Philconstruct in SMX, Mall of Asia. Billed as the biggest construction materials show in the Philippines, it is an important exhibition for us. We make every effort to have an impressive exhibition space. We spend four days glad-handing potential buyers, greeting old customers, and garnering new business. We showcase new products, distribute flyers, and hand out our freebies to useful contacts and clients.

It always amuses me to watch the hordes of students who turn up on a Saturday to “pillage” anything they can lay their hands on. Clutching half a dozen bags stuffed to the brim with brochures, they weave their way amongst the exhibition booths constantly adding “loot” to their treasure bags. Let one company offer anything of the slightest intrinsic value and next thing you know, there is a virtual stampede as groups of students throw themselves down the aisles in the hope of scoring a free T-shirt, bottle opener, baseball cap, or keychain!

Check out the trash cans immediately outside of the exhibition hall and you will find them stuffed to the brim with discarded product literature. Seems the modus operandi is to accept the brochures with a bag, discard the contents and wander off home with the bag minus contents!

Last year, I finally bought my new car. I requested a brochure for each model I test drove or considered. The specifications sheet on the back page was important for me to determine if my preferred model had an MP3 layer, xenon headlights, leather upholstery, and a parking sensor. The rest of the information was relatively useless. The pictures were great; after all, wouldn’t aesthetics impact significantly on my decision? Just last week, I was cleaning out my office and found all the brochures, each printed on quality card, accumulating dust under a stack of other papers. Accepting that these brochures are printed in their thousands, I would still tag each with a price of P80-P100.

There are no shortage of companies who produce beautiful glossy brochures and other product literature. And it seems to me that a well-laid out brochure highlighting the key features of the product (and perhaps showing a photo or two), may help a client determine whether products are suitable. But rarely do they have a determining effect on a client’s choice. This is where a salesperson efforts should come to the fore; where he can influence a customer by engaging in conversation and learn about the client’s needs.

To be honest, brochures, sales collaterals and other giveaways are something that we all have to have. Why? Well, because everyone else has them too. But understand that in the grand scheme of things, they rarely play any significant role in winning sales.

Terence A. Hockenhull is a long-term resident of the Philippines. He is an accomplished sales consultant who currently holds an executive sales position with an Italian geotechnical company.