In the twenty years I spent running my own Prontaprint centre, and in the seven years spent visiting customer’s print businesses, I have been fascinated by the difference in sales success between different business owners.
If a franchisor is involved, they will typically have a series of marketing programmes, designed to drive customers to the business. This is a valuable activity, but should only be part of a sales and marketing strategy.
Sales training for customer facing staff is essential, but this usually concentrates on disciplines such as sales call rates and the basics of sales and negotiation techniques.
There is a missing link between the marketing and the direct sales activities that I have noticed is usually present in the most successful small print businesses.
Networking. The old saying that “People prefer to buy from people they know” is as true now as it ever was. Networking can mean different things to different people. It can be anything from joining a local breakfast club or business club to networking in conjunction with a sport or hobby. I know one small printer who, having had some success with customers in a particular industry sector, joined the trade association (for an industry that he wasn’t actually part of) - and achieved great success supplying that industry!
Supporting local charities and sports teams etc. is always good for public relations, and getting involved with local organisations will also bring you into contact with other local businessmen, and can provide another kind of networking opportunity.
Of course, as a small businessman, with so many daily urgencies, it’s difficult to get everything right. All one can do is to employ the best technology and staff that one can afford in order to release as much time as possible for gaining good customers - and to be lucky!
On luck. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”
Seneca, 5BC - 65AD