July/August 2020 Print

President's Column

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable 4th of July this past week.  I found spending time in the lake, on the boat and with family allowed me to think that everything was back to normal if for only a few days.  Of course, upon returning I have to come back to reality knowing this pandemic is still in control of our lives.  At least here in the Upper Midwest we seem to be fairing better than most other parts of the country, but there is still a long way to go.

We at UMAPP continue to discuss how we can best provide value to our membership during this time and we are trying and planning many things.  Just last month UMAPP hosted a free webinar called “Peace Amongst the Chaos” with Charley Johnson from HPG, who spoke about the benefits of daily meditation.  Something completely outside of promo but the timing was right, and we had tremendous participation. For those that took him up on his offer to learn more and begin practicing meditation, you found, as I did, he is a very thoughtful and detailed teacher with weekly, sometimes daily follow-up.

As we come to grips with all UMAPP shows being cancelled this year, we have decided to extend our Facebook Fridays into the fall where we feature a new supplier each week.  We feel that with all the other virtual meetings, shows and events going on, this seems to be the best platform for us to assist in connecting the supplier and distributors.

As we move into the later part of summer, it is our intention to also put together some Connects Events where we can casually and safely get together to network and get reacquainted in person, so keep checking UMAPP’s social media or the website for more information.

I am so looking forward to seeing my fellow suppliers and distributor customers again very soon but before that happens, I welcome any thoughts or ideas that we as a board should consider to keep us all better connected as an association.

Enjoy your summer!


Kent Dunham



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Guest Column

Reprinted with permission from Promotional Consultant Today. 

Top-Shelf Tip No. 121:
"When the customer comes first, the customer will last."  Robert Half

Three Skills To Practice In A Cancel Culture 

According to dictionary.com, cancel culture is the "practice of withdrawing support for  (cancelling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered
objectionable or offensive." 

As a sales leader, you might find this movement eyeopening— and alarming. How can you  prevent customers or prospects from "cancelling" your business? According to Shonnah Hughes, global product growth and innovation evangelist at GetFeedback, it starts with emotional intelligence. Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as "the ability to identify and manage one's own emotions as well as the emotions of others."

Your customers and prospects pick up on your emotions. If you are angry, they will likely feel angry. On the flip side, if you are enthusiastic, they likely will feel enthusiasm. If you want to learn how to bolster your emotional intelligence, read on. 

We share Hughes' tips to use emotional intelligence to improve people's opinions of your business in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today. 

1. Self-Awareness. Hughes says you may view yourself in one light, but your customers see things in an entirely different way. For example, what you consider as being professional, your customers might see as being curt or unfriendly. Hughes says it's important to consider your tone, word choice and speech patterns. When you remain courteous, your customers are much more likely to accept a gentle "no." By being self-aware, you can help make what might be a difficult interaction into a productively pleasant one. Hughes recommends asking yourself:

􀳦 What are you doing at this moment? 
􀳦 How are you feeling about it?
􀳦 How will it affect your interactions?

2. Self-Regulation. Many people struggle to listen to a customer complaint and remain neutral. It's human nature to want to respond emotionally. However, Hughes points out that regulation allows you to stay calm and adapt to new situations. When you commit to self-regulation, you can respond in helpful ways like this:

􀳦 Customer: My invoice is wrong!
􀳦 Employee: I am here to help. Let me look into it and resolve the issue.
􀳦 Customer: This isn't what I wanted.
􀳦 Employee: I am sorry to hear that. How can I make things right?

3. Empathy. According to Hughes, being able to empathize with how your customers and prospects think or feel is one of the most important aspects of an excellent customer experience. To truly connect with others, you must earn their trust. This begins with empathy. Hughes says consider your customers who may have waited a long time to get a sales rep on the
phone. To build empathy, try saying something like, "I'm sorry you have had to deal with this ..."
Your customers know they have many options and they are not afraid of "cancelling" your business if they are mistreated.

That's why it's important to work on your emotional intelligence skills. Make sure you and your  team are responding to people appropriately and listening to understand where they are coming from. When you strive to improve your selfawareness, self-regulation and empathy, you help build stronger and more authentic relationships with your audience. 

Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Shonnah Hughes is the global product growth and innovation evangelist at GetFeedback by Survey Monkey.

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Industry News

 AAkron Line announced they have begun manufacturing face shields, after waiting nearly a full month for proper certification from the federal government. The new face shields will be immediately available to state and federal first responders while being available to promotional distributor.

“We immediately began to look at the whole spectrum of PPE products to see where and how we could use our manufacturing expertise to help in the COVID-19 fight. We have also seen first-hand numerous products that are available with no certification or documentation so we felt very strongly that whatever we did had to be done to the highest standards” says Devin Piscitelli, CEO & Co-owner of AAkron Line.

The Pro Towels brand has donated 500 face masks to their local essential workers on the front line to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.  The face masks were given to local workers in Abbeville City and County serving on the frontlines of the pandemic, like Police Officers, EMS, Fire Fighters, and City Council Members. Pro Towels main decorating facility has operated and been an integral member of the Abbeville County for more than 30 years. The company decorates promotional beach and sports towels, apparel, accessories, and blankets, but with social distancing replacing sports and events of all kind currently, Pro Towels began looking for other ways to support its community and its customers, like face protection.

