Executive Suite: Going Deep

The tradition of our industry has been to amass as many customers and jobs as possible, taking in whatever they might have for us. Early in my consulting career I encountered Ted, a print salesperson in San Francisco. Ted sold about $1 million a year—a tidy sum—but he had 50 different customers. And believe me, Ted worked the hours. With a base that large, he was hardly facing disaster should one or two drop off. On the negative end, however, there was simply no way Ted could deliver peak service to all those people, hence every one was vulnerable to being stolen. In addition, should he ever land a “whale” (among all those “rabbits”) he would scarcely have time to take down the specs of a job.

Ted’s was a “wide” approach. He had plenty of customers but no real clients. He could not build a strong, professional, value-bringing bond with all those people. He simply fired jobs in and out in machine-gun fashion, scrambling his way to $1MM.


Going Deep

We have to go “deep” now. Our goal can not be scavengering jobs into our “shop,” but rather building deep client relationships at every opportunity. Look at the intensely competitive hospitality industry. Most hotel/motel businesses simply cannot survive by pulling down their fiscal trousers until they all but give away rooms. Even mid-size chains are looking for client relationships—deals with heavy-using client corporations insuring them continued business with those companies. I saw it early on in New York. If I saw a large client I would be staying at a hotel with which it had a “relationship.”

We need to do as much of this as possible in printing.


Points of Focus

What exactly are our clients’ goals in using print?

Don’t follow the money, follow the goal. Think “goals” here, and shape every service to fit those goals.


Give them something.

Think “free stuff” (that is inexpensive to you here). A simple continental breakfast is often the difference between landing a family at an economy motel/hotel and watching them go across the street to the other place. What—especially service—can you toss in to sweeten the pot? The airlines give free flights? Know why? Because it costs them nothing to put you on a less-than-full flight that is going skyward anyway.


Connect with the oligarchy.

Think “circle of influence” here. Every corporation, whether it is a small LLC, or a multinational monstrosity, is ruled by a few. Be sure you meet and connect with every power figure possible in your client’s company. Every one and their key assistants. Don’t “buddy up” only to some VP of this or that, a CFO, or a Director of Advertising who happens to “handle the printing.” None of them run the company and worse, they leave. Remember Ted? Well there was another guy there selling much more than him—“Dennis”—who had maybe 5 clients. Dennis kept busy buying lunches and ballgame tickets for his precious few print buyers, but alas, one year 2 of them moved on and with that he was eating alone on a much smaller income. Dennis had not connected with oligarchy, only the print decision-makers, and when they cleaned out their desks, Dennis was cleaned out as well.


Collaborate with your clients.

You want to manage (control) as much of your clients’ print-related effort as possible. Think “time” here. People are expensive, so companies continue to run lean. That means more work for every key player. Look at the workload of the key people with whom you deal and find a way to reduce the print aspect of it. Make them dependent on you.

These are just a few ideas. You can think of more. A discussion with your salespeople may generate still others.

Go deep. That’s where the money is.


Dr. David Claerbaut has spent more than 25 years consulting in the graphic arts industry. You can reach him directly at 702-354-7000 or email him at drdavid@fcbb.com. Learn more at MyPRINTResource.com/10746916.