The Far Side of Printing

One of my favorite Far Side cartoons shows a huge fishtank with a couple of dolphins staring through the glass at a team of scientists. The sign on the door reads, “Dolphin Speech Research Institute.” The caption depicts what one scientist is saying to another: “Nothing yet. We just keep getting ‘Ha…blah…es…pan…yol over and over again.’”

Are your customers talking to you in one language but you are listening to another?

My friend Dr. Joe Webb has a great quote: It is far more important to stay ahead of your customer than it is your competition.

Printers are famous for following the pack. Equipment sales reps rush in to one printer after another after they make a sale, announcing that a new piece of equipment has been placed and encouraging the next lemming to jump in and keep up.

Instead, why not let the client tell you where to go? After all, they already are.

True story: Years ago I was training for a small triathlon. Since my leg of the team race involved jumping into the freezing cold ocean and swimming a ridiculous length, I went looking for a light wetsuit.

My inquiry at the first dive shop I visited was met with the response, “Nope. Funny, though, you are like the tenth person to ask.” “Really? I responded. Tell me, how’s business?” “Not great,” he answered.


Ask your clients where they are going.

Inquire as to the greatest threat their business is facing. Ask where they will be in six months. A year. Think about what you can do and which solutions you can offer to help out.

Then, figure out how to get there first, set up shop, and be ready to welcome them and solve this new problem.

Your clients are trying to tell you something. Are you listening?

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  • Melissa Sienicki

    A wonderfully insightful blog article. Often we are so quick to talk, to tell potential customers what we want to sell them or what we think we can do for them, that we don’t simply stop and listen – really listen.