The three essential questions you must ask your print customer – do you use them?

Posted by Matthew Parker

Do you remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood?

Do you remember how she thought she was talking to her Granny?  And then found out that she was actually talking to the big bad wolf?

If only Little Red Riding Hood had asked a few more questions.  She might have realised that she wasn’t speaking to the sort of person she wanted to know.  She might have stopped herself from being eaten alive!

Sometimes printers are faced with customers who aren’t what they seem

Print questions to stop print buyers acting like wolves

The right questions can stop your print customers acting like wolves

Sometimes printers need to ask the right questions to make sure they are dealing with the right sort of customers.

Printers who ask the right questions can forge valuable relationships with their customers.  They can stay in control of the sort of client they deal with.  And they can save themselves a whole load of time by only dealing with worthwhile customers.

Printers who don’t ask the right questions can end up with clients that they never wanted

These are the sort of clients who don’t pay.  Or leave for another supplier at the drop of a hat.  These are the sort customers that can waste your time with endless, pointless enquiries.  These are the sort of customers that can leave you with little control over your business.

So here are three questions that you should ask.  They will sort the good customers from the not-so-good customers.

Question 1 – What are your payment terms?

This is a really important question to ask as quickly as possible.  You don’t want to waste loads of time on a sales pitch only to find that the customer is planning not to pay you for 90 days.

And this question can be followed up with a few questions about financial stability.  After all, you want to get paid for your work.

I always ask my clients this question right at the beginning of a conversation.  It shows that I’m only prepared to work with them on the right terms.  And if there are any issues that I’m not happy with, then I want cash up front.

It’s only when I’m happy with the finances that I move to more questions.

Question 2 – Why are you asking for a price from us?

This question can give you some great opportunities to sell your services.  Sometimes a customer is looking around because they have a problem with their current supplier.  So then there is a perfect opportunity to find out more about how much those issues are costing the customer.  And to show the customer how you can resolve those issues and get rid of those extra costs.

But sometimes this question shows that a customer is merely looking for prices.  Prices with which to beat up their current supplier.  Do you want to waste your time producing price ammunition for someone?  You’ll get no work.  You’ll waste your time.  And how would you feel if someone did that to you?

So this may be a good time to say goodbye to a customer.  But it may also show that you have a serious customer.  In which case it’s time to move on to question 3.

Question 3 – What do you expect from us?

This question will show you what a customer is like to work with.  Will they demand huge amounts of time and patience from your team?  And do you need to cost this into your price?

Or are they an efficient customer.  The sort that is worth working hard to win?

So again, this question may lead to you carrying on a conversation with a customer.  Or it may lead to you saying goodbye and rejecting the customer.

But isn’t rejecting customers is bad for business?

I would suggest that it is far worse for business to take on customers who

  • Are not creditworthy
  • Are going to waste time with quotes where you can’t win
  • Who expect high levels of service without warning you about it

These three questions are designed to stop you from gaining clients like this.  Of course, it can be hard to ask the questions.  No-one likes to offend a buyer.  And sometimes a buyer won’t give you a chance to speak.

It is important not to let buyers run a meeting.  You need to show buyers that you have levels of expectation too.  You need to show buyers that you are fussy about the type of customer you are prepared to work with.

So here are three steps to make sure you end up with the right sort of customer

  1. Raise these questions at the next sales team meeting
  2. Agree the minimum standard of answer you expect from these questions
  3. Be ruthless!  Refuse to deal with customers who don’t give the right answers

You may be surprised to find how many then ask you about what they need to do to work with you.

And you certainly won’t end up working with any wolves pretending to be someone else.  Or being eaten alive by any of your customers!
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