You Never Know…

Many years ago I was in a very small building on the near north side visiting a small business for personal reasons. As I usually do, I scanned the buildings’ directory looking for potential printing prospects. I spied a publishing company, wrote down the name, and planned to call them the next day. When I did, the woman I spoke to was very taken aback, wanting to know why I was calling and how I got her name. We had a very brief conversation and I put them in my back burner file as not very likely to do business anytime soon, but I would check in periodically.

Imagine my surprise when three months later I got a call from someone else in the office, asking if I could help her with a very small invitation project. Of course I said yes and set a time for her to come in and look at paper samples. After I showed her everything I had, none of it was to her liking, so I took out all the swatch books that I had on hand (of which there were dozens), then tracked down actual samples of many of the stocks she liked, ran her samples, and ended up billing her less than $100.00. I remember feeling very frustrated and even resentful at times, as I had invested hours and hours of my time, only to be rewarded with a $10 commission. What a colossal waste of my time and energy. Right?

WRONG! That small project led to another small project, which led to another, and before you know it, I was printing all the signage for a symposium that this company hosted twice yearly. This account grew over the next three years to consistently be in my top 3 accounts from a revenue and profit perspective and that continued for 10 years. Even better, the main contact on the account became and remains a good friend of mine to this day, even though I have no business relationship with her any longer.

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • http://JimStiles Jim Stiles

    I agree with your point. However, if I can note, one key aspect of this scenario is that you were working with a “publishing company” that obviously had the potential for growth. In my experience many account reps will grab a small project just because it is a project, without looking at the real potential behind the account. I would imagine you had the foresight to see this potential and that is why you invested the time you did.

    Without the larger opportunity to help support the effort, a rep can waste many hours on “one time projects” that will never lead to anything else. Once an account is profiled as a target opportunity, no project is too small when you can get a chance to impress a new client with your knowhow and service.

  • http://Kelly Kelly

    Thanks for your very insightful comment, Jim.

    Early in my career I made the mistake of thinking that ANY new account was a triumph, and it wasn’t until I spent time thinking of the strategic value of each opportunity that I was able to foster more large scale accounts. While each new client is great, the effort should be proportional to the potential.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting!