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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Waiting Your Turn

The line you choose will dramatically impact your chances at success

Few things are more of a time waste than standing in a long line. In fact, humans are hard-wired to avoid lines – or at least to pick the shortest one – at every opportunity. For example, no one willingly stands in the longest line at the grocery store. So instead, we scan all the lines and select the one we believe is the shortest.

When prospecting for new business, many promotional products distributors unwittingly pick the longest line by focusing all their efforts on trying to get the marketing department’s attention. Unfortunately, while the marketing department of any organization seems like the natural place to begin, it is also the most challenging place to gain meaningful entry into a client.

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of working with the marketing team of a Fortune 500 logistics company. During one meeting, I asked them to share how many times promotional products companies contacted them in an average week. I assumed the answer to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 15, but certainly no more than 20. Instead, I was astounded to hear that they were contacted 50 times a week by promotional products distributors seeking to have a “quick meeting.”

Read that again: 50 times a week!


When you only target the marketing departments of your selected audience, you will have difficulty getting your message heard above the din of your competition. Essentially, you are picking the longest line with the lowest likelihood of success.

Rather than stand in that long line – one that may never move forward – focus on other non-traditional departments: sales, facilities, meetings/events, production, diversity, R&D, or training. While these departments may not have budgets as deep as marketing, their budgets are usually much easier to access.


In other words, choose a shorter line.

If your goal is to blend in with the crowd, continue standing in the long line to marketing. However, there are much shorter lines to access your prospects – it’s up to you to find them.

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