ZOOMcatalog today announced the launch of ZOOMacademy, an educational platform designed for Promotional Product professionals, which will be available at no cost to the entire industry. The ZOOMacademy will include straight forward, in-depth, and on-demand courses focused on digital marketing and sales. Individuals who complete courses in the academy can also earn credit towards their PPAI certification.

The first three courses available in the ZOOMacademy focus on building a communication plan during the pandemic, becoming a remote promotional product company, and an introduction to branding. Students of the academy will decide what classes will be released next, which may include how to transition catalogs from print to digital, how to use objectives to grow your business and a complete reference guide for industry professionals.

“The ZOOMacademy is a platform we have been planning for a long time. With extensive experience in technology, sales, marketing, and the promotional product industry, we have an opportunity to share our knowledge and help others in the industry grow.” Said co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Bryony Zasman. “In response to recent events, we decided to expedite the completion and launch of the ZOOMacademy. During these unprecedented times, people in the industry find themselves with more time on their hands and are looking for ways to build their skills and prepare themselves for success once business returns to the new normal”.

In addition to the library of courses, the ZOOMacademy also includes a talent pool. Industry professionals are invited to submit their resume and create a profile. The talent pool will be accessible to companies in the industry that are seeking new team members.

“If we can help one person find their next role, that’s a win for us.” Said Head of Design, Alex Hughes.

To access the ZOOMacademy and talent pool, visit www.academy.zoomcatalog.com.

AAkron Line announced they have introduced a new line of antimicrobial products. The new antimicrobial line includes AAkron manufactured 17 oz. stadium cup, plastic token and fly swatter, as well as an imported pen. Products will be available starting early June.  “The shortage of AntiMicrobial products in our industry immediately got us excited about the opportunity to build a line of products. We are fortunate to be a domestic manufacturer so that we could do this is in such a timely manner with these unprecedented times,” says Devin Piscitelli, CEO and Co-owner of AAkron Line.

Chocolate Inn | Lanco (ASI: 44900; SAGE: 52303; PPAI: 111662; PPPC: 920802) has named promotional products industry and marketing veteran, Deborah Gaspar, as Marketing Director. The addition of Gaspar is part of the company’s continued push to expand its reach and recognition within the industry.

“A key element to Chocolate Inn | Lanco’s success has been identifying holes in the industry, and developing innovative, forward-thinking strategies and solutions to meet those needs,” said Lance Stier, Chocolate Inn | Lanco Managing Partner/- CEO. “Deborah is an institution in the promotional products industry and an expert marketer. Her long track record of innovative marketing campaigns and growth strategies will help us gain increased recognition, and customer engagement, all with the goal of achieving additional growth.”

Sabrina Franz of SnugzUSA earned the certification of Certified Advertising Specialist administered by Promotional Products Association International (PPAI; ppai.org).

 The Certified Advertising Specialist (CAS), Master Advertising Specialist (MAS) and Master Advertising Specialist Plus (MAS+) Certifications are the promotional products industry's premier professional designations. Individuals with a PPAI Certification are industry leaders -- those who have attained a higher standard of professional competence, knowledge and experience. PPAI industry certification is acquired through a combination of dedicated certification classes, demonstrated years of employment in the industry, elective courses, and a successful demonstration of expertise. Certification is maintained through continuing education to ensure current knowledge and leading-edge professional skills.

Sabrina serves on UMAPP’s Board of Directors and is also the Association’s Social Media Coordinator. 

Joal McAlister of American Solutions for Business, Cottage Grove, MN, earned the certification of Master Advertising Specialist (MAS) administered by Promotional Products Association International (PPAI; ppai.org), the largest international not-for-profit association for more than 16,000 members of the $24-plus billion promotional products industry.  Joal serves as a committee member for UMAPP. 

PPAI's 2021 Board of Directors officers have been selected; they are Dawn Olds, MAS, chair-elect; and Kevin Walsh, CAS, vice chair, financial services. Chair-Elect Todd Pottebaum, MAS+, will assume the role of chair and current Board Chair Ira Neaman, MAS, will assume the role of immediate past chair.

 Todd Pottebaum is a past president of UMAPP and has served on numerous committees and director positions for the Association.  

The new board officers will begin their one-year terms immediately following The PPAI Expo 2021, which will run January 11-13, 2021. 

"Todd, Dawn and Kevin are extremely capable leaders and business executives who have added much to the PPAI board. I look forward to their ongoing contributions," says Neaman. 

Pottebaum is president of distributor Quality Resource Group, Inc., in Plymouth, Minnesota; Olds is senior vice president of operations for distributor HALO Branded Solutions, Inc., in Sterling, Illinois; and Walsh is president of supplier Showdown Displays in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. 

PPAI board officers are selected by the PPAI Board Officer Nominating Committee and voted on by the PPAI board. 

