Mañana Man Expands Hostage Assault —DeWese
I have submitted this column by special courier since I'm holed up in a secret location with 150 print buyers that I'm holding hostage. I am holding these hostages until all you printers raise your prices by 25 percent. You were all supposed to raise prices at midnight on my 60th birthday, June 30, 2002, but, alas, you let me down. So I've still got the hostages and I've added some new guests—75 bankers.
I got the idea for rounding up the print buyers from my pal Dave, a printer in New York. I got the idea for the bankers from about 50 printers who have called to tell me how hard it is to borrow money for new equipment, sales growth, refinancing or acquisitions. They all told me that it is hard to borrow money, and that the banks have added lots of new loan origination fees. One printer said, "Mañana Man, the banks have turned their backs on our industry."
You see, during the high-flying '90s, the banks made a lot of big and bad loans to companies in all industries, including printing. Now, as you have read in the newspaper and seen on CNN, there are a whole bunch of bankruptcies and bad loans; so banks have to charge extra to make up for their past mistakes. The big banks, for example, are going to write off more on the Enron bankruptcy or the WorldCom debacle than they have written off on the printing industry for the past 40 years.
Instead of turning their backs on the printing industry, they should embrace us for the enormity of our numbers, our need for expensive capital equipment and our hard-working integrity. Generally, except for occasional disasters like the ill-conceived and then poorly implemented Printing Arts America or Master Graphics, we pay our bills.
So, while the rest of you are having a great summer vacationing at Disney World, Las Vegas, Cape Cod and the Jersey Shore, I'm stuck here, a lone champion for the printing industry, cooking stew for my prisoners. Or, maybe, you are summering in your second home on Martha's Vineyard or the Hamptons while I'm supervising group activities for the bunch of whining, sniveling bankers and print buyers.
They all want to negotiate their release or special treatment. After all, they're great negotiators—they are bankers and print buyers. They are used to holding all the cards as in, "I've got the money you want, so pay our fees and jump our fences." Or, "I've got the purchase orders, so give me the lowest bid or turn off your presses."
But, this time, I have the negotiating advantage. I've got the keys to their Quonset hut quarters, the quarters for the pay phones and control of the daily menus. (I took great delight in confiscating their cell phones.) This frustrates the hell out of my hostages because they only know how to negotiate when they have total control. They don't know the principles of, or the value of, sales negotiations.
You see, I view selling and negotiating as the same thing. In both situations, you are trying to persuade someone else to your point of view. I have to do it all the time when I represent selling shareholders of printing companies. I have to negotiate (sell) with my client and I have to sell (negotiate with) the buyers.
Usually, my client's brother-in-law, the accountant, told him his company is worth $20 million. The brother-in-law read the price that WorldCom paid for Sprint and applied the same stupid math to my client's printing company. The buyer, on the other hand, wants to steal the printing company by offering $10 million. You get the picture. I've got a lot of selling to do. I have to effectuate a compromise that represents fair value to both parties.
Here are some things I've learned about selling/negotiating that are common to both situations:
Never shy away from, or procrastinate about, a sales call or a negotiation. Some print sales-people fret about failure and find excuses for not making a sales call. Seize the moment! Initiative and momentum are vital to both selling and negotiating.
Always prepare for a negotiation and a sales call—even if you have to stay up all night or, worst case, excuse yourself to the bathroom to gather and spend five minutes organizing yourself. Best case, however, will find you the day before listing on paper the issues from both points of view, yours and the other side, whether it's a customer or a prospect. Try to rank, in order, the selling points or negotiating issues from least important to most important. This will enable you to dispense with the easy negotiations first.
Never, never throw down the gauntlet or draw a line in the sand unless you are dealing with the rare one tenth of one percent of the population that is a "hard-line bully." Many people are bullies, but most will succumb as long as you show no anger and keep the sales or negotiating conversation alive. The best course is to ask questions.
Never refer to a negotiation as a "negotiating session." That raises red flags to other side. Instead, say, "I have some questions about your complaints." Or, "May I ask you some questions about your criteria for selecting your print suppliers?"
Whether selling or negotiating, force yourself to deal with one issue at a time. If you are stuck or at a stalemate, suggest that you move on to the next issue. You may be able to trade a compromise on the impasse by getting what you want on a later issue.
You must convince yourself that you are a creative salesperson. You must believe that you are an innovative negotiator. Your state of mind, namely self-confidence, is critical to successful selling and negotiations.
You must believe that you have the ability to persuade the other person or you are doomed before you begin. Understand and be mature enough to realize that although you will not prevail in every case, you will at least have learned something new about yourself, your skill, selling or negotiating and, as a consequence, you will be better the next time.
Learn to Work Together
Never tell the other person, "I'm creative. I will come up with a solution." Instead suggest, "Surely we can creatively resolve this issue." If you have an idea, say, "You may have given me an idea earlier." If you are fresh out of ideas, ask, "Do any ideas come to your mind?"
Finally, whether it's selling or negotiating, resolve that you are going to study your craft at least once each year. Read a book or attend a seminar. Smug self-satisfaction is an insidious disease.
And then, ultimately—this is trite and you've heard it often—selling like negotiating must be a win/win. You make the other person a winner and you become a winner. Viewing yourself as the conqueror and the other person as the vanquished is destructive behavior.
I've got to end this. It's time to bake the bread and start the stew for the hostages' evening meal. After supper, I'm going to make them sit around the campfire while I teach them a few negotiating principles. I may have to slap a few of them upside the head to make my points.
Meanwhile, you guys and gals need to get out there and sell something!
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of Now Get Out There and Sell Something!, published by Nonpareil Books. He is a principal at Compass Capital Partners and is an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of information regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese specializes in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, sales, marketing, planning and management services to printing companies.