DeWese--A (Ma?ana) Man Who Can't Say No
One of my partners here at Compass Capital Partners, Steve Marcus, says that I can't say no. He says that I have a "mother-hen complex" and, because of this malady, I am compelled to solve the problems of others. I guess you could say that I'm "can't-say-no impaired."
Years ago, when I was a big-shot executive, one of my secretaries, the lovely Miss Pam Stewart, made a needlepoint decoration and framed it for my office. It read, "No, Nein, Negatory, Non, Hell No!" She had observed the same weakness that Steve Marcus has discovered in me. I keep Pam's needlepoint near my office phone so I can see it. It doesn't do any good. I still can't say no.
I wish I'd been looking at the needlepoint when one of my buddies, the great Charlie Hayes, owner and CEO of Hayes Litho, called me the other day. Charlie told me that his salespeople had voted, and they wanted me to come down and do a seminar on print sales.
Charlie put a close on me right away. He asked, "Man [he always refers to me by omitting the Mañana], will you do it?"
I said, with as much conviction as I could possibly muster, "Charlie, I barely have time to shave in the morning. I just don't have time to do seminars anymore."
Charlie responded, "They voted for you, Man."
I replied feebly, "Charlie, seminars require a lot of preparation time, and I'm consumed with all this printing industry consolidation investment banking stuff."
Charlie said, "The vote was unanimous, Man."
I was weakening, "How long would I have to speak?"
Charlie answered, "Just half a day. How much will you charge me?"
I said feebly, "Charlie, I would have to charge too much for this kind of thing."
I had an idea. I proposed, "I'll make you a deal. I try to help some underprivileged kids with a baseball program. Give me 20-dozen baseballs for the boys and 20-dozen softballs for the girls, and I'll do your seminar."
Charlie said, "It's done."
Then I asked him to poll his salespeople for topics for the seminar. I said, "Ask them to limit the topics to those that interest them most, and keep it to three or four topics. I can't cover all of print sales in one morning."
Charlie faxed me the list. It was a backbreaking list of the toughest print sales topics I've ever seen.
Oh, how I wish I'd said no and bought the baseballs myself!
Here is Charlie's list of topics with my comments attached.
Prospecting—Every printing company owner wants to know how to motivate salespeople to prospect.
This topic alone could consume a five-day seminar, and some folks still wouldn't prospect for new accounts. Salespeople who are great prospectors must have a "prospecting attitude," be well organized, well prepared and, finally, they have to make prospecting a DAILY WAY OF LIFE!
Pricing—Nobody wants to leave any money on the table. In order to price any product "at the market," salespeople must have direct knowledge of their competitor's pricing.
This knowledge must be stored in a database, even if only in your head. This pricing knowledge requires superb questioning techniques and thorough postmortems on every lost job. Many salespeople simply "write off" a lost job or fail to pursue jobs while the bids are live.
Sales rep case studies (what certain reps do to be successful and unique)—Fundamentally, the successful salespeople who I know possess self-esteem. They are selfless. They have excellent conversational ability. They are motivated to serve the needs of LOTS of customers who have LOTS of printing jobs. They are not content with some of the jobs. They want ALL of the jobs.
What print buyers really want—They want job security. They want to be held high in their bosses' esteem. They want peace of mind and they want to have fun business relationships.
Reasons to follow up after prospecting—Charlie's salespeople are asking, "What do I do after I make the first prospecting call?" I've written and said this 1,000 times: "You should leave every first call with nine reasons to contact the prospect again. Three personal reasons, three print-related reasons and three organizational reasons."
Penetrating the perfect, but difficult, client—This topic is a two-week seminar. Briefly, you must have a long-term plan to get the account. You must work your plan and re-work the plan as circumstances dictate. You must have a mind-set that says, "I will prevail. It may take three years, but I will prevail."
I have a lot of good ideas on this subject, but it would take a 300-page book to cover them all. Try brainstorming with friends to come up with ideas to penetrate that perfect account you yearn to get.
How to stand a chance with a prospect when you deliver basically the same product as the competition and the client is happy with the current supplier—Good heavens, Charlie. This is a one-year seminar and deserves 100 uniforms, 50 bats and 50-dozen baseballs.
Here's just one idea that has worked. Try proposing and selling the prospect on making you its "official" emergency backup printer. Tell the prospect you will take on any botched or late project at the competition's price. And, then make sure it happens to their complete satisfaction. Document the "sale" with a formal agreement/letter that lists the "terms" of your "emergency services."
Time management in the printing industry—The best time-managers are salespeople who have a plan that they have written themselves. They are driven people who don't waste time collecting Bill Clinton jokes or kibitzing with co-workers.
If you are going to kibitz, do it with customers and prospects. If you want to spend time doing things you enjoy, spend the time with your customers and prospects instead of co-workers and friends.
How to overcome the price objection in a competitive situation—Charlie, for this I should have charged an all-expense-paid trip for 200 kids to the World Series. This is no seminar. It's a two-year program for a master's degree.
Most salespeople hear they are 20 percent too high and say, "Gee, I don't know how your printer can do it for that. Thanks. Bye." Click.
In order to overcome price objections, you have to keep the buyer talking and revealing things to you. You should be asking a long series of "what if" questions to get at how you might add value that overcomes that 20-percent difference. The most important task is, however, the need to keep them talking. As soon as you "resign" from a pricing objection, you are dead meat.
Discussion of what should constitute a typical day— One of Charlie's salespeople asked for this one. OK: In the plant by 6 a.m. Write up jobs, do paper work and meet with CSRs until 8 a.m. Prospect for five hours and call on existing accounts for five hours. Do this five days a week for five years and you will be in the 39.6-percent income tax bracket.
Discussion on how to sell the most profitable printing and how to target the most profitable customers—Charlie, this is a Ph.D. in print sales. There are only 11 print salespeople in America who do this consistently well. For this answer, you will have to sponsor the inner city little leagues in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Actually, how to do these things is not that hard for me to answer. The question is: "Will a salesperson do it once they know how?"
Oh, man. I wish I could say no. Charlie has given me a lot of work for a morning seminar. I'm going to test your ability to say NO.
I want all of you to get out there and sell something!
Who said no? I heard that!
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of "Now Get Out There and Sell Something!" published by Nonpareil Books. DeWese is a principal at Compass Capital Partners Ltd. DeWese specializes in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, sales, marketing, planning and management services to printing companies. He is one of the authors of the annual Compass Report, the definitive source of information regarding printing industry merger and acquisition activity.