Help! My Clients Know the Promotional Products Pricing Codes

Are you concerned your clients may know promotional products industry pricing codes?

Here’s a question I recently received via email from a promotional products distributor as well as some practical advice to keep in mind, no matter what your clients know.

Business People

“How do we deal with clients, i.e. marketing directors, purchasing agents, owners, CEO, and human resources people that know the promotional products industry codes, like (R) and go out and shop you knowing?  Most of the E-Flyers that we get from suppliers have the codes on the flyer.  HELP!!!!!!”

Here’s my advice:

These days, the answers to just about everything are searchable on the Internet. There are very few secrets. Many clients may know the pricing codes. So what? You are entitled to make a living!

Instead of focusing on the net costs that your clients may know, put your focus on the added value you can provide, such as marketing help, unique ideas, quality guarantees, creative designs, industry knowledge, faster turnaround and stand-out service. Shine in the areas you do best and put your focus there!

Forget about competing on price, it’s not a viable business model for a small distributor. You can’t be Walmart!  There will always be someone who is willing to work for less. Is that who you want to be?

Here’s a popular acronym that applies to this situation that you should keep in mind when you’re worried about losing business. I added the words in parentheses.

SWSWSWSW: Some Will (know the codes), Some Won’t (know the codes), So What? Someone’s Waiting! (to do business with you) 

Do you have a promotional products sales question that you would like to have me answer in a future blog post? Please send me an email at

What’s your opinion? Does it matter if your clients know the promotional products pricing codes?

I’d love to hear your comments below!

© 2014 Rosalie Marcus

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Rosalie Marcus, The Promo Biz Coach ™ is a promotional products business expert, coach and speaker. Combining her skills and years of experience in promotional sales, she helps her clients sell more at higher profit margins and dramatically increase their incomes! Get a FREE special report: 10 Big Mistakes Promotional Professionals Make and How to Avoid Them and a FREE Skyrocket Your Sales audio download at

Reach her at or 215-572-6766.

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  1. I agree totally! After 14 years in this business I firmly believe that as a professional, if the only thing that you have as your main selling tool is lowest price, you will not be in business very long. Competitiveness is essential BUT what you bring to the table as a salesperson – new, creative ideas, solving problems, taking one item off of a buyers “to do” list, raises your value as a partner (as opposed to a commodity) in your client’s eyes. If your client has the time to Google price codes and uses that to talk you down to selling at a ridiculous margin that wouldn’t cover your costs if a mistake was made or a deadline was missed, I would strongly reconsider what that client is bringing to your business table – that relationship is a two way street!

  2. Rosalie Marcus says:

    Thanks for the comment Leslie! You are so right! Taking a professional approach is the way to be successful

    • Donna Weaver says:

      There are also little tricks to the trade as well. If in a pricing situation where the customer knows the codes, call your supplier and ask for EQP. Tell the supplier that your customer is shopping and found a better price with a competitor and you do not want to lose the order. Most suppliers will work with you. Figure out your margin if you have to match the customers found price and see if it is worth the effort with EQP. Let customer know that you are trying to work with them, but you, too, have to make a profit. Most times, customers will stay with you because you are making an effort to work with them. If customer continues to play this price game, then they are not worth keeping.

  3. Dennis Ostrander says:

    By adding a set up charge after the quote per unit and that price is listed with a code that they know you can gain back their confidence, also, by contacting the supplier sometimes they will wave the set up and you could also to maintain the price, when giving something to the buyer they feel that they owe you something for your gift of working with them?

  4. Rosalie, great points and perfect wisdom! When we go to a surgeon for a $100,000.00 operation, we know very well that he or she is making a bundle in excess of actual costs. But we’re glad to pay because we’ve been convinced that the doctor’s expertise are of value and will fix our aches. Similarly, promotional industry professionals need to have the fortitude of a physician and “know” that they deserve large incomes because they help fix the “aches” of their client businesses.
    Keep up the great work . . .

  5. Cheryl Lickteig says:

    If your client simply asks what the codes represent, just say they have to do with inventory. (A supplier will most likely have inventory for the smaller quantities……) If they know what the codes mean, tell them the pricing varies with supplier – as we know, this is very true.

  6. On special flyers, it is usually very easy to scrub, or clone brush (photo shop) the codes off the sheet. Or, if it’s something you really want to ‘e-blast’ to a bunch of clients…ask the vendor to provide a version without the codes, line name, or actual product numbers. I always touch up such flyers prior to sending. Sometimes I even change pricing or quantities to match what I want to do with it. You don’t have to stick with the vendors suggested pricing or codes. you can get free software for simple edits like this (ie: gimp, paintshop pro, etc).
    If you get EQP with certain suppliers, use those catalogs as your primary lines. This allows you to ‘discount’ and still make that 35-40% margin. That plus your exemplary service will keep your clients coming back to you. If you suggest products on your own compilation sheets (esp, sage, etc) or pdf’s, they won’t see the codes, and you can change the item numbers. I also have our websites (esp) to show coded item #s, so clients can’t so easily put it out to bid. Don’t do your competitors work for them! Not to criticize what other’s have said, but honesty is the best policy. If they ask what the codes mean, tell them they relate to distributor wholesale pricing. If you tell them a “story”, and they find out otherwise, they may not want to work with you anymore. They won’t leave you just because you make a profit, as that is expected in business. But they may leave over dishonesty. Just sayin’.

  7. please define EQP

    thank you

  8. Simple explaining to your client about the industry does help~trust me. Much of the pricing we as distributors receive….is in fact, lower than wholesale, which in itself is the best answer to give your client.

    Another way to explain, you belong to a very elite group (ASI or PPAI…SAGE) allowing you access to thousands of products as a distributor, you are able to bring to your client…which they themselves are not able to do.

    Easiest……don’t show them coded catalogs….make your own!

  9. Bart Roberts says:

    I heard a thought last week that really made me think about the selling process.


    Here’s what that meant to me, just yesterday a new customer called and was referred to me by someone “who was sold on my capabilities” but she has not been sold on me or my company. She was bidding out three products and wanted prices. I could have given her prices and let the chips fall where they may.. but I requested a meeting first. She accepted.

    now I can go talk to her and sell her on me, my company before giving prices.

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