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Harris DeWese

The Mañana Man Online

By Harris DeWese

About Harris

Harris DeWese is the author of "Now Get Out There and Sell Something." He is chairman/CEO at Compass Capital Partners and an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of info regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed 100-plus printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the industry. He specializes in investment banking, M&A, sales, marketing and management services to printers.


Dialing for Dollars —DeWese

DOES ANYBODY really, really, ever, ever listen when a recorded message tells you, “This call may be monitored for quality?”

I don’t think so. I don’t believe there are any monitors. Monitors are a fictitious form of marketing communication. The company is just telling us, “We care about quality, and so we are monitoring this call!”

Or, maybe I’ve got it wrong. Maybe they are monitoring my quality. Like maybe they are checking on the quality of my baritone, my diction or my rationale for the call.

Why else would they give me a warning that the call was being monitored?

I’ve been through some tortuous telephone customer service phone calls, me being the tortured customer, and no one ever interrupted and said, “Sir, I am a supervisor, and I regret the behavior of our hostile, antagonistic telephone representative.”

And, why is it that no matter when I call or who I call, I am told, “Our agents are experiencing heavy call volume now due to the success of our new Mister Licorice Machine?” Then some of these customer-oriented (whoops, the new term is customer-centric) companies tell me, “Your wait time is now estimated at 17 minutes.”

When I was finally connected after 23 minutes of dead air, I was speaking to a man in a faraway land. He seemed intent on correcting my description of my needs and became belligerent when I asked questions. I had said, “Well, excuse me. I’m just an ignorant customer who spent $2,213 for your deluxe licorice maker. I did not intend to spoil your day.”

I guess only customers well-versed in the technology should call, and his condescending attitude told me that my ignorance was ruining his day.

Well, his lousy attitude ruined my day, and that’s hard to do because I am a happy guy. In fact, Mr. Know-it-all Customer Service Rep only ruined my day for about 15 minutes, and then it was over. I just put the candy machine in the garage with all the other stuff that doesn’t work.

Cut Costs, Not Service

Major corporations in their inexorable drive to cut customer service costs are teaching us to perfect our customer service by working every day to make it better, faster, more responsive and fun. They also prove to us that nothing stings more than insulting our intelligence.

The PRINTING IMPRESSIONS Website encourages readers to converse with me about these columns and inquire about sales problems and challenges they may encounter.

I received one very compelling e-mail that asks about two difficulties the print salesman is experiencing, and it is reprinted below.

“Hi Harris. Your columns are always amusing and rarely helpful.” (I will respond to this reader as I go along.)

Thank you, Mister Charm School. Where did you get your degree in human motivation? Then, for no apparent reason, he takes another shot in parentheses. I guess this is supposed to mean his question is just between us.

“(It’s tough coming up with a useful idea once a month, isn’t it?)”

He’s probably a columnist for Harpers or Atlantic Monthly. I’ll respond. Yes it is! I try for at least one each month. Thankfully, the editors are so busy, they’ve allowed me to slide for nearly 23 years or approximately 350,000 words. Now, as to your first question.

“What have you learned about voice mail? I have learned that it takes no courage whatsoever to pick up the phone and dial a prospect, when I know I’m only going to get a recording. But after the fourth or fifth call to a machine, I’ve no idea what to say anymore, nor do I know if I should keep trying. How do you deal with the fact that almost no one answers his or her phone anymore? Please address this in your column.”

I know nothing about your prospect list, so I will assume you are calling qualified buyers. I went to your Website, and your company offers a wide variety of products and services, ranging from wide-format digital printing to fulfillment. The Website, alas, is poorly done with amateur photography, some images almost too dark to recognize, and I suspect it belies your company’s attention to quality graphics. So, if a voice-mail target decides to visit your Website before returning your call, then he probably won’t.

I don’t know what you are saying, nor have I heard your voice. Long, complicated messages are intrusive, and most voice-mail systems tell the target the length of your call. Anything more than about 15 seconds will get dumped. Have you had anyone at your company critique your messages, from its content and delivery to your pace and inflection? Ask someone you trust to give you a reaction to a few typical messages.

I am the CEO of two companies and get deluged with voice mails. Many callers are guilty of giving me their number at the beginning of the call, then leaving a long message and never repeating their phone number, or they repeat the number so fast that I have to listen several times to get it correctly.

Have your target prospects/suspects ever heard of you (aside from your eminently forgettable multitude of voice mails) or have they heard of your company? (The company name only remotely relates to what you do.) So, if the targets have not been exposed to either you or the company in some other venue or media, they are getting a call from someone for whom they have no positive awareness, much less any awareness, representing a company for which they have no awareness. The answer here is that a telephone-calling program must be a well-orchestrated element of an overall marketing program.

Just Another Voice?

You are just another voice in the glut of calls received by your potential customers. Now, if your existing customers don’t return your calls, then I’m really worried. OK, here is your next question.

“What about prospecting with e-mail? What do you recommend I put in the subject line so that a prospect opens it? Ninety-nine percent of my cold call e-mails vanish into cyber nothingness. Occasionally, somone e-mails me back telling me never to e-mail again. Does a courageous sales rep keep e-mailing regardless? Do courageous sales reps get sued for spamming? I don’t know the answers. Please address this in your column.”

There is nothing courageous about sending an e-mail blast, and I know of no one who has been sued. Ignored, as in your case? YES! Sued? No.

Mister Charm, nobody in our industry (that I know about) prospects by e-mail, unless it’s a followup to some question(s) that arose during a face-to-face sales call. I have a couple of friends who use e-mail newsletters, and I’m a little embarrassed about that because, you see, we are print communications specialists encouraging marketers to use print.

But, if you must use your “courageous” e-mail, make certain it is letter perfect. Your e-mail has a misspelling, incorrect spacing and grammatical mistakes. E-mails should be brief, beautifully written, and not insulting or condescending. You might give them the link to your Website, but then it’s not so hot to wait until management has got it fixed. Try saying, “Help! I’m in jail in Argentina, and I want to come home!”

I urge you to get some help with your prospecting from your sales manager, NAPL or PIA.

Now, if you write back and tell me that I didn’t help your telephone and e-mail campaign, then I’m going to send the boys in the strait jackets. It ain’t working. Remember: I’ve got your name and address.

Now, if anyone is still reading, please get out there and sell something! PI


About the Author

Harris DeWese is the author of Now Get Out There and Sell Something, available through NAPL or PIA/GATF. He is chairman and CEO at Compass Capital Partners and is an author of the annual “Compass Report,” the definitive source of information regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed more than 100 printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the printing industry. He specializes in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, sales, marketing, planning and management services to printing companies. He can be reached via e-mail at

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