Why’d you have to be so Mean?

I’ll put it right out there…I dated a bit before getting married. I dated all kinds of guys because I was still discovering what I liked or valued most in men. There were lots of dates where the guys were nice enough, but we didn’t have much in common, so there wasn’t a second date.

Sales appointments are kinda like first dates. You really don’t know if you’re going to like the person you’re meeting. In dating or business, you can’t count on being liked or valued; however, good manners simply require you to be respectful of a person, regardless if there will be another date or meeting.

I had an appointment yesterday with a young woman who was adversarial and confrontational and I have no idea why. She was unhappy with everything I brought to the appointment and told me so over and over again, even though I spent over an hour researching and pulling samples I thought she would like. For this I apologized and asked to meet again, which lead to another series of insults and posturing that indicated I must be stupid. The third attack was her assessment of on-line printers versus printers (like me) who, just happened to be sitting in her office with the intention of trying to help her. She made it clear to me at the end of our meeting that I was of no value to her.

I could only surmise after leaving her office, that she must be going through printers as I imagine she goes through dates. If her lack of any respect towards me was based on the fact that I could be replaced with a dozen other vendors, well, good luck to her then. I imagine she will run out of options someday, both personally and professionally.

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Virginia Is Lucky…

Virginia will soon be the new home of my friend, Linda Stingel-May.

After an entire career in the Graphic Arts Industry, more specifically, printing…Linda is retiring next week to move closer to one of her sons. Half my heart is happy for her and the other half of my heart is sad for me. I will be losing a friend, confidant and mentor.

Linda and I met a few years ago at a Dallas get-together of “Girls Who Print,” an international group started locally by Mary Beth Smith. We hit it off immediately and six weeks later she joined the sales staff at Ussery Printing.

I can’t say enough nice things about Linda, but of course, she’s my friend so you would expect that. But, Linda is well-known, well-liked and admired throughout our industry and just as equally appreciated by her clients. She has served them well. In an ever-changing, commodity driven industry, she has kept the pace her entire career. She is still hard-working and focused with her sparkling blue eyes and positive demeanor. She’s competitive, smart and has a skill-set that sadly, can not be replaced.

When next week comes and goes and I pass by the empty office down the hall, I know I will miss Linda terribly. In the few short years we’ve known each other she has become a positive light in my day. I know the joy she will bring to her family in her retirement will be their blessing and I wish my friend love, peace and most of all…happiness.

Choices…

I was just reading the responses to a discussion titled, “How do you choose your supplier of printing consumables?” The responses ranged from the obvious issues concerning quality and pricing, making sure the supplier is capable of the work, reputable, and of course, the ever important relationship.

Years ago we solicited bids to finish out a driveway and add a carport. We choose our supplier based on his knowledge and recommendations to our project. His company was capable and reputable, and his pricing was in-line with our budget. He did what he said he was going to do and did a great job on the driveway and carport. We ended up with a quality product, within our budget (not the cheapest), finished on-time and we were completely satisfied. The relationship developed during the project because we were treated fairly and with respect.

We’re considering another project and thought about getting another bid, but then decided…why? We like this company, this man, his work. Why would I not reward him by working with him again?

Information Overload

In our desperate wish to be seen as informed and intelligent, we are complicating our lives. Information is accessible today by so many mediums, radio, television, the internet, print and mobile applications. How could we not be smarter and more sophisticated than earlier generations? But sometimes, all this information makes me feel over-whelmed, not smarter. I’m going out on a limb admitting this, and I’m convinced that many people will not want to risk agreeing for fear of appearing ignorant. It reminds me of the story about the emperor’s new clothes.

Hans Christian Andersen’s story is about an emperor who pays a lot of money for some new magic clothes, which he’s told, “can only be seen by wise people” The clothes do not really exist, but the emperor does not admit he cannot see them, because that would mean he was not wise. Everyone else pretends to see the clothes too because, well, they don’t want to be seen as stupid either. It isn’t until a child shouts, “The emperor has no clothes on!” that the people realize how silly they’ve been.

Like the people in the fairy tale, we often agree to absurd ideas because we are afraid to appear ignorant. When will the child in us say enough is enough?

Why?

When I was young I never thought to myself…”gee, when I grow up I want to be a sales person.”

My sales career happened because I stumbled upon a fascinating industry, Graphic Arts, and more specifically ~ printing. Initially I was hired as a Sales-Service Secretary (for a printing facility), promoted to Customer Service for a very successful salesman, and then, I made the ultimate leap to sales.

Why? Because I was fairly certain that I could do the work. During my years of support roles, I watched other sales people and knew that I had the combination of work ethic and industry knowledge to do what needed to be done. What I didn’t know at the time is that it would take a bit of luck. That one person who would make a difference.

I’ve written before about that one person, from Morgan to Cyndi, that single person, who without their involvement, a story might end very differently.

If you ask any business owner or sales person, more than likely they will admit there was a person, who without them, they wouldn’t have been successful. It’s not as rare as you think to find the person who will make the difference, you just have to try.

Kia’s Question…

How do you negotiate with your printing suppliers?

Kia was looking for funny stories but ended up with a rather frustrated group of printers and print producers. Her take on the conversation was meant to be satirical, but satire can be offensive to some people. Satire is risky in that, if it makes you uncomfortable, there might be a smidgen of truth to the story.

I’m careful in printstories to try to relate stories that don’t offend. During my 30 years of printing there are many conversations that I’d rather not repeat. Sometimes the misinformation a novice brings to the table does make you want to smack your head against the wall. But that is actually an opportunity if you’re up for the challenge. And, there it is, sometimes as sales people we are not. We sometimes get tired of the people who are in positions where you think their knowledge base would allow them to at least spec a job. Lately, I’ve worked with designers who can’t even tell me how many pages are in their catalog. Or, a print buyer who comes to look at a job on press and states, “when will you people learn to print in RGB?”

As a seasoned rep, I ask questions to determine the production knowledge level of the person I’m working with. Long ago, I gave up believing in the title of the person. I just can’t trust those words. I need to know going into a negotiation how much of my time and effort is required to work on a project with this person and the level of difficulty in the job itself.

The art of negotiating? It is, at its best, when the buyer and the seller respect each other and have empathy for each person’s position. Management is putting pressure on the buyer to bring in the best price. The seller is trying to make a fair living and a fair profit to stay in business. The problems in negotiating occur when respect or empathy are missing…on either side of that table.

It’s Free

Nothing is free, except the mud, mosquitos and the breeze…if you’re in Belize. Sorry, I digressed very quickly today.

We’ve heard over and over again that so much on the internet is free, so the argument goes…but is it?

The other day I bought concert tickets on-line. There were four options to receive your tickets. You could pick them up at the concert at will call, expedite them overnight, standard USPS mail and the option of email. Two of these options were free; can you guess which two?

Of course the expedited method isn’t free, but of course the will call would be free. If you guessed the email was free you would be wrong. The emailed ticket was $2.00 and the USPS? Free.

As a client told me a few months ago. Stick a stamp on it, .45 cents…what a deal.