Posts Tagged ‘Sweet Spot’

Savvy Printers Play Nice with Print Brokers — part 2

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Printers, does Print Broker “Prejudice” Harm You?

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

I’ve been waiting a little longer than usual to make this post. My last post the top 5 reasons print brokers p.o. printers is still drawing a good response and I didn’t want to lose any readers before proceeding, either that, or I just didn’t get around to it yet. Both excuses are probably true to some extent.

My promise at the end of the last post was that I would toss out some ideas to reduce friction between Printing Brokers and Printers so that both could benefit. That particular promise will have to wait until the next post as I continue to explore the understanding gap that exists in commercial printing sales.

The following thoughts are mine alone. I would really hope that readers would go to the bottom of the post, past the hat logo, tags, categories, and click on comments. This is where you can leave your opinions. I do have to approve which opinions are accepted, but I promise I only delete those who appear to be spam, or who may incite a law suit. Other than that, you can disagree with me all the live-long day and I’ll let it go through.

I’ve learned that my vantage point is rarely the same as another’s. Just because someone doesn’t see things my way,  doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. I like to say, “I could be wrong about that, I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll probably be wrong again.” The world might be a better place if we all let go of the idea that we have to be right, or I could be wrong about that too. See how it works?

I’m going to be addressing printers primarily, because in my experience it is the printers, who more than print brokers, cut off their noses to spite their faces. Again, please feel free to disagree.

In a conversation with a print rep the other day, we agreed that the negativity thrown at print brokers is  often undeserved. Instead printers should look toward their hired sales representatives. A print broker is more vulnerable, and has to walk a tighter line, in other words a broker has much more too risk. Involving themselves in transactions that are shaky can ruin more  than just a certain project.  The name of my company, for example, is Bill Ruesch Print Broker, LLC. If I screw up, I tarnish my name, my company name, and risk  my entire career. A printer’s sales rep on the other hand can botch something big-time and maybe get fired, but they can, and most always do, migrate to another printer where they can start over.

I read a survey a long time ago that concluded that the mindsets of a successful entrepreneur, a salesman, and a criminal were very similar. To be good at any of those three paths there had to be a willingness to accept a great deal of risk. It seems that the riskier the better. Printing company owners, sales representatives, and print brokers all have risk in common, but it is the effect on careers that makes the critical difference.

For commissioned sales people have immediate needs. You can’t feed the family or pay the mortgage if you don’t earn a paycheck. Therefore, they are often tempted to ram a square peg into the round hole. I don’t care how big the printer is, no company can efficiently serve the needs of every customer. The printer needs work, the sales rep needs a commission, and the customer, unfortunately, sometimes comes up short. And don’t say it never happens at your company because it does. See my previous post about withholding information from a customer to the benefit of the printer.

This may sound like I’m being critical of company sales reps — I’m not — I’m only being critical of the marginal ones. To tell the truth I have a great deal of admiration for those who work for one company. I’ve been there, done that, myself. I often wondered why there were few older folks working in sales. One reason is that it is nearly impossible to please management. Either you are bringing in too much work, or not enough, and the line for the exact perfect amount moves daily. The stress is wearing.

I can tell you that as a broker I don’t miss the constant harangue, not at all.

Print brokers make their living at bringing print jobs to printers able to do the job. They work very hard at finding a good fit. Theoretically a print broker will only bring in jobs that hit the printer’s sweet spot. Sweet spot jobs are those that the printer is best equipped to do.

My point is that brokers are more likely to bring work through the doors that is a better fit, and because it is, it usually runs smoother with fewer complications. Doesn’t that have real intrinsic value? It is one of the many invisible benefits brokers bring to the table that are overlooked by printers.


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