In my weekly conversations with printers I’ve found a rash of Dead Printers Not Selling. They’re coasting on selling ghosts of the past. Worse yet, I’ve found a number of them who are in their 70s who don’t have the money to retire and their businesses aren’t worth much. So they have to sell. But how? Here’s three things any shop owner can do to rejuvenate selling efforts. After all, we can only coast downhill. Specifically, here are some thoughts I supplied to one Dead Printer Not Selling in New York.
Start over as if it were a new shop. What would you do if you just opened? Fact is, we all should do this every five years anyway.
Get a list of suspects near you. Even if you have a list, start with a new one. Go to a list company (I use www.infousa.com). I searched for businesses or “suspects” within 2 miles of the center of my friend’s zip code with an employee count of 10-99. Lacking any other information, I chose this employee count for they are typically big enough to have printing and yet small enough not to have a sophisticated purchase procedure and probably a good target size for my friend’s capabilities. I found 245 suspects cited costing $125 for the Calling Package.
Now reach out to the 245 suspect through direct mail. Get your name in front of them. Could be as simple as a postcard saying, “I sell printing, wanta buy some?” Carpet bomb like a military strategy. But, we know we can’t win a war with air power alone. It has to be followed up with foot soldiers (or you actually reaching out and selling or asking them to buy). If you can do the direct mail first, fine. If you can’t, still take the next step(s). AVOID offering discounts, price and such.
Verify your prospect list. Call them. “I’m Tom from Pretty Fast Printing. I have some material on printing that I’d like to mail to you. Who should I direct it to?” Thank you. Now is not the time for selling.
Visit: “I’m Tom … I’m owner of Pretty Fast Printing on Main Street. I sell printing ….” Or some other simple introduction. Block out time to do it. Don’t wait until you find time for we never will as we can always find reasons to put off what we don’t want to do. Develop a discipline such as from 8 am to 12 noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Of course, there’s more sophisticated approaches such as taking along a small pop-up banner. . “I’m Tom … I’m the owner of Pretty Fast Printing on Main Street. I don’t know if you use pop-up banners but I wanted to show you what’s available.” This isn’t meant for you to sell a bunch of banners but it’s a discussion starter which often drifts to “I don’t need that but I do need …”
Assess the suspect. You think they may buy what you do, but you don’t know. If you get a “no but hell no,” then that’s good because you can take them off your suspect list but keep them on your mail list unless you definitely find they will never buy from you. No use wasting your direct mail dollars.
Customer Relations Manager: I’d also suggest you use a CRM program like www.lessannoying.com or ACT. Allows you to keep notes on the suspect, schedule tasks, appointments and such. Less Annoying is a subscription based system costing only $10 per month and you can upload your complete suspect list and then delete those that are “no but hell no’s” as you go.
On your call, try to create a reason to visit them again. It could be a quote but that’s not a good lead-in. People don’t like to be rude to people, so the easiest way for them to tell you no is to say your price is too high. And the easiest thing for them to do is also give you a bunch of things to quote only to say later that your price is too high. While you don’t turn down requests for estimates, ask, “Is this an active project?” If it’s not, suggest you wait until it is something that is needed so they won’t be comparing current prices with historic prices. Better is to find out what they really need and bring them ideas on your next trip if possible.
If all else fails and IF you think this is a good prospect (prospect is where you confirm they buy what you sell – until then they are just suspects), ask “May I stop by in (two weeks, month, etc.) and see if you have any active projects?” Most agree and that means you have been invited to return which makes you feel much better about making the next call. If “no but hell no” and you know they buy what you do, then save them for your next Selling Plan.
Selling Plan Step One: What are you selling specifically (saying I sell printing is like saying, “I sell everything, wanta buy some?”) Let’s say your next plan is Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). You can do that by calling, “I think you might be interested in Every Door Direct Mail which allows you to put your selling message in front of prime prospects for less than the cost of a letter. May I stop by Tuesday morning and show you what we’ve got?” If they don’t have time Tuesday morning, just offer to stop by another day.
Small business owners are typically terrible time managers. By offering to stop by on Tuesday morning and seeing if they have a chance to chat is a lot less threatening than trying to set an appointment. How do they know what they’ll be doing Tuesday morning? Note that the larger the suspect, the more probable they will want to set a specific appointment. That’s okay, set the appointment and then keep it. Using a CRM helps you organize your tasks and appointments easily.
Selling Plan Step Two: To whom should you offer this product/service? Mine your database of suspects/prospects and offer it to those who seem to you to need the item in step one. For instance, any business with walk-ins could use pop-ups. Retailers, landscapers, smile dentists and other “business to consumer” businesses are prime for EDDM.
Selling Plan Step Three: define the steps you will take to sell. Can be something simple like 1) send postcard featuring the product/service to your selected list 2) call to get approximate appointment (if you mail and wait two weeks before you call, the mailing is wasted, so follow up quickly the same week by not mailing too many at one time) 3) visit them 4) show and tell and then sell the job or recycle or put them into the “no but hell no” pile. Customize this step depending on what and to whom you are selling.
Rinse/Repeat: as you finish one selling plan, start work on your next one so you will never be without a selling plan and activities which put you in front of people who buy what you do.
Point here is that it is up to YOU to stir up activity in the market.
Two other easy ways to increase your selling efforts.
Repeating Jobs: many printing jobs are reprinted sometime in the future. Most estimating systems today allow you to tag each job with a future printing date. So, if it’s printed today and it was printed six months ago, chances are good that it will be reprinted six months from now. If you’re not tracking each order like this, begin today for future sales. Then follow up with a courtesy call, “Looks like it may be time you check your stock for (whatever items).” Doesn’t necessarily mean a sales call but a telephone call will often do it frequently from your CSR. Don’t expect an order although some will. What we know is those we contact often show up within two weeks to buy something. Again, it’s stirring the market and keeping your name as Top Of Mind Awareness (TOMA).
Rejuvenation Calls: Most printers deal with about 300 customers with their top 25 providing 50-75% of the total business. It’s easy to overlook the others. Maybe the buyer has changed; they’ve forgotten about you; or many other reasons. A simple rejuvenation call will stir up business. “Just a courtesy call to see if you have any active projects we might help you with?” If appropriate, set up an approximate appointment to drop by and see them. If not, recycle and/or put into the “no but hell no file.
Those are just three ways to rejuvenate sales in a business that’s coasting. Easy to do but it means YOU have to make time to do them or see that they’re done.”
Finally, remember that most print shops are coasting on their previous sales hoping customers will come back. And, as we discussed, one can only coast going downhill. Take charge of your destiny, go sell something to someone and stir up your activity in the marketplace.
If you’d like to chat about your business without cost or obligation, message me at email@example.com
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Message Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him at (304) 541-3714, connect on Facebook and LinkedIn and follow his business tweets on Twitter @tomcrouser. Tom is Senior Columnist and Contributor of Printing News, chairman of CPrint® International and principal of Crouser & Associates, Inc., 235 Dutch Road, Charleston, WV 25302, www.cprint.com.
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