Please note that I'm not recommending that anyone hire a failed printshop owner, especially in a sales role. I wrote recently that I think there are probably 1,000 or more former owners working for other printers right now, and most of them aren't really contributing. In all but rare cases, I'd rather have the list than the owner. And in terms of any real relationship with the customer, I'd probably rather have the employee who dealt with the customer than the owner. Think about that for a moment. If your company went out of business and I wanted to capture your customers, would I be better off with you or with one or more of your employees?
Let's say that you can acquire the closed printer's customer list. How should you go about making contact? The answer to that question is pretty straightforward—call on them! Call on the phone, with the objective of setting up a face-to-face meeting. Alternately, you can start the process with an email, but you should still do it with the objective of setting up a face-to-face meeting. Remember, just because they were the failed printer's customers, that doesn't mean they're automatically going to become your customers. You're probably going to have to meet with them to close the sale.
Here's something else to think about. The best place to meet with them might be your shop. I love the idea that you'd be calling with a proposal like this: "I got your name from (the closed shop's owner), and with that business now closed, I hope you'll consider us to be your new printer. To start that ball rolling, I'd like to invite you to come over for a tour of our facility. I'd like to learn more about your printing needs, and I'd like to show you our capabilities. I'll even come over and pick you up!"
If they're not willing to come to you, Plan B could easily be to go to them. I hope you'll agree that there's some value in trying to set this meeting up on your turf, especially if your shop and your staff "show" well.
Here's a final thought for today. You probably don't want to capture all of a failed printer's customers. Whenever a printer goes out of business, all of that printer's work needs a new home, and in far too many cases, it was the work—high volume but low margin—that put the printer out of business in the first place. That low margin work is usually connected to a price monster customer, and as I've written before, some of those customers are like serial killers. They hurt every printer they buy from. You don't want them to hurt you!