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Helping Your Customers and Yourself

Published in the NPSOA Magazine - December 2023

Helping Your Customers and Yourself

Our world is becoming more complex and competitive by the day. New entrants struggle to gain customers and a share of the market, and the long-standing businesses try to maintain customers and build from an established base.

One key strategy for gaining and retaining customers is to become more than a mere print/sign vendor; it is to become a partner and to build long term relationships with customers, so as to help them achieve their goals, not just your own.

A starting point for executing this kind of strategy is to sit down and calculate what you feel the "current reality" is for your customers. What are the brutal facts facing them each and every day? Become the customer and build a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats matrix as if it was your own business. This one exercise can go a long way to understanding your customers.

Take time to anticipate the customer's needs.

How does the customer find new business? When you help customers consider his or her long range needs, you're sending the message that you are in the relationship for the long haul and not just for today's sale. By assisting your customers with a plan for the future, you'll be seen as a valuable ally and creditable.

Can you be a source of new ideas?

Every customer looks for ways to get the most for their money-the concept of value. Become this resource for your customers. Reading articles on-line and the trade journals of the industries you sell in will help improve your creativity and idea generation so that you can pass on the up-to-date ideas and visionary thinking to your customers.

Stay in touch!

Far too many salespeople or owners fail to stay in touch on a regular basis. Absence in business does not make the heart grow fonder; it only makes a competitor look better to the customer. Spend time thinking about how you can stay in touch with your customers, more than just sending an invoice or a statement. Ask them their preferred method of communication, and then use it.

One simple rule: listen

When you or your salespeople visit customers, follow one simple rule: listen. Let the customer do the talking. Only when you have an accurate picture of their issues and concerns can you meet their specific needs. Take the letters in the word listen and you will see that they can also spell "silent." It is hard to listen when you are talking.

Many owners fail to take responsibility when something goes wrong.

Your goal is to develop long-term customers; so when something becomes broken, fix it. If it is wrong, make it right. Do both quickly.

It almost goes without saying that salespeople who want more should be more accessible to their customers, but you would be surprised. Your customers are far more dependent on you than you think. This is an advantage, but it is also a responsibility. Be there for them. Increase their comfort level, and you will raise their satisfaction level as well. Business is conducted 24/7.

Far too many of our salespeople just try to sell something,

Literally anything to get the sale. If you can't help a customer, say so. The true proof of professionalism is the ability to say no. There is no way that you can do everything, and no customer expects it. Customers want good, trustworthy solutions. Pointing them in the right direction is as important as coming away with their business.

These strategies are built on a simple foundation: get to know your customer's business. Don't make the assumption that you know what the customers needs are; be willing to take the time to learn the customer's business. This is more than just "talking the language", using industry jargon. What is required is grasping the issues facing the company, knowing the industry and recognizing the problems a customer faces.

Finally, remember that the vast majority of relationships are more like a marathon than a sprint. Both begin with a single step, but the sprint ends quickly and the marathon goes on for miles. Customers want relationships, so it is critical to keep at it. Far too many salespeople give up after just one sales call. Yet, most sales do not take place until after the customer has seen the seller long enough to build a relationship of trust. This may take many visits. Turn buyers into believers by becoming a partner. Let your competitors be mere print/sign vendors.

Mitch Evans is a management consultant and trusted advisor who works with graphic company owners, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. Mitch is a managing director at Graphic Arts Advisors LLC which specializes in Mergers & Acquisitions (valuations, buying and selling, mergers and non-bankruptcy orderly wind-downs). Mitch is also a partner in The Next Level Group which facilitates formal top executive peer groups for leadership, business growth, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies, and greater profitability. Please contact him at or call 561-351-6950.

Mitch Evans


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