How to Make a Sale: A Print Buyer Weighs In
Before We Meet:
- This is where the research pays off. Make it very clear that you have done so in your second message. Make it individualized, not a hodgepodge of written or verbal copy-and-paste.
- Tell me what services you provide. Ask me what kind of jobs I generally buy and what kind I have done in the past six months. Keep in mind I may have jobs on the horizon that I'm not at liberty to discuss at the time, even if I think you'd be a great fit.
- Tell me your optimal job types and their quantities.
- If I exclusively buy one-color print for garage door opener manuals, why would I want to hear about your 12-pt. C2S iron-cross folded 5/5 aqueous coated celebrity golf tournament mailings or supermarket all-weather recycled cut plastic signage? Get a sense of my needs before telling me about niche market products, regardless of how nicely done they are.
- Consider my delivery point. If you're hundreds of miles away from my warehouse, I will need some serious enticement to consider the expense, practicality and desirability of that kind of shipping. (To this day, not a single printer I have ever spoken to has considered this. Warehousing is a very important part of my job and of our order fulfillment system.)
Once these preliminary discussions are made, and we agree to meet, be flexible in the timing of the meeting.
When We Meet:
- Examine your samples first! Make sure they are in perfect condition, flawlessly printed, fairly recent and showcase the best of your company's abilities. If you have to make an excuse for a sample, or even one small part of one, don't bring it. (If your company doesn't have enough high-quality samples to impress a new customer, update your resumé, because they're not going to be around much longer.) Be prepared to leave a few samples behind for my reference.
- You are, in a way, on a job interview. Present yourself accordingly. You are my first impression of what the people at your company are like, and how much your boss cares about that fact.
- Lunch really isn't appropriate for a first-time meeting. (Think about it: Do you really want to be making your pitch while being continually interrupted by wait staff, with crying babies a few feet away, or with food in your mouth?) Meet me in my office in the morning. You want to see me after I've had my coffee, not after I've eaten or when I have less time for the day's deadlines and unexpected issues.
- Arrive no sooner than 10 minutes before the planned time and no more than five minutes after. Call if you're going to be delayed, and go for a walk or get some coffee if you're early.
- Tailor your presentation (including samples) based on what you learned from your research and during our preliminary discussions.
- Other than success stories, nothing should be said about other customers. Under no circumstances should you bad-mouth a customer, former or current plant employee, or, for that matter, former employer.
- Keep it to 20 minutes. If you can't fit everything in that time, you're doing it wrong.
- No gifts—unless it's something like a notepad, calendar or pen with your company logo.
- Some generic small talk right at the beginning or end of the meeting is fine, but no personal questions! This is not the time to ask me what I did on the weekend, where I live, how I met my wife, what sports my kids play, or when I'm going on vacation, nor is it the time to tell me those things about yourself.
If all goes well, I'll want to go on a plant tour.