For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty...
Those are the words that begin the modern citation for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Since 1861 when the medal was authorized as the U.S. military’s highest award for valor in action, there have been 3,447 recipients. And there’s no question that these Medal of Honor winners are American heroes.
It is a time for heroes right now, and I’m not just talking about our military men and women serving their country. It’s also a time for heroes in the private sector, specifically in the quick/digital/small commercial segment of the printing industry.
Heroes and Victims
By definition, any situation which creates a hero must also have a victim. So, if I cast you in the role of the hero, who must you rescue? Your first thought was probably my customer, but that’s not who I have in mind. Granted, there are likely to be hero opportunities with your customers—in fact, I wrote a column about those opportunities quite a few years ago. (“Hero Opportunities,” QP August 1996. If you don’t save your old copies of QP, you can find it in the article archives at my website: www.davefellman.com.)
No, the victim I’m most concerned with is the employee you may have to lay off if your sales volume doesn’t improve. Last month, I wrote that an “educated assumption” puts the current number of quick/digital/small commercial printing companies in the U.S. at approximately 29,000—down from approximately 39,000 in 1995. And though I don’t have data to prove it, I wrote, I think a survey of the industry would find that there are at least 1,000 former printshop owners now working as salespeople for other printing companies.
Here’s something else I don’t have data to prove, but I think would be borne out by an industry survey: The quick printing workforce is down by at least 29,000 over the last 12 months. Between closings and layoffs, I think it’s very likely that 29,000-plus people have already lost their jobs in just that timeframe. I know companies that have laid off two or three people and have already targeted the next one to go. And there’s only one thing that’s going to save those jobs—more sales volume.
Wanna be a hero? How about getting yourself out there to compete for some new business and reversing the trend that is threatening someone’s livelihood!
Heroes and Villains
By definition, any situation which creates a hero must also have a villain. So, who is the villain here? Your first thought was probably, “Me, if I don’t rise to the occasion,” and I’m afraid you might be right. But you have a choice here—hero or villain—and it’s really that simple. So which do you want to be?
There’s more to it, of course. You have a lot on your plate. You don’t really know where to start. You never signed up to be a salesperson in the first place. So maybe the real villain is your lack of time management, your lack of prioritization skills, your lack of sales experience, or maybe just your comfort zone. Let’s do something about those villains, and maybe you’ll find it easier to be a hero.
A Simple Plan
I have written pretty extensively about time management and prioritization, and in the interest of space today, I’ll just refer you to a few more articles in the archives: “The 7-Hour Selling Plan” (QP, August 2005), “Make The Time To Make More Money” (QP, January 2006), and “Violent Prioritization” (QP, April 2008). As for the lack of sales experience and not knowing where to start, well, let me lay out a simple plan for you.
First, make a list of 10 companies you’d like to have as customers; companies or organizations that you think have significant printing needs that fit your capabilities. Second, call or visit those companies to identifythe decision maker. (That process is explained in “The 7-Hour Selling Plan.”) Third, send a letter or an email or make a phone call to communicate this message: