Eight Ways to Lose the Sale: Inside the mind of a frequently frustrated print buyer
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Eight Ways to Lose the Sale: Inside the mind of a frequently frustrated print buyer

In order to have a successful relationship with your print buyer, there are certain 'dos' to foster a solid partnership. Perhaps more important, however, are the 'don'ts' that should never be forgotten.

By Maggie Stevens, Vice President of Marketing Communications, SGIA

In my many years as a print buyer for the industry as well as for SGIA, I have come across countless printers that could have kept my business if they had avoided the dreaded don'ts.

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  • Here are my top eight - and how to avoid them:

    1. Don't Respond
    The golden rule of sales is: "Never say 'no' to the customer." But there is something worse - saying nothing.

    On average, at least half of the cold calls and/or emails I send to companies asking for a bid on a job, or even a second quote, don't get returned.

    When a prospective customer reaches out, you have to reach back - even if you can't take the job. If you don't respond, you likely won't get another chance. Print buyers don't want to beg for your time and attention.

    If you're called for a vehicle wrap and you don't have an installer on staff, tell them. "We aren't the right fit for this project, but please keep us in mind for all your point-of-purchase needs." Even better, refer them to someone who can provide the service they need. They'll appreciate the suggestion, and whoever you refer them to will hopefully repay the favor.

    2. Fall Off Your Customer's Radar Screen
    Print buyers are busy with projects, meetings and, mostly, print vendors vying for attention. Make sure you are one of them.

    We had been printing membership cards with the same vendor for five years. It was their specialty, and it was also the only thing they did for us. Another company we use for other projects a few times a month asked to bid on producing the cards. Since they came in lower than what we had previously spent, they got the work.

    However, six months after the time when we would have reordered the first vendor, they finally popped up: "Hey, where is our order?" If they had followed up before the order was due, it would be clear they were on top of our needs.

    3. Let Yourself Get Typecast
    Your customers know what you do for them, but do they really know all you can do?

    One year, a print vendor that we had been working with for over a decade came into my office after the SGIA Expo. "Maggie, we've been printing a lot of the same kind of work for you, but I don't think we've demonstrated all we can really do." She was right. I had typecast them, and they had allowed it to happen.

    They asked me to put together 10-15 samples of other work we did in the past year, along with quantities and other specifications. Within a few days of submitting the package to them, a stack of quotes was on my desk - quotes that may not have brought any jobs in the door that week, but that demonstrated where they were competitive and where they weren't.

    They were far more competitive than I realized. Fifty percent of the quotes they outlined were lower than what I had paid for comparable work that year. The following year, that vendor doubled the amount of work they were doing with us.

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    4. Overbid a Job
    If the work isn't the right fit for your business, don't submit an obscenely high quote, even if it is the best you can do. Know where you are competitive and where you are not. Submitting a quote that is out of range sends a lot of messages, and none of them are good.

    If I have three bids with two in the same ballpark and one that is double, you didn't just lose the job, you likely lost future opportunities to bid for other business.

    5. Give Them Exactly What They Ask For
    If you aren't asking questions about a job, you're not thinking about it. Look at the specifications, and find a way to make this job fit best for your company. "Because of the equipment we have, we can run this job two up. Do you want to have another version rather than just one?"

    Look for a way to understand their needs instead of just providing exactly what they ask for. Print buyers want partners; someone who is looking out for them. They need a printer who understands their goals and objectives, and who works together for the best possible outcome.

    6. Employ People Who Aren't Passionate About Their Job
    I have worked with print vendors where, while I like my sales person, I've hated the customer sales representative (CSR) with whom I've had to work. Everything would move smoothly, and then I'd work with the CSR only to find an often distracted, annoyed or otherwise unengaged person.

    Is the person answering your phone happy, responsive or energetic? If they are harsh, curt or interrupting the caller, it doesn't make your customer want to call you. And if they don't want to call, you won't have their business for long.

    7. Underestimate/Overestimate Your Customer
    Do you truly know your print buyer and their background? People love talking about themselves and will gladly walk you through their print buying experience. From there, you'll know the best way to work with them.

    If you have a veteran print-buyer who is knowledgeable in what they are doing, respect that and make sure they know you do.

    One of my longest printing relationships is with one of the first companies that I worked with when I started. We are still with them because of all they did to help me understand what I was buying. They hosted in-house seminars on postage, substrates and finishing. They sent me articles, case studies and samples of work with explanations on how it was made. They took a passionate print buyer and turned her into a long-term client by investing in and sharing the passion.

    8. Failure to Communicate
    If you do get the business, this is how you can lose it - REALLY QUICKLY. Is there a problem with a job? Tell the client right away. Don't wait. Better to know there is a problem and that you are working on a solution today rather than five days after the fact when the job is delayed and expectations weren't managed.

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, January / February 2017 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2016 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (www.sgia.org). All Rights Reserved.

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