Print Owners Still Resist Sales Activities

If I have learned anything in the last two months, it is that things haven’t changed. Right, many things have not changed. In two months I’ve visited companies in nine states. Oh, sure, the equipment has changed, but the thinking of owners hasn’t. I see the same issues many had back in the day. What’s worse, the owner’s self-diagnosis of those issues often misses the mark.

In two cases, I found owners with dropping sales who tried to solve their problem by hiring salespeople. Did it work? Not really.

When a non-selling owner hires someone to sell for them, who is to say whether the salesperson is doing what they need to do or not? Does it make sense that they drive around the industrial park and write down company names? Or does it make better sense to get a database of suspects within the hour and then get on with the important sales steps?

Reluctant owners tend to hire reluctant salespeople to sell for them, and then the salesperson becomes busy with non-productive work because neither the owner nor the salesperson really knows what activities produce sales. The owner becomes frustrated and, after seeing the cash go out and no results coming in, fires the salesperson.

What is needed—beyond testing the owner and salesperson—is a sales plan that’s measureable, specific, and organized. What are you going to sell? To whom are you going to sell it? And what process will be used to sell it (what measurable steps will you take)?

So, what’s changed? Not much. Overall, we haven’t learned how to develop salespeople. And that’s true whether it’s wide-format, offset, or letterpress.


Retirement Plan Snags

In another situation, I saw what looked like a “selling issue” because sales had dropped significantly, but instead I found that the company was in need of a transition. There were two owners of the shop. One planned to retire in two years. The other planned to work for at least 10 more years in order to fund their retirement. Considering it can take two to three years to sell a business, the need for a discussion about what happens next was obvious.

Complicating the situation was the fact that the 10-year partner needed to increase sales in order to fund his retirement, but if he did it would increase the price he’d have to pay to buy out the other partner. The solution was to create an agreement now to sell the business in two years for an amount set now, thus freeing the one partner to increase sales like crazy while securing the other partner’s financial future.


Organize Around Function

A husband-wife ownership team was concerned about having enough cash because of the drop in sales. Interestingly, that was a feeling and not a fact as I found them very close to all balance sheet strength benchmarks. They had enough liquid assets such as cash, receivables, and inventory to meet their current and anticipated needs and were spinning off positive cash at their current sales level.

Their real issue was people. Not having the right tasks assigned created daily delivery stress, low morale, lack of focus and, of course, time problems. This resulted in them doing nothing about sales.

Organizing around people, not functions, is one of the oldest fumbles in the book. Organize around functions and do more, better, and faster. Then you will have time and energy to do something about selling.

Some folks say that consultants only borrow your watch to tell you the time. The reason is the solutions are often straightforward and seem obvious once the problem is identified. The major part of a consultant’s work is to identify what problems need solutions. And in that regard, things really haven’t changed that much, regardless of the change in technology.


Tom Crouser is chairman of CPrint International and principal of Crouser & Associates, Inc., 235 Dutch Road, Charleston, WV 25302, 304-965-7100 ( Contact him at 304-541-3714 or Tom is available for consulting assignments. Connect on Facebook and LinkedIn and follow his business tweets at