Print Buyers Should Screen Calls

I have to laugh at the notion that professional print buyers owe it to printers to pick up the phone when you call them. Why do they owe it to you—or any salesperson?

I screen calls, don’t you? I’m busy, often in the middle of a project, and if I see an 800 number or an “Unknown caller,” I always let it go to voice mail. Every message gets listened to. Then I decide which calls to return. I’d say I return 9 out of 10 calls. That’s the beauty of caller ID. It helps me manage my time.

The idea that print buyers should answer every time the phone rings is ludicrous. If you have something they might need, make that clear in your message, and they’ll call you back.

A printer’s challenge is like every other salesperson’s: making an impression that is so convincing that a prospect gets in touch with you. If you’ve done your homework and have good information about what a prospect needs, regarding print-related products and services, then your message will get returned if you’ve left the right one.

What messages won’t get returned? Here are a few:

“We’re a sheetfed printer and I’d like to tell you more about our capabilities.”

“I’m trying to reach the person who buys printing for your company.”

“…we can save you 30 percent on your commercial printing. Call me back and I’ll tell you how!”

These are the kind of canned and common sales pitches some printers leave, even in 2011. I know because I get them. This is not exclusive to printing, of course. I get similar messages about different products, including telephone and Internet service. I don’t return those either.

Your phone message has to be memorable and professional, as do all of your sales tactics. A phone call shouldn’t be the only way you prospect for business.

Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched her new business in 2013 as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. Now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content.

You may know Margie as the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference. Although she’s exited the event production business, she’s still publishing her Print Tips newsletter. She looks forward to helping companies create and style all of their content so their potential customers sit up and take notice. For details and to sign up for her Print Tips and new marketing blog, visit or e-mail Margie at
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  • http://JimWeaver Jim Weaver

    Margie, I have been in the print business for over 36 years and I answer every phone into my office. I don’t think anyone is that busy as a buyer or seller that they can’t take a phone call!

    Jim Weaver
    Consolidated Graphic Communications

  • http://Margie Margie

    Hi, Jim

    I appreciate your taking the time to comment. I guess we simply have different takes on this, which is fine. If I’m in the middle of something, and I see an 800 number or private caller show up, I’ll let it go to voice mail and listen later.

    Thanks again –


  • http://TimMcKinnon Tim McKinnon

    I’m an owner/salesman so I regularly sit on both sides of the buyer/seller desk and send a lot of sales prospecting calls to my voice mail. This is reality, I don’t talk to one colleague or friend who isn’t by necessity trying to do more at work in less time. There is no time for lame “me too” sales calls. Spike my interest quickly with some way you can actually help me or it’s over after ” I am with ABC company and we do XYZ”.

    P.S. I actually think listening to voice mail has helped me leave better messages for my prospects. Looking forward to your next post on how to make an impression before I even dial.

  • http://MaraHarris Mara Harris

    Hi, Margie
    Bill F. and I have been corresponding about this very issue. I realize that calls should be screened, and I certainly don’t expect a callback on a cold call. You say I should have a memorable message. Well, yeah, but how do you establish relationships if we don’t talk once in a while?

    If the only interaction I have with you is when you want a rush job, there’s not going to be much in the trust bank to draw on. I get it that the buyer is busy and doesn’t have time to chat, or meet, but how are they going to deploy new technology and good printing if they don’t? IT’S THEIR JOB!!!!

    I was taught to return phone calls–period–especially if I have an ongoing relationship (I don’t expect return calls from cold calls). I had a customer express great interest in the solutions we could deliver to solve specific problems, they indicated they would provide specs, and then didn’t return my phone calls for over 6 months. I was persistent but not pushy–once every 3 or 4 weeks to ask for promised specs. I got the message that they didn’t want to work with me, but a simple phone conversation to say they had changed their mind would have been the professional thing to do.

  • http://BlakeNielsen Blake Nielsen


    I appreciate all your posts, especially this one. I spend most of my day attempting to make contact with print buyers. Yes we know you are busy, and yes we know that there are other printers that are serving you. Please keep in mind is our job, our income and a means to provide for ourselves and our families that relies on talking to people who can potentially buy are services.

    There is not one sales person who enjoys cold calling, but there is a reason we do it. We need to know if you are lacking specific services we can provide. I can spend weeks doing research on your company, but that will not guarantee I will not get a call back from you or tell me of your current needs and challenges or if I can truly help you.

    The problem as I see it is that buyers are afraid to tell sales people NO. All sales people have all been trained to be persistent; Call, email, send letters to prospects relentlessly. This is not only a waste of my time, but also the buyers. Why not call the sales person back the 1st time take a minute to hear what he has to say, if there is no advantage to using him, let him know there is not a fit, I am not a good prospect for you. We would all rather be told no and take you off our list, than waste countless hours on something that is going nowhere.

    I have a motto in sales – I am good with “Yes” and even “No”, but being in a state of “indecision” is not a position I want to be in.

    So please say “No” or even “Yes” to those calls and allow those pesky sales people to move on or move forward.