go fish

Ten timely Administrative Professionals Week tips for reeling in corporate accounts
  by Teresa P. Lanker

    Bait a hook, cast your line, and wait for the fish to bite. That’s the sales approach taken by many florists attempting to make Administrative Professionals Week a winner. Unlike many holidays where mass-media advertising can be effective, however, this “holiday” requires a more direct approach. You may have to wade in knee deep and make each catch by hand. So pack your tackle box and pull on your waders. It’s time to go fishin’.

  1. Pick the right pond Embark on your quest for increased APW sales with businesses that have a lot of assistants. Start with nearby companies that are likely to be familiar with your shop based on proximity and reputation. Do some homework, using the Internet, chamber of commerce and other available resources, to gather information about the best target companies. Established and rapidly growing businesses with multitiered organizational charts are often ideal prospects. Think law firms, technology companies, product manufacturers, and health care providers as well as real estate offices, automobile dealerships, colleges and universities, and so on.

  2. Time your trip. Although e-mail and fax messages are an easy means of communicating your products and services, they are also easy for recipients to ignore. Schedule several days when one or two staff members can make personal visits to your best corporate prospects. If you'll be dropping in without an appointment, avoid early morning hours, when work demands tend to be greatest. Also avoid surprise visits just before lunchtime or at the end of the day, when people are eager to get out the door. You'll likely find the fish are most apt to consider your bait between 2 and 4 p.m.
  3. Dress for success.To be taken seriously, your dress should be professional. Consider your audience, and dress in a manner that mirrors the typical attire of the business for whom you're angling.

  4. Seek the kingfish. Attempt to make contact with someone high on the corporate ladder. The individual at the helm of human resources is an excellent catch because this job is closely tied to maintaining employee satisfaction and company morale. Don't worry if you're able to reach only the ranks of a top-level secretary or administrative assistant. Your message will be heard by this audience because the products you're offering are designed specifically for their benefit. If you're lucky, you'll meet up with a large-mouth bass who will spread the word officewide.

  5. Speak the language. Be prepared with a brief sales presentation that has the spark and finesse expected in the corporate business world. Polish your presentation skills by rehearsing with co-workers. If two employees will make the pitch together, plan precisely what role each partner will play. Know how much time you need to share your message, and communicate your time frame up front. Six to eight minutes is a reasonable amount of time to expect if you arrive unannounced. Start with your purpose, move quickly to your product suggestions, then provide supporting evidence of your shop's professionalism and commitment to customer satisfaction. Don't hesitate to drop names of other companies that do business with you.

  6. Pack some snacks. Whet the appetites of your business prospects with one or more sample arrangements that demonstrate artistic and inventive ideas for floral gifts. Size your arrangements for desktop use, and avoid highly feminine or romantic looks that could send unintended messages. Take accessories that can be used to vary the style or theme of each design as needed to deflect any negative responses. Carry photos of additional design options. Leave a complimentary arrangement behind so your message lingers for many days.

  7. Vary the bait. Be prepared to tailor your designs to the needs and wants of each potential client. Your willingness to customize a product for a particular business could set you apart from other florists offering only recipe designs. With potential sales of multiple designs to one business, this type of flexibility is worth the effort. Incentives or discounts for quantity purchases are good ideas as are weekly or monthly bouquet programs.

  8. Carry instructions. Leave your prospects with clear and concise literature that backs up your offer. A simple brochure with design photos, descriptions and price ranges is ideal. A product guarantee will be expected and should be clearly outlined in print. In addition, provide multiple means for customers to place orders, such as phone, fax, e-mail and website. Be prepared to leave multiple copies for different departments to do their own shopping. And of course, carry business cards to personalize the sales relationship.

  9. Have your net ready. At any point in the discussion that a client is sold on your proposal, have order forms and/or contracts at hand to close the sale. Make this process easy and efficient so you finish on a positive note.

  10. Plan a follow-up trip. To catch the most fish, you have to keep fishing. So follow up with contacts within two to three days to touch base and encourage decisions. On your first trip out, even a single catch is cause for celebration, but once you become an accomplished fisherman, you'll want to use your skills year-round.

Teresa P. Lanker is assistant professor and chair for the Horticultural Technologies Division and technology coordinator of Floral Design and Marketing at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute. Contact her at

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