Do You Have What It Takes? —DeWese
MY JUNE column innocently introduced the Mañana Man Economic Stimulus Plan for Printing Companies. It was enormously successful. More than 80 companies responded with reasons why they deserved the package. Some companies are already reporting that the program worked for them and that sales are booming.
The entrants got a one-hour brainstorming conference call with one of four industry experts. And, they received my two books, "The Adventures of the Mañana Man Part II" and "Part III" for each of their salespeople—I gave away almost 1,200 books. I also sent each company a pound of Café Dumond french roast coffee and a package of Café Dumond beignet mix
My granddaughter, Caroline, age 19, carefully packed, addressed and delivered all of the boxes to the post office. She elected to use the USPS new Priority Mail Flat Rate cartons because the cartons were free, and most shipments were only $10.35 or, at most, $13.95 for up to 70 pounds. So, we probably spent around $1,000 for shipping.
I was so impressed with Caroline's help, and especially her advanced wisdom, I hired her as my Life Coach. Every day she imparts great advice and some super admonitions about work, saving and health. I had relied on that stupid Mañana Man for 25 years, who has gotten me nowhere.
One company that responded to my free offer even took its cell phones out in the parking lot for the brainstorming session, sat Indian style in a circle, threw my books in the middle, lit them, brewed the coffee laced with two quarts of Jack Daniels and waited for the cops to come.
The next day, sobered up but hung over, they went to work—and report their sales year-to-date are up 23 percent over 2008.
The Stimulus Package companies came in all shapes, sizes and graphic arts segments. Some shops employed one sales rep and some had more than 30 salespeople. Some had annual sales of $1 million, but many were in the $5 million to $20 million revenue range. Two were more than $100 million companies. Some companies were all digital. Some were all sheetfed offset. Others were strictly web operations. There were flexo printers. And some had multiple capabilities.
Respondents related many compelling stories. They were suffering in this miserable economy, but urgently wanted to survive and prosper. The writers noted love for their companies and co-workers, and expressed that love beautifully.
It became more evident than ever that our industry is shrinking, and that there will be fewer companies coming out of this recession. The survivors will have the best salespeople, not necessarily the best equipment. Oh, they will have good machinery, good software, good management and good (low) costs but, above all, they will have dynamite salespeople working within and propelled by a superb marketing program.
Surviving to Thrive
The survivor companies will continue to differentiate themselves. They will excel in different markets, serving customers with different equipment. They will serve some markets where sophisticated buyers manage multimillion-dollar budgets. Other companies will reach buyers who are relatively unsophisticated, overworked and holding down multiple jobs within smaller companies.
The responses that poured in regarding my Stimulus Package reminded me that no matter the complexity and magnitude of your sales job, you all require the same skills. I have written about these skills many times. It's helpful, however, to review them to make sure you are growing as a salesperson.
If you want to be among the successful reps selling graphic communications in 2012, 2015 and even 2020, you should have shown improvement with every new client, with every new job with each passing year. If you assess yourself honestly and find that you are not growing, then you had better start carving out a new career path.
There will probably be great opportunities for bank auditors in the future. After all, we can't afford any more Washington Mutuals or Wachovias. There will also be many job openings at the SEC for investigators to look into hedge funds, and investment funds in general.
The SEC can't stand any more heat from another Bernie Madoff scheme. As a matter of fact, you could probably carve out a career slot in prison supervision or as a guard within one of the country club prisons. A Madoff-type resident serving time in one of those cushy correctional facilities is not likely to attack a guard—that is, unless he accidentally drops the prisoner's golf bag.
I'm just trying to help those of you who aren't going to be around in the future. Here's another booming field that's part of the green movement. It's healthy, outside work and you are your own boss: Can and bottle collecting can make you big bucks as you walk the highways of America. I hear you get $0.05 cents for cans and $0.10 cents for bottles in most states.
Then, of course, there is blogging. That's another self-employed job where you write about whatever you feel like. And, if it's good enough, you'll get a lot of advertisers who pay money to advertise on your site.
Okay, get ready to take the test below. Rate yourself on each skill on scale of one to 10, with 10 being outstanding and one being lousy.
1. The first characteristic/skill is honesty. You must be 100 percent full of integrity. If not, forget print sales and apply for one of the careers I mentioned above.
2. Listening skills. Rate yourself and be truthful.
3. Sincerity. This is both a characteristic and a skill. You are not officious or pretentious. You are not self-righteous or condescending.
4. You possess an outward focus on other people vs. on yourself. You are generally regarded as a helpful person. You can quickly list 10 helpful acts that you provided last week. At parties, you ask questions of others and don't bore people with constant chatter about yourself, your children, your dog or you pickup truck.
So far, you should have at least 30 points. If you are below 20, then you should think about applying for a job in bill collecting. You know, banks, loan companies or credit card collections.
5. Responsiveness. You are super-fast in returning phone calls and e-mails. You respond to customers in minutes, not hours—even if they are red-hot mad and calling to complain. You are just as responsive to small accounts as you are to your largest account.
6. Knowledge. Great salespeople know their products thoroughly, and have the ability to educate and persuade coworkers to meet their own high standards.
7. Creativity. Excellent sales professionals are spontaneously creative, which gives them the ultimate competitive edge. This applies to problem solving for customers or on-the-spot humor. The world is starving for laughter.
8. Persuasiveness. You understand and practice the principles of the Socratic Method for persuasion. If you are going to survive the future, then look it up and learn it.
9. Closing skills. You know how and are willing to close. If you are good at this, you'll also be good at any potentially "confrontational" situation. You know how to ask for the order and then shut up! You should rate yourself a superior closer. It requires courage.
10. You are diligent—a worker who's willing to put in 14-hour days. Someone willing to call on a prospect in creative, non-annoying ways until you have unequivocally disqualified the account. This requires stamina, creativity and optimism.
There are at least a dozen more skills and/or characteristics a good graphic arts salesperson should have, but I will have to write about them later. I'm out of space for this column.
If you scored less than 60, you probably ought to investigate one of the other career paths I noted earlier. Oh, and how about becoming a forest ranger—the kind of ranger who sits at the top of a tower and watches for forest fires. But don't take this job in California. There are too many actual fires.
Letters for Phase II of my Mañana Man Economic Stimulus Plan for Printing Companies are pouring in. The four judges, Dick Gorelick, Linda Bishop, Mark Potter and Wayne Peterson, are going to have a tough job picking winners for the fabulous array of prizes I have planned.
I'm going to take a nap while you readers tally your scores and then either look for a new job or Get Out There and Sell Something! PI
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of "Now Get Out There and Sell Something" and "The Mañana Man, Books II and III," available at www.piworld.com/bookstore. He is chairman of Compass Capital Partners and also authors the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of information regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed 150 printing company transactions and is viewed as the industry's preeminent deal maker. He can be reached via e-mail at HDeWese@CompassCapLtd.com.