If I owned a print shop — which I don’t — but if I did, and I wanted to attract brokers to sell for me, I would do these things:
- Make sure the brokers are fully informed of your capabilities and preferences. By preferences I mean that two printers have identical equipment, but one prefers short runs and the other prefers longer runs. Normally pricing will reveal this to a good broker, but wouldn’t it be quicker if the printer identified their sweet spot right up front?
- Provide brokers with sales materials, especially if you have a special new piece of equipment or an exciting announcement. Think about this: it is difficult for a broker to take the business elsewhere if they are using your promotional materials to secure a project.
- Try to avoid competing with the broker unless they are after one of your established accounts. If one of your sales reps has a desire to go to battle over a broker’s customer, hold them back. Open discussion may solve the conflict. Be courteous and discuss it with all involved parties.
- Be sure to honor the broker’s trade secrets. There are some brokers who like to keep their sources hidden–I’m not one of them. I opt for efficiency. If my customer has an urgent question, or needs to STOP the press I want them to be able to do that. Yes, over the last twenty odd years I’ve had to scrap relationships with printers who didn’t honor the gentleman’s or written agreements we made, and yes, I’ve had customers seek a better price by going behind my back, but the truth is that it has happened very rarely. And in the end, customers and printers who engage in this unethical behavior can’t be relied upon anyway. It’s good riddance to bad rubbish.
- Attempt to cultivate them as part of your sales team. Why not? They bring business just like your commissioned reps do. The more involved they are in your company and on good terms with your staff, especially your sales staff the smoother things will go. If they are treated like Darth Vader instead of Luke Skywalker when they come through the door, you lose. They’ll take their business elsewhere.
- Invite them to attend sales meetings from time-to-time, especially ones where there is a special guest or new information to be presented.
- If you have a sales contest, find a way to include brokers too.
- Reward profitable brokers with surprise tickets to favorite sporting events, dinners at local restaurants, or weekend trips to nearby resorts. By the way, it is very easy for printers to trade for these spiffs and the out-of-pocket expenses are greatly reduced.
- If you send your sales reps to a seminar or rally consider sending brokers too.
- Make sure brokers are invited to other company functions.
- If a broker is having trouble landing an account that would fit your particular niche, work together just like you would with your own sales rep to secure the business. This way you both benefit.
The bottom line is that print brokers are really and truly a part of any smart printer’s sales force. The good news is that they don’t receive salary, or commission. You don’t have to match their Social Security, or 401 K. You can keep money that you would have spent on a sales rep’s health insurance, expense reimbursement, company car, and overhead. If you have enough money to provide these benefits to your employees just consider what providing brokers with a nice benefit that is a faction of the cost of employee could do? They are possibly the best investment you can make for sales growth.
If you treat print brokers right, make them feel like they are a part of your team, let them know that they are appreciated you’ll discover an increase in trust. Many of the reasons cited by printers for their unhappy experiences with brokers were created by the printer’s disrespect. Respect the respectable brokers (yes, some brokers should be flushed — but not most — especially those who have been around awhile) treat them as part of your team and you’ll find that many of the problems printers have with brokers will disappear. Think about it. How can a broker be your enemy when bringing you business? You are only enemies when you aren’t fair with one another. Be fair.