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Outside Sales

Looking for sales in other places

In the movie, Field of Dreams, there is a line which is repeated throughout, also serving as the central theme, "Build it and they will come". While the movie was successful, there are many printers which use the line as a part of their business plan. Unfortunately utilizing a movie theme does not guarantee success in the print business.

A printer that has opened in a strip center, downtown, or on a busy street should expect that the more expensive lease or mortgage they have will be balanced by the larger number of customers they expect to see and visit their business. Perhaps there is a similar justification for expecting customers to visit a business that can be used by a printer who has been in the same location for several decades; "My customers know where I am".

If and when these strategies fail to deliver the desired amount of business, some will resort to advertising in the traditional mediums of radio, television, or newspaper. Results are usually mixed. As John Wannamaker of the Philadelphia based Wannamaker Department Stores used to say, "I know half of my advertising does not work. I just do not know which half that is".

Anticipating that you read Instant & Small Commercial Printer because you want your business to grow and increase in profitability, what is it that you can do to have the odds in your favor?

Simply stated, ask them for their business; make sales calls. Whether you decide to make the sales calls yourself, or if you decide your business could utilize your hiring an outside salesperson, someone should be out asking for business. And if you think your business is of the size you do not need a salesperson, then the reason for making sales calls should be to keep your competitors away from your customers. After all, those competitors are working to grow their business are wanting to take customers from whoever will let them.

Your effort can begin as examining your current accounts to see what industries you have a sizable presence in. Take a second step by looking at the yellow pages to see which businesses in those industries do not have their printing done by you. Spending a few hours performing this exercise can give you a fairly substantial list of potential new customers.

But before you make any sales calls, ask your current customers for a letter of recommendation. Place these letters in a series of notebooks, created according to industry, and you have a fairly impressive sales brochure to utilize on your first visit.

If you are calling on your existing customers, it is a good idea to call first to ask for an appointment. In a moment we will cover what to do during this visit. If you are calling on potential customers, calling for an appointment will probably get you a polite, "No thanks. We are happy with the printer we are currently using."

With the initial visit to a business in this second group, you should anticipate the buyer giving you a few minutes at most, or perhaps getting only as far as speaking to their receptionist. Tell the prospective buyer that you would like to call to ask for an appointment next week. It is at this point that your business card, and the appropriate referral book containing a credit application will do the most talking on your behalf after you have left their office.

When you make the follow up phone call, you will quickly know if you have a potential customer when they allow you to make an appointment. Likewise, you know you will be saving a lot of your time if they tell you that you can pick up your notebook at the reception desk.

It is when you make the return visit that the existing customer and prospective customer sales call become the same type of visit. The key to the sales call lies in an old business adage, "No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care."

Ask your customer or potential customer to tell you about their business; their employees; the products or services they provide; their customers; the history of their business; and some of their other vendors. This information can be invaluable, especially as you hear the names of other companies you are familiar with. You can get a feel as to how they value vendors based upon service, quality, and price. And if the prospective customer tells you how often their current printer calls on them, you can get an idea as to how much the other printer values their business.

In gaining the business of a new customer, many people think that price has to be the leading factor. Quite the contrary, you could hire just about anyone as your outside sales representative who could gain the business by having a price that is lower than their current printer. Perhaps the best insight you can gain with a potential customer is in asking, "What are the three key factors why you are allowing me this sales call when you are already utilizing a printer?"

And, with the customer that you currently have, insight can be gained by asking several questions. "What parts of your printing needs is someone else currently supplying? And what can I do to earn that business?"

In each example, we have asked simple questions that will provide you with valuable information that will assist you in gaining their business.

There are two follow ups that can also work to gain, or keep, customers. The first is with all sales calls, whether successful or not, send a short handwritten note to thank them for their time. Even to the person who left your referral book at the front desk for you to pick up, a note of "Thanks for your time. While I can see you are not in need of our printing services at this time, I would welcome the opportunity to be of service to you in the future."

And with each new print job you receive, for both new and current customers, place a follow up call to the customer to ask how they liked the job you did for them.

Does all of this effort to keep a current customer or gain a new customer take time? Absolutely! But the alternative of not having enough customers is one that few businesses want to face.

Build it and they will come? Not hardly, not in the printing industry. Another analogy states, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your doorstep". What an odd, and incorrect saying, as mice are creatures of habit and do not stray from their traditional path in looking for food. To catch a mouse, you have to move the rat bait until it is placed on the path. Kind of like making a sales call, isn't it?

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179