How do you get your sales messages to stick when customers are swamped with information?

“We can’t consume all the information that can be produced today,” said Terry Brock, speaking at the March International Glove Association’s 2007 Glove Symposium and Expo at rustic and quiet Amelia Island, Fla.

Brock, author of a syndicated business column called, “Succeeding Today,” said it’s more important than ever to give the personal touch to relationships with customers (including employees, supervisors and managers — the “customers” of safety and health pros).

At the IGA meeting, keynote speaker Brock offered at least 14 tips that we noted for maintaining and improving business relationships.

1 — This is especially true for new sales reps — it takes patience to build sincere relationships, said Brock. Don’t jump in and force false relationships.

2 — This is a natural role for sales reps (especially if you’ve completed the Qualified Safety Sales Professional course offered by ISEA and SEDA) — be the “go to” guy that people come to for information, said Brock. Be the resource. The expert. It’s a great door-opener for starting relationships.

“People want to know that there is someone they can go to for the straight story,” said Brock. When it comes to safety issues and concerns and compliance questions, you can be the one who sorts it out for employees, supers and managers. You become your organization’s “safety filter.”

3 — Don’t be passive about your business relationships. Don’t sit in your office waiting for a call from a customer. Sniff around a customer’s work site. Probe, said Brock. Ask customers what they value about safety, or what they need in order to improve safety, and then deliver it.

4 — Practice what Brock called “quantum competence.” In other words, keep building your safety and health skill set (See QSSP #2 above). Never stop learning. Connect with other experts, advised Brock. Develop your own network or advisory board.

5 — Take advantage of low-cost communications technology. In terms of safety and health, this could mean using digital cameras and camcorders for training, taping interviews with employees and managers, and integrating this material into your PowerPoint presentations or video messages to customers.

6 — Don’t know how? Brock said when it comes to learning new technology, your attitude should be, “Not yet.” In other words, you just don’t know how to do “this stuff” yet, but you’ll learn. “Be optimistic about learning technology,” Brock said. “Don’t excuse yourself as being only a people person.”

7 — Find your customer’s “safety soft spots.” Or as Brock said, “to be of value to your customers, follow their pain.” Where are the safety problems or concerns? What can you learn from audit reports, employee focus groups and casual walkarounds?

8 — Take a look in the mirror. “Find what you do best, where your knowledge base really lies,” said Brock. This surely applies to safety sales reps. Identify your subject matter expertise — fall protection, confined spaces, fire safety, respirators, etc. — and leverage it, said Brock. Find other experts to complement your strengths.

9 — “Leaders are readers,” said Brock. To lead in safety or any area of business, you’ve got to invest in that most precious of commodities — time, he explained. Become a loyal Industrial Safety & Hygiene News reader. Take the time to listen to audio tapes or CDs on your commutes or business trips to beef up selling skills. Research safety and OSHA topics using search engines such as Google.

10 — Use technology you can buy today at a Wal-Mart or other retail “big box” (digital camcorders, memory cards, AA batteries, software that creates background visuals and graphics), advised Brock. Create safety and health instructional emails, or one-hour training videos that can be used by employees on demand, when they have the time.

11 — Proceed with caution when using new communications technology — “know the comfort level of your customer, what he or she is capable of consuming,” said Brock.

12 — Use plain-text emails, or video/audio emails if your customers can handle them, to send what Brock called weekly “shoot from the hip” updates from their knowledgeable safety sales rep — you.

13 — Use your organization’s Web site whenever possible, urged Brock. For safety applications, you might want to post expert interviews or regulatory updates. Do more than simply display products.

14 — “Right now you have an opportunity as never before to communicate and demonstrate your subject matter expertise to customers,” said Brock. “It will require the right mindset to look into new technology to see how you can apply it to your sales work.

“Don’t be intimidated by what you might not know,” said Brock. “I don’t know it yet, but I’ll get it,” should be your attitude, he said.