Monday, April 4, 2011

The Corporate Market

No longer a corporate luxury, gift baskets have established themselves as an integral part of the world of business.  They are a key component to opening the doors between companies and clients.  Gift baskets are part of the multibillion-dollar corporate gift market.

Why Corporations Need Gift Baskets
The corporate world buys gift baskets for every reason imaginable  Some of the more common uses include opening the door of new business opportunities; maintaining goodwill at any time during a company’s life; apologizing for mix-ups, blunders, and other errors; congratulating a client or prospects; expressing appreciation; sending condolences; and saying thanks during the holidays.
The U.S. Department of Commerce classifies a corporation’s size by the number of people employed in a firm:

 Small  - 99 or less employees
Mid-size  - 100 to 499 employees
Large-500 plus employees

Other businesses are also prime candidates to buy gift baskets.  They  include independent professionals (doctors, dentists, interior decorators/designers, veterinarians, consultants), nonprofit organizations (youth agencies, community groups, charities, blood banks), and institutions (hospitals, schools, nursing homes).  These professionals and groups depend on the generosity of donations, volunteers,  benefactors, and referrals, and they thank their sponsors by using baskets and elaborate gifts at benefits and black-tie events.
Who Makes the Decision To Buy?
Typically, people in managerial positions and those who assist them lead the list of gift basket buyers.  Some of the more common positions are human resources personnel, sales and marketing executive, CEO’s and vice-presidents, office managers, purchasing managers, and executive assistants by any name (administrative assistants, secretaries, clerks).  Every potential corporate client needs your card in his or her Rolodex or rotary file or a notepad, magnetic sticker, or other desk accessory displaying your name as the only logical source for corporate baskets.  

Where And How to Find Corporate Clients
Clients are found in the most common places – they’re where you live, work, play and shop.  They’re who you read about and admire.  Sometimes they’re a victim of circumstances, the front-page news story or back-page advertiser.  Here are some worthwhile places to start your search.

Your Town Newspaper
 Business section – for general businesses in all industries
Real estate section – realtor’s name
Living section – interior decorators, remodelers
People Page – promotions, new hires, good news
Classified – ads containing human resources names
Automobile  Section – car dealers, automotive services, car repairers and restorers
Adopt-A-Pet section – veterinarians, animal  shelters
Health Section – physicians, hospital staff names
Travel Section – agency names, cruise organizations, travel clubs

Not taking time to read the paper is like losing a sale every day.  The Sunday paper takes about thirty minutes to review, the dailies, less time.  Keep paper, pen, and scissors handy to write down names and clip articles of interest.  Then you can create a tailored message to introduce yourself and how your gift business will benefit a company’s image and future sales.

City, State, and Regional  Magazines
Featured articles
Advertisements – spas, restaurants, theaters

Networking Events
Chamber of commerce gathering
Charity balls and auctions
Business over breakfast, group luncheons, and after-hours dinners
Museum exhibits
Annual  conferences

Special Events
Private company group meetings
Nonprofit organization charity functions
Holiday parties

Company Meeting, Gathering, and Special Needs
Weekly staff meetings
Lunch-and-learn sessions in company cafeterias
Corporate apartments for out-of-town executives and visitors

Town and Regional Lifestyles
Boating events
Convention town  - hotels, destination management companies
Ski resorts
Casinos and other gaming  establishments

Contacting  Clients
Once you have identified prospects, you’re ready to take the first step:  contacting the client.  The best contact method is the one that you’re more comfortable with.
1. Call them Directly
Making a cold call is frightening  task that is easily calmed when you find something in common to discuss.  If a company has recently been under public scrutiny, has experienced good fortune, or is attempting to heal wounds, your baskets pose the perfect solution as you discuss with the client how to keep a good momentum going or what helps to smooth over bad times.
If the thought of making cold call still leaves you as breathless as a roller-coaster ride, use these strategies to warm up the call:
Ask clients for referrals. Name recognition is the glue that bonds you to prospects, making them more comfortable to take your call.  A prospect reasons that if Bill Jones recommended you, you’re worth talking to.
Ask direct questions gets to the heart of a prospect’s need:  “How many events does your company sponsor that require baskets?  When should I call to prepare your end-of-year gift basket order?  What promotional gifts do you currently use as incentives?”  These questions open the door to understanding how best to approach prospects when you place your follow-up calls.  Within days of the event, mail your information.  In a few more days, call to review the prospect’s need for basket based on your conversation, make an appointment, and ask what other departments or associates need your service.  Your focused plan of action quickly turns a cold call into a hot sale.

2.Fax by the Rules
According to the Federal Communications Commission, Title 47 of the Code of  Federal Regulations, “No person may use a telephone facsimile machine, computer , or other device to send an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone facsimile machine.” This rule makes the fax machine an option only after you’ve established a relationship with the prospect or have made the cold call and received an OK to send a fax.

