Savvy Printers Play Nice with Print Brokers, part 1
In the last two blogs Top 5 Reasons Print Brokers P.O. Printers, and Printers, does Print Broker “Prejudice” Harm You? I’ve given reasons why Printers should consider or re-consider adding print brokers to their sales mix. The biggest reason, of course, is that print brokers have customers that are already printing somewhere and by attracting one print broker you could increase your sales by maybe millions. As for me, and I’m not the heaviest hitter out there, I swing around a million dollar a year bat — sometimes more, sometimes less, but always in the ballpark. A printer who convinces me that my business belongs with them has increased business by not just one, but by a couple of dozen new customers, worth maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in new business.
And you can do this without creating enemies in your local fraternity of printers. What happens when you send your sales reps out to grab business wherever they can? I’ll tell you; sooner or later you’ll take a prized customer away from a kindly competitor who doesn’t deserve this type of treatment. Maybe they helped you out in the past, or gave you good advice, or belong to the same clubs as you. When you create bad feelings among your peers it takes awhile to patch them up.
Oh sure, you can say, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.” But isn’t that the same lame excuse the Mafia makes in the movies when they kill someone? Damaging a livelihood is personal. You can’t duck it no matter how you try. It’s nothing personal — BANG! — I shot you in the back, but it’s not personal. No, of course it isn’t, wink, wink.
If you decide that attracting brokers could be a good thing, here are some bits of advice:
- Make sure all of your agreements are in writing. Don’t assume that because you have done things in a certain way in the past that the broker will know or understand what your expectations are.
- A print broker is not your unpaid employee. They are independent business people who’s primary concern is their customer. If the broker is smart they will help their customer understand the printer’s point of view in the event of a disagreement, but when the chips are down the print broker stands with the customer, they have to, it’s their job.
- A broker is also not your customer. They function more like an Independent Insurance Agent. The real deal, when all is said and done, is between the printer and the customer. You can squawk about that, but in every sense of what is morally and ethically right it is the person who possesses the product who is ultimately responsible for paying the bill. A broker is no more responsible for a customer debt than your commissioned sales reps are.
- Get agreements with the print broker and their customer giving you the right to collect the debt in the event of default. You may want to insist that the customer provide a credit application and other information for your files. You should conduct a credit investigation on every customer just like you do with your own. Make sure the broker’s customer is credit worthy before offering credit — duh. Then set your terms.
- If giving any credit sticks in your craw make every broker job COD. That is the easiest way to handle the issue, but it also means you will attract less broker business. Their customers have the same needs as your regular group. If they need terms and you aren’t willing to give them what can they do?
- Print Brokers, the good ones that is, probably have a wealth of experience behind them. They aren’t naive. They usually have years of printing experience under their belts before becoming a broker. They are just as committed as you, to getting the customer what they need, when they need it, and at a competitive price. When you disrespect the value added a broker brings and treat them in a condescending matter you ruin what could have been a good partnership. Get them on your side and they generally will move heaven and earth to help you when things go wrong. At the very least they bring expertise that it will take your wet-behind-the-ears newbie years to learn. Weigh it out — newbie, pro. Who would you rather work with?
- Don’t begrudge print broker’s earnings. Yes, some brokers earn a lot of money. Most of us do okay, but none of us are in the Fortune 500. It can be a good business, just like printing is a good business. More printers retire well-to-do than brokers ever do. Not every printer does well, and not every broker succeeds. No one becomes a printing broker to get rich.
- Don’t moan that brokers beat down the price so you don’t make any money. NONSENSE. A broker can’t make you accept a job that is a money looser. What did they do, hold a gun to your head? Ultimately if you let anyone dictate your sell prices you are a damn fool, and in my experience anyone with enough business acumen to run a printing company is no fool.