Printing and Promotional Products used to be divided into specialties. Boy has life changed not only do you need to be multi-facited but you better be multi-dimensional. The printing field up until recently used to be dominated by the large companies. A Moore Business Form or Supreme Envelopes had sales people who were given thirty to fifty accounts. All they had to do was know their product well, put out fires and write orders. They would drop into their accounts every couple of weeks, take their clients out to lunch, then write up an order. This reminds me of a recent Visa commercial, Oh if life was so easy.
Today large companies have downsized, their best sales people have become disillusioned, they no longer believe their jobs are secure. The best sales people have become print brokers but in order to survive with today’s margins they had to learn to sell other printed products then the product they once sold exclusively. Those that adapted early have remained successful, those that were slow on the trigger have had their earning plummet. Just like a major part of manufacturing has shifted to a more productive place namely the orient, so has buyers preferences on who they will deal with for their printing and promotional product needs.
These buyers are swamped with tasks. They don’t have time for long lunches or order takers. If they need a repeat item they will email you the order or will email a quote to 3 or more companies who offer the same product. How then does a salesman survive. Rather than be a salesman or order taker, you must be an indispensable partner to your clients. You must understand your client’s business, his business climate, his competition and what he needs to make his business grow. Look for fresh new ideas for his next promotion or help him combine 2 processes into one form thus reducing his time and expense on that task. Help them to understand new technology and how it will better his business. An example of this is that I recently approached one of my long time retail customers and suggested it was time to start a gift card program.
After educating him on a few facts, like 25% of people never use their alloted money, that nearly 75% of people spend more than their gift card amount and that gift cards ease cash flow on a company, he jumped on the band wagon. The initial order was for 10,000 cards. Four months later he ordered another 50,000 cards. We are now in the process of launching a loyalty card program. The customer understands that the more information he has on his customers buying habits, the more likely he can cater to those needs and make his company more successful.
Speak to any forms salesman and I bet today he is selling 4 color process printing, envelopes, business cards, labels, and digital printing. Speak to any promotional product salesman who used to sell pens, mugs and calendars, and I bet he sells apparel, watches, lanyards, electronics, and golf accessories. If they don’t chances are they are retired. The really successful people are selling both printing and promotional products. The lines have blurred and the combination of these 2 product lines and understanding their value to their customers survival have resulted in the true winners. Even the way a customer has traditonally ordered has changed due to e-commerce and web sites. Today you need to be eclectic and open to change.
Talk to me in 5 years and see what you and I will need to sell to stay competitive and successful. Rest on your laurels, will be synonymous with rest in peace. Learn from the past but be open to the future.
If you have any questions about where this industry is going or where you fit in, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 514-337-2238 I’d be happy to give you my opinion.
Steven Schneidman has a B.A. in Psychology, an MBA in Finance, has taught Finance at a large University, worked at the head office of a major bank and currently owns a successful printing and promotional product company in Montreal, Canada who services clients throughout North America.