Printers who let their hostility get the best of them are fools,
because printers who are likely to survive this recession and move successfully forward must find ways to reinvent their relationships with Print Brokers. Brokers hold the key to doubling or tripling your business without creating additional expense. The problem is that most printers don’t know what to do with print brokers. They aren’t part of the sales team and they aren’t customers either. What are they? Any attempt to pigeon hole them into either role will end in failure and frustration.
The first thing to do is embrace brokers and stop kicking them in the teeth. I know this may not make sense to you. Some of you are going to accuse me of overreacting, after all your company doesn’t mistreat brokers — right? Some will say I’m whining, and some won’t consider the issue of print brokers at all. There are a lot of misguided printers who staunchly refuse to work with brokers. That might have been okay in the past, but it won’t serve you well in the future. You can’t afford to turn your back on sources of instant new business.
Haven’t you noticed how tough times are? Printing, particularly offset printing, has been besieged on all sides. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how the pigheaded, self-serving banking industry has hurt all of us. Have you tried to get a loan lately? Nor do I have to explain about the impact of digital printing, foreign competition, and the Internet. You already know about these things. You are experiencing unprecedented cash flow problems and shrinking markets. Even your best customers have cut back with no real promise that they will ever be at former levels again.
I hear moaning from the Industry that good sales representatives are hard to find and that your sales people keep pressing for ever lower prices to make them competitive. You get upset and believe that they aren’t really trying. A really good sales rep can sell even under the most adverse circumstances — right? If you truly believe that why don’t you put on your salesman’s hat and find out for yourself? Maybe you did. Maybe you took a day, or a week, and went into the field. Maybe you proved to yourself that it isn’t so bad, but let me tell you, selling in this economy is like fighting an uphill battle day-after-day-after-day. It can wear down even the heartiest rep. Your sales team, is running on fumes, and another sales meeting, another motivational talk, and another seminar isn’t going to dramatically change anything.
What can you do? I would like you to take a moment, if you will, and consider re-vitalizing your sales efforts with the help of Print Brokers. Why Print Brokers, because they are FREE! Printers don’t have to house them, pay salaries, benefits, or reimbursements. That should be incentive enough. FREE, FREE, FREE — what’s better than that?
The problem is that most printers I’ve talked to either barely tolerate brokers, or despise them. Why? I think there are five main reasons for this:
- Print Brokers own their own customer list. The printer doesn’t. Suppose a house sales rep brings in an account, since they were working on the company dime the customer technically belongs to the company. This isn’t true with brokers. In fact if you go after the broker’s customer it can lead to a nasty fight.
- Print Brokers are legally a middle man. Printers fume if the broker can’t pay them because the customer didn’t pay the bill. On the other hand, how can you hold the broker responsible when they don’t receive the product? You don’t punish your in-house sales team like this. You must find a compromise. How difficult can it be to secure your interests in transactions without leaning on the party who is least likely to have the means to pay you? Think about it.
- Print Brokers can take the print jobs to someone else if they want. Usually they move things around to save money, time, or be more convenient, but they don’t even have to have a reason, they can just do it.
- Print Brokers are employed by their customers — not the printer. In the event of a disagreement the printer has little leverage over the broker. The broker knows which side his bread is buttered on and is most likely to defend the customer’s point of view over the printer’s.
- Print Brokers are not constrained by territories. Printers often feel threatened by brokers because they see their own customers as potentially vulnerable to the broker. Sales reps especially are very protective and guard, as they should, from any possible threat.
In my next post I will give printers some ideas that will allow them to work around the conflicts and make better broker relationships which will benefit both printer and print broker.