Almost every printer that I talk to nowadays is complaining about sales. They say they are not losing clients, but their clients are just ordering less than they used to. Here are three proven ways to increase your sales.
Give ‘em a Ring
Telemarketing—Call your current customers. Every sales consultant preaches that the easiest way to increase sales is to get more sales from your existing clients. The reason is simple—they know you and your company and will normally see you or take your phone call. Other than your time, you have almost no other out of pocket cost to sell more to your existing client base.
Make up a call list—start with your top 100 or 200 clients. If you want to add to that list, print out last year’s orders for, say, November and start calling in October to any customer who had an order over a certain amount; $500, for example. An amazing amount of the printing that most shops do is seasonal in nature or event driven, so there is a good chance they will re-order. You can simply call them to remind them of their order last year, and ask if they will be ordering same or similar items this year.
Divide your list among your sales staff or CSRs. Twenty calls a day per person is really the minimum that I would recommend. If your contact is not there, leave them a voice mail that you called—tell them you wanted to touch base and you will call them back. If you get a live person on the phone and your contact is not available or not in, try to find out the best time to call back. Make sure you call back, but stop after five calls. The key is the process and persistence in your telemarketing effort.
When you do speak with the client, make sure you ask when would be a good time to speak to them again. Most will not have immediate needs, but can tell you when they are going to a trade show or when they are having an event. Make sure you follow up, as it will pay dividends.
Make it Personal
Get face-to-face with your top customers. Set appointments at their offices or invite them for a tour of your shop. The key to these meetings is to get to know them better and find out what their challenges are in their businesses. Then discuss ways you have helped similar companies overcome those challenges. If you are the owner and have outside sales staff, go with them on these appointments.
Another way to get face-to-face is holding an open house. Invite your customers and your prospects into your operation. If your invitee list is very large, you may consider having two or more open houses. You may also want to extend invitations to the press and local dignitaries such as the mayor, councilmen, community organization leaders, etc. Some companies even bring in a local celebrity in the hope that they will be a draw to increase attendance.
Successful open houses are social events and are not necessarily sales oriented. An open house is held to show off what you can do and create relationships between your company and your attendees that will lead to more business. Send personalized invitations out to your list. Include either response cards or RSVP instructions. Have your sales representatives or customer service representatives follow up with phone calls to the non-responders. Program and then rehearse your open house with the appropriate staff members who will be assisting.
You may want to include your key vendors in your open house. They can be helpful with demos of the equipment and possibly talking about the industry trends.
Another way to get face to face is to conduct shop tours. Most clients will not take the time to come visit your shop unless they are sincere about doing business with your firm or increasing the business you already receive. Shop tours should be scheduled and the tour pre-programmed by your staff. Schedule the tours during busy times of the day. Avoid lunchtime and the end of the workday or work shift. Introduce your staff during the tour. Clients want to meet the people who will be actually involved in the production process. Plus your staff has a chance to meet the people who they do the work for. Make sure you have samples of jobs at each stopping point to illustrate what each piece of equipment or department produces. Pre-select your samples so they are similar jobs to what your client wants to produce.
Tour clients should not only leave with a package of marketing materials and samples, but also something personal that displays your company name and logo. The best items to give out are ones that they may keep in their office and others may see, such as a coffee mug, note cube, memo pads, etc. You should follow up immediately with a thank you letter, and perhaps include a gift certificate or coupon to encourage the client to give you an immediate order.
Like Attracts Like
Join a networking group to expand your marketing area. Find out about all of the networking groups in your area. Join the one that has the most members in an area in which you would like to do more business. Don’t be deterred from joining the group, even if it meets several miles away. If your customers in your primary marketing area are ordering 20% less, then you need to expand your marketing area by at least 20%. Better yet, double your marketing area. Businesses are less concerned today about dealing with a printer that is in their “backyard.” Most orders now come in via email, your website, by fax, by phone or by picking up the job.
The easy part for printers when they join a networking group is to get orders from the existing members, but the real reason to be involved is to get to know the key influential members. Get them to introduce you to their customers and friends. How do you do that? Meet with them at their office and find out who they want to meet or do business with. Then introduce them to people you know that fit that profile.
What this does, is plant IOU’s with each member you help. Then have them meet at your office and they will reciprocate with introductions/referrals. Don’t just get the names of companies and contacts, but have them physically introduce you. The best case scenario is a joint meeting, and if that is not possible, then suggest a phone call, a personal letter, or an email introduction. Don’t ever just wait to get leads from the networking group because it won’t happen.
These are three relatively simple and inexpensive ways to create more sales activity, which should lead to more estimates and more orders. Don’t just implement one of these methods, but do all three. And do them now.
Mitch Evans is president of Mitch Evans Consulting, which is specifically targeted to meet the consulting needs of the quick and small commercial printing industry. His areas of expertise are in strategic planning, valuation, mergers and acquisition, financial planning, new technology, and “1-2-1” coaching. Evans regularly speaks to printing associations and groups on these and related subjects. Contact him at 561/351-6950 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CALL OUT QUOTE
If your customers in your primary marketing area are ordering 20% less, then you need to expand your marketing area by at least 20%. Better yet, double your marketing area. Businesses are less concerned today about dealing with a printer that is in their “backyard.”