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Michael Casey

Pressing Ahead

By Michael Casey

About Michael

Michael Casey is the founder of Survey Advantage and strategic partner with several printer associations and franchises. By leveraging information from a printer’s estimation and production software, Mike’s business has helped hundreds of printers automate their customer feedback and lead generation process. He may be reached via e-mail or (401) 560-0311 ext. 103. Read printer case studies on the Survey Advantage Website.

4 Questions to Ask Before Pricing that Next Job

Recently, I received two prices and one very thoughtful conversation while pricing a print job from three printers. The thoughtful conversation won the deal.

Instead of chucking out a price based on the request for pricing (RFP) document, product specifications and quantity, slow down a bit. Take the time to consider the four questions below to increase your chances of winning the job. If the print buyer is unwilling or unable to share the big picture, you are working at the wrong level, positioned as just another of the three bid printers, or on the outside looking in with no hope of winning.

Question 1: “Did another printer write this RFP for the buyer?”

Have you ever received an RFP and thought to yourself, “This looks like a printer wrote it!” You’re probably right and that printer is in the driver’s seat. It happened to us last week. We received a RFP and concluded another firm had the inside track. We walked away without bidding and spent time elsewhere.

You might disagree with our decision, but we’d rather spend time with customers creating RFPs, planning projects from scratch, or working with customers who don’t send RFPs in the first place. Think about your chances of winning before responding, or at least consider doing a little exploration by first asking the buyer a few questions.

Question 2: “Can you please explain the overall project and how this print job fits in?”

Your hope is that the buyer will explain how the job fits into the overall objective to understand the big picture. This will open up more questions to help you better serve the customer’s needs, offer advice, save them money, change the approach and increase the likelihood of a successful result. The print job is just the tip of the iceberg.

For example, a printer called us recently to team up on a project. It received a RFP to conduct a customer survey and wanted some advice. The customer stated upfront the RFP was going out to three printers and they had a good idea of what they wanted, but were willing to review the RFP and overall project over the phone. The printer was able to help the customer save money and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. It was awarded the project and the buyer appreciated the 30-minute conversation prior to receiving the proposal and pricing.

Question 3: “Please explain what you expect for results?”

Don’t be surprised to hear a vague answer, or assume the print buyer knows how to measure success. Ask about return rates, desired action by recipients, closure rates, revenue generation goals, etc. Offer suggestions to measure outcomes or milestones. Ask for the call to action and how you can help drive this. Help the customer calculate the return on investment. Share what you have experienced on similar projects, educate and help them set more realistic expectations. Even printing of a product user manual should be looked at for possible ways to build in marketing, cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. Help customers internalize their expectations while setting you apart from the competition.

Question 4: “Would you mind if we offer a few approaches beyond the stated RFP requirements?

You are hoping they’ll answer, “Yes.” and most will. All buyers love options, and most will be open to free advice. Give customers and prospects good, better and best choices, and offer different options. Some buyers may be cost conscious and welcome the opportunity to do more of the work, while others want no hassles and desire you to do all the work.

Here is an example of how powerful this question can be: In 2008, a printer in Scottsdale, AZ, pursued business with the athletic department at a major university. The goal of the RFP was to fill seats in the stadium during football games, but the RFP never mentioned this and referenced print jobs and mailings.

The printer owner met with key decision makers, asked the right questions and changed the ball game, no pun intended. He asked about goals and the previous year’s budget, and then figured out the cost per filled seat. The printer then shocked the university by quoting price per filled seat rather than on print jobs.

The print firm—or marketing service provider—took over the entire marketing project while guaranteeing results. It built in performance bonuses and penalties while improving on the previous year’s ROI and won the project. Pretty gutsy, but if marketing is your game, why not go for the whole pie?

To summarize, before getting into the nuts and bolts of a print job RFP, you may want to ask more questions upfront. Your questions may vary from the above, but consider elevating the conversation to a more strategic planning level.

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