Your fax message must get right to the point. A letter sent by fax tells the prospect why he or she should be interested in your baskets.  Make the next action easy for the prospect – the bottom of the letter should include a portion to be filled out by him or her, giving you information on what the prospect’s pending or future basket needs are.  From there the prospect can fax the information back to you, and the process of serving a new client can begin.
3.Create Mail That’s Opened, Not Trashed.  
Postal mail is more often thrown away before it’s opened, and what’ snot  trashed is often scanned while we’re doing something more important.
Colored envelopes, mailing tubes, and the use of first-class stamps beckon prospects to open the mail with undivided attention.  Once they open it, the inside must contain a message as intriguing as the wrapping. Tell prospects why your gift basket business are the key to their professional success.  Back your message with one or two pictures, a color flyer or brochure. As with the fax, make the prospect’s next action easy.  Invite him or her to an upcoming open house or offer a complimentary appointment.  Focus your message on getting the prospect to do business with you.

4. Email the Executive.
Email is said to be one of the most effective way sot get a prospect’s direct and immediate attention. As with faxing, you must receive permission from the e-mail addressee before sending a message.  Unsolicited e-mail also known as spam, is rude and labels you an intruder rather than a professional. When you obtain permission to use an executive’s e-mail address, there’s still a slight chance that his or her secretary will review the message, but there’s a better chance that the executive will read it personally and respond.

An e-mail message is written in the same concise manner as a letter or fax.  Here’s an example, which give the recipient several response options:  

Dear Mr. Mayberry,
Congratulations on your recent promotion, which I read about in the Daily Record. I’m sure that you have many people to thank, and I have the perfect solution.

At La Bella Baskets, we have beautiful affordable  baskets for busy executives like you who seek quality and impeccable service.  Your time is important.   Here is my website that will list thank you gift baskets.  If you like what you see, you can plan an order online and then continue your day’s work.    For visiting my site, I will be emailing you a free gift as a token of our appreciation.  

Again, congratulations on your promotion.


Getting  Past the Gatekeeper
The gatekeeper is most formidable opponent, standing between you and the prospect.  Armed with the ability to separate friends from solicitors, the gatekeeper take the job seriously and knows that he or she will have to answer for calls that shouldn’t have gone through.  Yet the gatekeeper knows as the assistant – is not the enemy but your ally, the person who makes the decision to let you talk to the boss.

While the thought of speaking with the gatekeeper may scare you, preparing a telephone script will guide you through most of the gatekeeper’s questions.  A script arms you with techniques to convince the gatekeeper that you are the boss’s best weapon for conducting better business. The following example shows you how to set up your script.  Even though not all scenes will play out exactly in your experience, this will give you an idea of what to say.

Scene 1:  It’s your first call.  Although you’ve had no prior contact with the prospect, your experience with his industry tells you that your baskets will open doors to new business for him.  The gatekeeper answers.  Introduce yourself and ask for her name if not already mentioned when answering the phone.  “Hello Jill, this is Sally Moore,”  Get right to the point.  “A number of area construction companies have increased their businesses by giving our gift baskets to clients.  If Mr. Smith is not using gift basket now, we’d like to show him how business will grow using  them.  Can I send him some information thru email.  For your assistance you and your boss will be emailed a small gift from us as a token of our appreciation.   I would be happy to send it to you right now.  What  is your email address:_________________________________

Scene 2  When there is no gatekeeper.  The executive himself answers the phone.  No time to freeze and utter unintelligent words.  You start by saying.  “Mr. Smith?  Good morning .  A number of area companies have increased their businesses by giving our gift baskets to clients..  We have a large selection of gift baskets that are up to 30% off.    If I can get your email address,  I’ll send you the information now and as a token of our appreciation, I will also be emailing you a free gift. (note: our free gift is a free prescription card and pet card)     I would be happy to send it to you right now.  What  is your email address:_________________________________

Scene 3 The gatekeeper you’ve reached is Mr. Smith’s voice mail.  You have to options:
1.Leave a message with such impact that he must call you back.  “Mr. Smith, we’re celebrating our grand opening and want to send you a list of our gift baskets that are up to 30% off.  We are calling to verify your email address or mailing address.   We’re eager for you to see our beautiful baskets and save money.  Your goal is to drive people to your site every day.   The more people that visit your site, the more clients you will receive.

What To Do After the  Sale
Saying Thank you today entails more than simply uttering a phrase. Let your actions show appreciation.

 Start with a  telephone call directly to the client.  This is, again, a good time to ask if
           the person can recommend colleagues and clients who need baskets or to mention
           that you spoke with someone he or she recommended.

If this was a substantial  order, show your appreciation by mailing them a gift
          certificate.  Remember everyone loves to receive gifts and other tokens of

Mail monthly postcards, flyers about your baskets.

Send the client yearly birthday cards.

Use contest to get the client’s office staff involved and make them part of your external sales team.  For example, a newsletter can invite secretaries to mail you the boss’s business card, entering them in a Professional Secretaries’ week drawing for a special basket.

Asking for Referral Business
The more people you meet and businesses that become clients, the more referral business you can find.  Asking for referral business is a common sales generator, and every business owner asks colleagues and clients for leads.  Referral business can be acquired in many ways.
 During a sit-down dinner with new or existing associates
At a cocktail hour, as you go from group to group for conversations and to greet
At the end of a client meeting
At leisure events where you meet new people (but only after you’ve spoken to the
           other person on topics of interest to him or her)
Whenever you attend a personal or professional function.  

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