Selling workwear

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.

A local delivery company purchases caps from my company and wants to buy some additional clothing items that give its drivers a more professional appearance. What suggestions can you make?

There are numerous work-related clothing suppliers that can satisfy your need for product. But before you start looking for them, make sure you sufficiently qualify your prospect in order to increase your chances of making the sale. Find out how many pieces are needed, what the time frame is, and what the budget will be. Do not proceed with your research until you determine these things. If the customer is serious about placing an order, he will be happy to provide you with this information. If he is “shopping” you or just looking, his vagueness will quickly reveal that fact. After you get the answers to your questions, begin your search by looking for shirts and jackets that match the needed price point and delivery time. The practice of finding products to sell is easy; making sure that you have a viable prospect is the hard part of any sale. 

The sale of sports uniforms has always been the backbone of our business. We sell a few basketball jerseys, but we sell the majority of our uniforms in the spring to youth baseball teams. I want to get ahead of next year’s orders by taking some of the fundraising responsibilities off these customers so that a possible lack of funding doesn’t stifle our sales. What advice do you have for me?

Start looking—and now is an excellent time––for ways to show your clients how to more efficiently raise funds for their uniforms by selling holiday gift items. This approach is hardly new, but most holiday fundraising sales are administered by schools and charity groups and not so much by athletic teams. Help your teams design attractive flyers that feature products they can sell that most people want during the holidays. Food is a great seller and your clients can order these items placed in tins that are imprinted with their team logos. The fact that the delectables come in imprinted tins makes the food a nice souvenir item. Orders are pre-sold at the end of November—better hurry!—and delivered right before Christmas. An additional money-making approach would be for them to offer sponsor opportunities for different parts of their uniforms, such as giving people the chance to have their names or company logos imprinted on wrist bands or towels that are used during the season. Make sure to also show your programs to other teams for which you haven’t done uniforms before.

A national retailer wants me to help make its employees stand out more in their stores. They told me they’re just tired of polo shirts with logos, and want to try something new. What do you think I should show this customer?

High-end aprons might be just the ticket. There are a couple of domestic suppliers who make quality aprons intended for decoration. They are available in various lengths and are offered in many different colors. Secure several samples in different colors and embellish them with your customer’s logo. Tell the customer that you have an idea in mind, then set an appointment to show them the samples. This order offers great possibilities for you. Several years ago we sold a large retail chain an initial order of 1,000 aprons. They re-ordered them on three occasions and that allowed us to make some nice money. Pay serious attention to your effort here because this could be some special business for you.

During my last trip to the dentist, he asked me to find out how much he’d have to pay for decorated scrubs for his employees. All I could say at the time was, “Ut uhlor ould oo ike?” Seriously, is this something I can handle? Don’t dentists usually buy garments like this from a dental-supply house?

Most people in the dental profession do buy office essentials and marketing items from one source or another, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t provide him with some of the same products. There are many scrubs and smock options you can show your dentist that vary from unisex versions to ones specifically made for females. Besides coming in standard white, they are also offered in bright colors featuring either button or zippered fronts. Do research on these products and get back to the dentist with the results. You never know what success this experience will bring because, if you make the sale, you have the chance to call on other dentists to show them the alternatives to what dental-supply houses offer, and also to expand the offerings to your dentist. Sometimes opportunities come to us from the strangest places.

A landscaping company asked me to find a professional-looking garment for its clean-up crews to wear when the weather gets cooler. The buyer claims they are willing to spend some money on these garments, as long as they make the workers look good on the job. Is there a special jacket I can show them?

A quality nylon water-resistant parka would be an excellent item to suggest. One version is offered in mesh with a half-Taffeta nylon lining. This jacket is lightweight enough to allow workers the freedom of movement they will need when doing clean-up jobs. This jacket features an underarm zipper opening, elastic cuffs with Velcro tabs, two side zipper pockets, an upper left-chest pocket and a hood that is concealed in the collar. It comes in several colors that will make the person wearing it look quite professional. When you present the garment, point out that its unique look will cause the workers to stand out from other companies who do the same kind of work. This will help the company be noticed by other homeowners who potentially need its service.

This isn’t really a “uniform” question, but I do have a corporate customer looking for a uniform look for guests when they attend a hunt at his company’s ranch. He wants to do this so that he can get some subtle advertising for his company during and after the event.

Hunting events are an excellent way for companies to build business bonds. Your customer is right in wanting to promote his brand during the event. Caps and hunting vests come in several different patterns of camo material and one of the most popular ones is known as Mossy Oak. To take the uniformed look a step further, there are also coolers and bags available in camo patterns. They are the perfect complement to the apparel and will be enjoyed for years to come by the participants.

With the recent surge in popularity of television cooking shows, it seems that this would be a good time to be calling on restaurants. Do you agree?

I think it is a great time to be calling on them for many reasons. You have the ability to show them vests, chef hats, aprons and coats. Not only do these products make the staff look good but, because they are imprinted, the restaurant reinforces its brand by using them. With the increase of television exposure for the food industry, many restaurants that were at one time adverse to a uniform look will probably now be open to doing something classy. Another thing that is really good about servicing this market is that staff turnover is high which will cause you to receive numerous repeat orders because new products are always needed. Since we are big proponents of showing samples, pick out a restaurant item you like and start showing it.