Boost Your Jacket & Fleece Sales!

Promotional-products expert Don Sanders joins us this month and going forward with insightful commentary designed to help apparel decorators bridge the gap between merely embellishing garments and selling promotional apparel.

Do you think jackets have been overused as reward items, or are they still an effective way to motivate employees?

Embellished jackets have always been and will remain items that people look forward to receiving. The key to using them successfully in overall promotional programs is to look at them as solutions to problems your customers are experiencing. Effective safety programs, for example, are designed to serve specific needs. One of our customers who owned a furniture manufacturing plant in Mexico was having accident problems because the machinery was complicated and employees had to be very careful when operating it. To encourage this client’s employees to be more cautious when working, we designed a jacket reward program that would make them more aware of their surroundings when on the job. We sold our customer four different styles of embellished jackets and assigned different accident-free work-hour totals to each one. When someone worked 100 hours without reporting an accident, they received a windbreaker that featured the company’s logo embroidered on the left chest. After 140 hours of accident-free work, employees received a fleece-lined jacket with the logo on the left chest and on the back. The third jacket, earned for 160 hours of work without accident, was imprinted with the company logo on the inside lining in a step-and-repeat design. If someone achieved 200 hours of safety, he received the same jacket but with $50 cash placed inside one of the front pockets. After the first nine months of using the jacket program, our customer reduced his accident rate by more than 40 percent. This result proves that the workers were motivated by the safety reward program to be more careful. Keep the success of this program in mind if you ever think that jackets are not still an effective motivational tool. When used in safety awareness programs, they save lives and motivate people to be more accident free.

There are so many different styles of fleece in the marketplace that it’s hard for me to decide on the right ones to sell. Am I worrying too much about the variety of products that are available and not enough about how they are to be used? Please help me get on track.

Selling products is simple. It’s the selling of ideas that gives you the ability to make real money. That means you need to show customers how the products will benefit them. The popularity of fleece has increased significantly over the years because it offers such a wide range of applications. A distributor who sold jackets to a large nature conservancy to be used as volunteer gifts created a very successful fleece program. Even though non-profit organizations have faced budget cuts in all aspects of their operations, they still understand that they cannot afford to lose their volunteers and donors, so they must take the steps necessary to retain them. In this instance, the distributor sold 160 pieces of a zippered fleece to the group’s headquarters which then dispersed them to various satellite offices. Each office has approximately 30 volunteers who work an average of 100 hours for them every six months. To make sure they continued their support, they were awarded a fleece embroidered with the agency’s logo on the left chest. The volunteers so appreciated the garments that they continued to work diligently and were motivated to bring in more volunteers who contributed an additional 500 hours of work. Substantial facts like this are what you need to pass along to potential customers in order to show them the value of the items they buy from you.

I don’t have problems selling jackets but would like to expand my sales in this area. Should I continue to push them the same way and be more aggressive, or should I branch out and try to sell additional products that can go along with them?

We are firm believers in branching out in all areas. In this case, that means evaluating your current jacket sales and discovering the other products that complement them. Consider offering headwear to all of your current jacket clients. Nothing goes better with a jacket than a cap and, in most instances, you can find one that matches or complements the color or other features of the jackets you’ve been selling. Every time a customer places a jacket order with you, show them a companion cap. Since the worst thing they can do is say “no,” you have little to lose. Just make sure that you make the suggestion in a constructive way by saying something like this: “Have you ever thought about adding companion headwear to your jacket program?” This makes you appear helpful and not pushy. Subtle sales are often the most effective ones. There are many other products that you can pitch your clients, but keep in mind that the products need to tie back to the original product sold to make sense to your customer.

People call our shop all the time asking for prices on fleece and jackets. I spend way too much time preparing quotes, then never hearing back from them again. What steps can I take to cut down my rejection rate?

Asking key questions upfront is the best way to eliminate rejection and most people don’t ask enough of them. As soon as an inquiry is made, ask questions such as: Have you ordered jackets before? When will you need them? Are you more concerned with quality or price? and When will you have the artwork for me? If you ask a series of questions like these of every prospect, you will cut down your frustration level and increase the number of orders you sell. Too many salespeople proceed along in the selling process without the information they need to make the sale. Don’t worry about offending people by asking these questions. In our opinion, if these types of questions upset a potential client, then you are better off without that client. People who are serious buyers won’t mind providing you with the answers that you need to service them properly.

One of my good clients is sending its top management team to a meeting in Denver in the dead of winter. I think they should be going to a warmer spot but, for some reason, they’re set on Denver. (I think the boss is an avid skier.) Wearables are on their list of things to order from me, so what suggestions do you have?

Since Denver is their pick, you are presented with an opportunity to sell them both fleece and jackets. A lightweight fleece is the perfect garment to wear indoors and a warm, weatherproof jacket will be just what attendees need when they are outdoors. After making the sale, suggest that they should send the fleece items to the attendees prior to coming to the meeting along with a note encouraging them to bring them along. This builds anticipation and excitement for everyone prior to the event. The jackets will be held back and given to the attendees in person upon their arrival at check-in in Denver. Your customer’s reason for purchasing these items is twofold: Companies that use gifts as motivators historically retain employees longer. They also end up getting the most value from them. Please remember that the products you sell should not be looked upon as simply a give-away but as items that, when used properly, can affect the bottom line of a business.