Using the phone to build your custom apparel business

Using the Phone to Build Your Business

Grow your custom apparel business further by using the phone to build relationships with existing customers and prospects.

Using the phone to build your custom apparel business

Our first post in this 3-part series talked on using word of mouth to build your business. Building off of all the contacts you made from word of mouth (and existing customers), this blog post will focus on how you can use the phone to further grow your business.

As a small business, building relationships with people is vital, and so you can’t just talk to a customer once and expect them to become long-term clients, or even make a purchase from you right away. Some customers will need more contact with you before committing. Existing customers also need consistent communication with you.

There are three types of customers, and each one will require a different communication approach: current customers, prospects, and likely customers.

Current Customers

Starting off with customers who’ve already purchased something from you is a great way to ease yourself into this habit. Plus, if you’ve already run your numbers, you know how much each customers’ lifetime value is worth, and you know that it costs less to keep an existing customer than to try to gain new ones.

Go through your lists of customers and review their recent orders to help you recall who that customer is. Then build yourself a script to work with, and a few goals in mind to help lead the conversation where you’d like it.

You’ll likely need a a few versions of your introduction, based on when you last talked to each customer,

  • “Hello, this is Marc from Colman & Company” – You can use this for customers whom you know quite well, you’ve recently had a conversation with them, and they’re likely to remember that you’re the person who does custom embroidery, DTG, bling, etc.
  • “Hello, this is Marc from Colman & Company. The bling t-shirt guy.” – Use this for customers who perhaps recently made an order from you and it as their first time, so they haven’t built an in-depth relationship with you yet.
  • “Hello, this is Marc from Colman & Company. I created the team jackets for your sports team last fall.” – Use this if the person or company made their order a while ago, you’re reminding them that you’ve worked with them in the past.

Over time, as you continue to connect with your customers, the goal would be to use the first opening the most. You want people to recognize you by name. That’s you’re first goal – reminding people of who you are and what you do.

Your second goals is to find out if the person/company has any current custom apparel needs. Is something coming up in the near future? If the company had you create their DTG printed shirts for their annual fundraiser last year in August, for example, this is a great opportunity to inquire if they’re doing the fundraiser again, and they’re in need of new shirts. Whomever is in charge of the fundraiser may not have been able to get to ordering shirts yet, not have thought of it, or were going to look at their options, and because you’ve called them, they’re more likely to order from you. This also gives you an opportunity to get started on their product earlier, allowing you to get that larger order schedule in, or completed in advance when you have downtime.

Your next goal comes into play if that customer doesn’t have an immediate need, and that’s to try to get a referral. Simply let your customer know that you’re currently looking to grow your business and wondering if they have anyone they know that might be in need of custom apparel. You can also use this on customers who made a really recent order – give them a call to check in on how they’re enjoying their DTG printed shirts, thank them for their business, and then ask if they have anyone they can refer to you.

If you’ve provided a great customer experience and built a relationship with that customer, they won’t feel like you’re imposing on them by asking. They might not have anyone that comes to mind right away, but you’ve also just built that foundation for the future – they might be talking to someone who mentions they’re going to be getting printed shirts done.


Your prospects are all the people that you got a phone number from when you were out making connections via word of mouth. You had a positive connection with them, and although you didn’t get business from them right away, you had some indication that they’d be open to doing business with you in the future. Your prospects are also any referral you were able to get from current customers, as well as any comments, inquires, messages you received on any of your online pages – Facebook, website, Google, Bing.

After you have connected with your current customers you can then check in with prospects. As with anything, you want to create a script for yourself, as well as set some goals for the call.

Here’s a few examples for the different types of prospects we’re talking about:

  • “Hello, this is Marc from Colman & Company. I dropped into your shop back early last month in regards to custom embroidered apparel. I just wanted to give you a quick call to connect and find out what I can do for you.”
  • “Hello, this is Marc from Colman & Company. I received your name from so-and-so. We did some custom printed t-shirts for their fundraiser last month. Do you have an event coming up that I can help you with as well?”
  • “Hello, this is Marc from Colman & Company. I received your message on our Facebook page. What can I help you with?”

When calling these prospects you want to increase the likelihood that they will do business with you. You’re first reminding or informing them of who you are and what you do. Then finding out if they have an immediate need.

Using the numbers from building your business via word of mouth, you may have collected upwards of 80 prospects in one month (from the 120 businesses you contacted). If you can convert 10% of those prospects into paying customers, you’ve got another 8 new customers this month.

As with word of mouth, you’re not going to just call these customers once. If they turn you down or don’t have an immediate need, find out if they have an event coming up in the next year that they might consider getting custom apparel for. This provides you with a reason to call them again – “Last time we chatted you mentioned you had an annual corporate golf tournament coming up next month, just wanted to reach out to you and see if we can create some custom embroidered polos for your event.” or if they don’t give you a specific date, still call them back in 6-8 weeks and say “”I’m just doing my planning for the next three months, and wanted to find out if there was anything coming up for your business that you’d like custom printed t-shirts for, so I can make sure I schedule you in.”

Likely Customers

Likely Customers will potentially be the most challenging, especially if sales isn’t your specialty, because these are customers whom you’ve never spoken to before. Essentially you’re cold calling them, however, you’re not just calling random businesses. These may be businesses whom you weren’t able to make in-person contact with, but are businesses like your existing customers. As an example, perhaps you do the embroidery for a hair salon, you can reach out to other local hair salons, let them know you do the aprons for such-and-such business, and were calling to find out if they would be interested in getting custom aprons as well.

You may also want to offer to drop-by on a time that’s convenient for them to show them a sample of your work. This is also a great way to find out when the decision maker is free to chat with you. The salon owner may not be in every day, or may have a ton of clients, and perhaps Tuesday mornings 9-10am are their “office hours”. You can then know exactly when the best time to swing by is.

Just Do It

Set aside time each week to call your customers, prospects, and likely customers. Because you’re not travelling, you may only need to set aside an hour or two each week – we might suggest a Tuesday and Thursday between 10:30-11:30 as businesses aren’t facing the often crazy Mondays. Giving yourself a set time frame of an hour will also help you from burning out.

Make sure you remove all distractions. You may want to have a notepad or your computer open to take notes, but during this hour you’re not answering emails, updating your Facebook page, etc.

We also want to re-emphasize the importance of writing out your scripts – know who you’re calling and why, and what you’re going to say to them. It will make it less stressful for you and help you guide the conversation where you need it.

Lastly write out your goals for calling customers. Just like with word of mouth, perhaps you want to call 10 customers each day, and from those 80 customers you call that month you want to have 8 new orders. They can be orders from current customers, they’ll simply be orders that have not already been planned.

Stay positive. Your attitude will come through over the phone, so don’t let any rejection or rudeness from a customer get to you. They might just be having a bad day or you called at a really busy time – chances are they’re not angry at you for calling. And in reality 9 out of 10 customers you call will be positive and pleasant.

By staying consistently positive and making an effort to reach out to customers, you are going to get more comfortable in using the phone and you will grow your business.



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