Three Points on the Agenda --DeWese
Okay, I want all of you in the back to settle down. Don't make me call security on you. I can't be waiting up here while you finish those beers and hoagies. I've got some serious business to cover in this column and we've got to get started.
Here's the agenda.
First, I'm going to talk about the importance of customers, which some of you dolts still don't seem to get.
Next, I'm going to talk about good negotiating skills, which some of you—especially those in the back row—appear to think is synonymous with fist fights and arguments.
Finally, I'm going to report on the leaders in my Great American Print Sales Prospecting Contest.
But, before I start, I want to say a few words about the U.S. economy. I go to a lot of conferences where important economists make predictions about the economy. Lately, they say, "The economy is bad, but long about June the economy is going to get better. See my charts and graphs."
Many of these learned economists fail, however, to relate the economy to your companies. While I hate to see the weak economy's negative effects on many good people, I will tell you that your company's economy is important to you. I have seen side-by-side, neighboring printing companies with the same equipment perform very differently in this soft economy. One suffers greatly and lays off 30 percent of its workers. The other prospers and grows sales by 20 percent, while profiting 25 percent to 30 percent.
Driving the Economy
My point is that, more than any outside factors, people drive the economy of individual companies. And, within these people, leadership is the most important factor affecting the economics of your company.
Okay, first item on the agenda—"The Importance of Customers."
The CEO of a $40 million sheetfed company told me recently, "We never started to grow until we learned to say, 'Yes!' " His statement reminded me of a small newspaper clipping I keep in my wallet. I'm not sure who wrote these lines originally, but they should be the 10 Commandments of Selling. I'm going to paraphrase the newspaper author to make her words a little more politically correct. She wrote:
* A customer is the most important person in your business.
* A customer is not dependent on us. We are dependent on her/him.
* A customer is not an interruption of our work. She/he is the purpose of it.
* A customer does us a favor when he/she gives an order for printing or allows us to quote a job. We aren't doing them a favor by performing (it's our job).
* A customer is part of our business—not an outsider.
* A customer is not just a check in the mail. He or she is a human being with feelings just like our own.
* A customer is someone who comes to us with wants and needs. It is our job to fill them.
* A customer deserves the most courteous attention we can give him or her.
* A customer is the lifeblood of this, and every, business. The customer pays your salary.
* Without the customer we would have to close our doors.
You may think the author's words are platitudes and unrealistic. If you do, why not consider a career in sheep herding? The printing companies that embrace these principles from top to bottom—CEOs, corporate officers, operating managers, the sales department, press room, prepress, bindery and transportation—are the companies that create good company economies during bad national economies.
Next agenda item—"The Importance of Good Negotiating Skills."
I am convinced that many of our citizens, including many company presidents, are conflict averse. They resist any potential conflict in which they may be required to negotiate. This causes too much pent-up stress that eventually bubbles to the top and manifests itself in outbursts of angry behavior. You know, stuff like road rage, spousal abuse and dog kicking.
Avoiding conflict makes the avoider feel worse about himself when his self-esteem is already lower than a snake's belly. If we had forecasters who were "psyche economists," they'd say, "See my chart. Look at this low self-esteem line that is causing a high propensity for ulcers and angry explosions. Now, see the anger line go down when the self-esteem line goes up." Maybe I'll declare myself a psyche economist and Oprah will invite me on her show.
I negotiate every day. I've completed 60 M&A deals over the past five years and, during that period, I've experienced horrible negotiators and great ones on the other side of these transactions. I recently worked on a very difficult deal involving many lawyers and a lot of rancor on both sides.
One young lawyer stood out as the best. I asked him where he got his great negotiating skills and he told me that he had a great professor in law school. This led me to one of my Carramba experiences, which is like a breathtaking flash of bright insight. I said to myself, "Self, get yourself a law school textbook on negotiating and see what they teach aspiring lawyers."
The textbook described five different negotiating personalities. See which is your's.
There are Avoiders. These people ignore the presence of conflict. They avoid conflict because they fear the intervention. The thought of negotiating anything (like paying for overs or paying for overtime) causes enormous stress. The Avoider's strategy is to let someone else fight the battle. These Avoiders are probably also the salespeople who won't make new account calls.
Then there are Accommodators. These people give in immediately so as not to impair their relationship with the other party. They say, "She won't love me any more if try to take an alternative position. I'll just neglect my own wants and needs and concede." They want peace at any cost.
The most aggressive negotiators are Competitors. They believe that they must win and others must lose. They say, "I've got no reason to maintain a relationship with the other party because my interests are more important than my opponent's." These negotiators use ultimatums, threats and coercion to win at any cost.
The fourth category is comprised of Compromisers. These are the people who always want to split the difference. They will say, "I think we deserve our full invoice of $10,000 for this job that you are rejecting because 10 percent of the copies ghosted on the back cover. You don't want to pay anything? Let's just split the difference at $5,000." In this case, neither side gets anywhere near what they want. The Compromiser, you see, can win/win or lose/lose.
The final personality is the Collaborator. They focus on integrating the interests of each party by speaking for their own interests, while still respecting the interests of the other party. Collaborators are masters at asking questions, remaining calm and determining the underlying interests of the other parties. And, isn't that what great salespeople always do?
Taking the Lead
Now, for the early leaders in my Great American Print Sales Prospecting Contest:
Winnebago Color Press, of Menasha, WI, is near the top with 36 points. Al Clark, Winnebago's sales manager, writes, "Our team continues to be very excited about its progress." Benny Bowman, at Worth Higgins & Associates in Richmond, VA, has reported 42 points thus far. In addition, Chip Stein, of Sandy Alexander in Clifton, NJ, reports 27 points. Brandy Tyson-Flyn at United Lithographers in Spokane, WA, has 30 points so far, including a resurrected account that has placed seven orders. Others, like Custom Printing in North Little Rock, AR, and Executive Printing in Marietta, GA, are also in the running.
There is plenty of contest time remaining, so get cracking and build your companies with a solid prospecting effort.
It's time to adjourn this session. All together now, "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.