Read more about these individuals in PPB Newslink. For this and more industry news, click here.

 American Solutions for Business (ASB) has officially promoted Amy Spychalla to Vice President of Strategic Operations Support.

Spychalla joined the company in January 2003 as a promotional product specialist, helping to promote the promotional product category to sales associates before moving into strategic operations support shortly after its inception. She currently leads ASB’s strategic operations support and vertical market teams which work to support sales associates in their sales efforts - from discovery, proposal and presentation through to implementation, go live and customer reviews.  

ASB has officially promoted Miriah Cassidy to Vice President of Sales Support.

Cassidy joined the company in October 2008 as a Sales Support CSR before rising through the ranks as a Sales Support Supervisor, Process Improvement Manager, Director of Order Management, Senior Director of Sales Support and Executive Director of Sales Support. She leads a team of individuals that work hard every day to support ASB’s sales team.

American Solutions for Business is proud to announce that Valenti Print Group (Valenti) of Honolulu, HI has joined the ASB team.

 Valenti specializes in print and mailing services and shares many other similarities with ASB; they are also an employee-owned company founded in 1981 with a creative, family-friendly culture. Their team is local to Hawaii and is a dynamic group of individuals from different cultures, nationalities and professional experience.

 “This partnership will provide us the resources to enhance and help grow the specialty products side of Valenti,” explains Mary Valenti, title. “Joining together, our customers will benefit from a greatly expanded array of solutions to their needs.”







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Guest Column II

Reprinted with permission from Promotional Consultant Today. 

Top-Shelf Tip No. 134:
“He profits most who serves best.”  Arthur F. Sheldon

Nine Ways To Respond To Discount Requests

It’s bound to happen at some point: A customer asks you to lower your rates or give you a discount of some kind. As many companies tighten their budgets fearing lean times, you may begin to receive discount requests more often. Whether you choose to work with a customer’s
pricing requests or you stand firm on your pricing, you should always have a few responses ready, according to Michael Pici, director of sales at HubSpot.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Pici’s powerful replies to use when you hear the words “It costs too much.”

1. “You’re asking the right person. But before we discuss discounting, let’s figure out what you’re
looking for in an offering. That will allow me to give you a far more accurate estimate." It is tempting to brush off a pricing discount early in the sales conversation, but according to Pici, you should take time to acknowledge your prospect’s concerns. If you don’t address discounting up front, you will seem more focused on your own success than the prospect’s success.

2. “Good question. Do you see price being a major obstacle to this purchase?" Sometimes, prospects just want to know whether you will consider reducing your prices. If they can’t get a lower price, they will move on. Other times, they may be okay paying your rate but interested in receiving a discount if they can. By asking this question, Pici says you help determine their motivation. 

3. “We can definitely have a conversation about specific numbers, but let’s make sure we’re on the same page about this solution being a good fit for your needs." Pici says that with this response, you don’t take a discount off the table, but you remind the prospect that it’s not relevant until you’re both sure it’s a good fit. If you grant their request too soon, you will seem overly eager to close, which will work against you during the actual negotiation.

4. “Why?" Buyers sometimes haggle just for the sake of it. Oftentimes, those who say they are “just wondering” will pay 
your full price. It’s important to understand where your prospect is coming from and customize the value exchange.

5. “I can offer you a discount if we [extend the contract, adjust the terms of payment, go with X package or tier, register Y seats]." Both parties should be prepared to compromise in a negotiation. If your customer or prospect asks for a discount, consider non-monetary requests that allow you to open the negotiating possibilities beyond price.

6. “What would be a reasonable discount?" This question allows you to discern whether your customer or prospect can afford your product, or they’re not sold on the full value. If they don’t have the budget for your solution, offer a less expensive or less comprehensive option.

7. "What would need to happen to make our offering worth the price I quoted you?" According to Pici, this question is a smart way to uncover gaps in your conversation and identify objections that may still exist. It’s a chance to add or ague value for your solution and to earn full price if you meet the prospect’s needs.  

8. "Would a month-to-month plan be enough to get you to close today?" If your prospect feels uncomfortable closing on an annual contract, a month-to-month solution may be an option to close without discounting your product or service.

9. "What if we connect next quarter? Do you think you’d have more budget open up then?" If your prospect is truly enthusiastic about working with you but simply doesn’t have the budget, consider following up with them in the future. This can sometimes be the best option for both parties.

Everybody wants a deal. In a tight market, you may be tempted to give in to discount requests. The smarter move, though, is to have some responses ready when your customers ask for a deal. By doing so, you position yourself as a true value provider rather than selling yourself short.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Michael Pici is a director of sales at HubSpot. He heads a team of over 70 salespeople and managers and was responsible for growing HubSpot's sales product line from $0 to a $10 million business.


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This is a newsletter provided by the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals.  UMAPP is a professional trade association for companies in the promotional products industry.  UMAPP covers the states of Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Western Wisconsin.  Membership is by company, but all staff are included under the umbrella of the company membership.  

For more information, contact the UMAPP office at:  [email protected]  

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