Last week I wrote about Fred taking his prepress expert to our printing company’s largest account so she could educate them on processes that had become sticking points at the shop. But he also embraced a reverse version, inviting service and product providers to the shop so he could explain how we did business and share examples of what worked best for us. He also talked about what didn’t work in the hopes he and his vendors could come up with mutually advantageous solutions.
While selling for a paper distribution firm, I always made sure that I educated new print shop employees. Commercial printing papers are awash in arcane verbiage and dense, confusing descriptions, so I’d offer classes to my customers, always spending extra time with print salespeople so they’d remember me when they put an order into their system and could specify my papers.
I worked for a mid-sized corporation at the time, one that was well-loaded with more than paper products. We had things (besides multiple divisions and bathrooms lined with stalls) that our small print shop clients didn’t: Corporate departments with well-educated and experienced business professionals, something we could afford due economies of scale. So when a print shop moved into a new building and wondered aloud how they should configure their loading dock, I brought our Warehouse Manager – also a long-time driver – to the shop to take a look at the space and provide advice, which was happily received. When a customer told us that they’d be late paying their invoices because their own customers were late in paying theirs, I asked if they’d be interested in hearing some best practices from our well-trained Accounts Receivable group, and perhaps from their boss, who at the time was the President of the National Association of Credit Managers. Clients were impressed and grateful. When both a customer and the sample room coordinator complained separately to me about the other, I took them out for lunch so their concerns could be aired and hopefully fixed. These things not only helped my customers do well, but including our own employees in the process gained their buy-in. They knew a lot about their profession, but spent most of their time at their desks, with little understanding of or empathy for difficulties outside our own operation.
If you’re a business owner or sales rep, look around you for the experts and consider how they might be utilized to everyone’s advantage. If you see no experts, become one. Actually, become one even if you see others! Know your industry, read trade publications, look for information on the internet, listen carefully to what long-term clients and peers say, and talk to your top sales rep to get their perspective.
Remember that it’s not always about the product, but about what else you can bring to your customers.
March, 24, 2021