Some Calming Holiday Strategies

Dec. 5, 2017

I really think that much of my business success over the years can be attributed to the Hershey’s Golden Almond Bar. Back in the 1980’s, the Golden Almond Bar was not readily available in stores. It was 1 pound of milk chocolate and premium almonds, wrapped in shiny gold foil, only available during the holiday season. I remember the pallet of bars when they arrived from our candy/snack distributor. Keep in mind, in those days, everything wasn’t available at the click of a mouse. In fact, a mouse was something we were trying to kill in the warehouse.

Our clients were completely addicted to the product and they clamored for their holiday gift. Larry Deagon, my brother Pete and I would deliver the gift-wrapped Hershey’s Golden Almond Bars on our late December routes. My mother, Alex, did the gift wrapping. It was a December project that just added to the stress of the holidays.

At the same time, it was clearly a solid business retention tool. In the cut throat days of serving bars and restaurants in the video game, juke box, pinball and cigarette vending business – we needed all the help we could get.

A better idea

When the Hershey’s Golden Almond Bar became readily available, we switched to wine. Everybody likes wine (always good for re-gifting). Ultimately, we woke up from the logistical nightmare that was holiday gift giving – the distribution of over 2,000 holiday gifts to an ever-growing client base. We discovered that we could give something much better that was truly appreciated by our clients. It was the right thing to do and if you are living the same gift giving nightmare that we were embroiled in, I suggest that you free yourself and move in the same direction that we did.

Starting in 2000, we sent a letter (eventually via Constant Contact) to our client base offering our best wishes for a wonderful holiday season. Also in that letter…

“For the 16th consecutive year, on behalf of the clients of YOUR COMPANY NAME, we are donating generously in support of youth, health and family programs.”

We then went on to list the various organizations, with links to their websites. This actually led to more giving for City of Hope, Rancho San Antonio (“Boy’s Home of the West”) and the Orange County Ronald McDonald House Family Room.

This community giving strategy was energizing for our employees when they were complimented about it by our clients. Plenty of positive feedback and a real bonus – It was the right thing to do.

Connection pays dividends

Don’t stop there during the holidays. It is so easy to watch the season go by in a flash. The holidays are a wonderful time for owners, managers, sales reps and customer service associates to send a sincere e-mail expressing appreciation for the relationship. Here is what I typically sent, which had a 99.9 percent response rate:

"Hi Jill:
I just want to wish you and your family a wonderful Holiday Season.
We really appreciate the relationship with XYZ Company (for seven years now!) and with your facilities team.
Thanks for all your support. We look forward to a fantastic 2018."

This simple e-mail, which can often express appreciation for the friendship and personal relationship that you have developed with your client, is a nice reminder that business relationships can go beyond business. If you are blessed to have those types of clients, it is nice to put that message out there.

Contact #2 needs attention

The holidays are also a smart time to recognize and show appreciation for secondary client contacts, who may very well be the new primary contact by next Christmas. You never know, but if you ignore that possibility, it can come back to bite you.

One of the very pleasurable holiday strategies that we employed was a simple holiday lunch (it can be brought in from Subway or the latest chic restaurant), depending on the client. It turns out to be a very relaxing hour with your primary and secondary contacts at a location. That secondary contact (who can make your life miserable just to get recognition from their boss) will appreciate the attention you dish out. They are typically just watching as their boss enjoys your sports tickets and lunch invitations.

Beware of people like me (and try this)

If you have competitors who think like I do, you better connect with your valued clients during the holiday season. Here is my simple voicemail to active prospects I was unable to close during the year. This is a voicemail that every one of your sales reps should be leaving:

“Hi Jane – I just want to wish you a happy holiday and let you know how much I appreciate the opportunity to serve you at some point in the future. We didn’t quite make a deal this year, but I can promise you this – I will keep working to earn your business and after the holiday season, when the dust has settled, I will have a creative new proposal for you that will save you money and improve your program. Happy Holidays to You!”

Keep this in mind during the holiday season. You will be far better off in the new year if YOU are the last vendor your client hears from in 2017.

Bob Tullio

I welcome your feedback - Cell 818 261-1758 - [email protected]

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Over the last 37 years, Bob has sold video games, cigarette machines, cranes and juke boxes to bars and amusement centers, full line vending to public locations and office environments, pay telephones to retailers, coffee service to thousands of office locations and of course, micro-markets. He has a very successful track record as key strategist, sales trainer and media manager under the title, "Director of Business Development" for World Wide Vending and Gourmet Coffee Service.

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