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Carl Gerhardt

Business Sense & Sensibility

By Carl Gerhardt

About Carl

Carl Gerhardt is the chairman of Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign & Graphics Operations LCC, and a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. The company’s Marketing & Print Division, headquartered in Plymouth, MI, is comprised of Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print brands of marketing, printing, mailing and Web services providers. Its Sign & Graphics Division, headquartered in Columbia, MD, is comprised of Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign and graphics communications providers.

Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.


Attacking Quotes Is Simple Business Sensibility


I have always been amazed at how poorly many, if not most, firms handle requests for quotes (RFQs). Over the years I have done a lot of competitive shopping over the phone. Typically if I called 10 companies and asked for a quick simple quote on a print job, only about two would even ask for my name and phone number. The ones that did get my name and number would rarely attempt to follow up. Today with more RFQs coming online, following up on these opportunities is equally, if not more, important than phone inquiries. Still, the same principle of follow-up applies.

In my own center, I found that I had to frequently remind our staff of the importance of handling quotes professionally and following up. I once wrote what I called a "Phone Quote Attack Plan" on 3X5" cards and placed them by each phone. It included the basics:

  • Always ask for name, company and phone number.
  • Ask for job specs.
  • Call back or e-mail quote within five minutes.
  • Follow up within half-day or before their decision time.
  • Ask for order. What can I do to earn the business?
  • Follow up within five days of delivery. Everything OK?
  • Send thank you note.

It helped because it made it clear that going after business was a top priority of management. Moreover, it created a consistent method of handling RFQs.

We later put in place a weekly sales meeting to review RFQ wins/losses, keep score and hold everyone accountable for this critical issue. It seems to be human nature: fulfilling orders and daily activities take a higher priority than following up on potential business. I would readily admit that if a salesperson was taking the request, follow up would normally take top priority. I am talking primarily about those calls that are picked up by whomever answers the phone and Web inquiries.  

Let’s remember that we are an instant gratification society and expect immediate response to everything. The person requesting the RFQ is no different. The firms that respond quickly and then follow up diligently and quickly (within an hour or two) will find that their odds of getting the job go up exponentially.

We often spend big money on sophisticated marketing plans to attract new customers. If we fall down on quick, professional response to quotes, we end up making this the weakest link in the marketing chain. We leave the low hanging fruit on the tree for a more aggressive competitor to pick.

It should be simple business sensibility to attack quotes. Following up with folks wanting to buy from us should be at the top of everyone’s priority list. Savvy business managers do not take it for granted.

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