Why it’s important to state the obvious when you sell

Part 5 of 6 lessons about selling print learned from a visit to the pub

“Warning: Metal post exposed. Please be careful”

There was a nearby broken table in the pub when my friend and I sat down with our drinks. This was the sign that was fixed to fixed to the top of the metal post where there should have been a table top exposed.

Our first reaction was: “Is this really necessary?” It seemed to be stating the blindingly obvious. It was clear that there was a metal post at this point. It wasn’t hidden or in bad light. It was standing out in the middle of the room.

These days there is a legal requirement to warn people about hazards. I’m sure that if anyone had been unfortunate enough to have an accident, the notice would be necessary to prevent a compensation claim. But, legal issues or not, there is still a good reason for putting up this sign.

People need to be told the obvious

Make sure everything is crystal clear for your prospects and customers

Make sure everything is crystal clear for your prospects and customers

To many people, it may have been clear that there was a table post without a top. But some people may have taken it as a fancy stand for a single drink. Some may have thought it was some interior design feature. And some may have simply wondered what it was.

If you look around the pub there are all sorts of other notices, stating things that we would expect people to know about. They state how much drink you get in a pint glass! They state the closing time of the pub, even though it is exactly the same as all the other pubs. They warn people that if they behave in an inappropriate manner, they will be asked to leave the pub.

If they don’t put some of these notices up, there will be problems. Some people will argue with what should be regarded as standard practice. And some people, such as foreign tourists, do not know the basics. They are grateful to be told.

Printing companies should treat their customers like foreign tourists

We often think that we don’t need to state what is obvious to us. But we understand the printing process. We know what to expect from a printing job as well as what might go wrong and where we might expect issues.

However, we should remember that printing is a foreign language to the majority of our customers. These days, few buyers have much technical print knowledge. Many people do not want to know how print is produced. So they do not understand how to put together a sensible print specification.

They also do not understand some of the things that can go wrong with print. To many customers, print is as simple as producing a photocopy. So they need their expectations managing. They need to be told about what might go wrong with their file if they are not produced properly and what manufacturing variances to expect.

What is the best way to state the obvious to your customers?

It can be tiring having to tell everyone the same things again and again. So it is a good idea to produce a simple document that tells customers what they should expect from you and what you expect from them. If this is produced in pain English then it leaves a lot less room for misunderstandings.

Think of the document as an informal service level agreement. The main areas you should cover are:

  • Customer service and communication
  • File preparation
  • Production and delivery issues
  • Invoicing and payment

You may also want to include any important issues from your terms and conditions of trading.

Remember, this should be a short document that is easy for a customer to read. If you win a new customer, it is worth having a short meeting or phone call to take them through the document and make sure that they understand it.

The sign about the metal post protected the pub

It avoided potential legal claims. It avoided misunderstandings. It warned customers to be careful. The wording may have seemed obvious. However, the notice was necessary, just to make sure that everyone was clear about the table post.

We have to be equally clear in the printing industry. We need to avoid similar potential misunderstandings with our customers. We need to be sure that we are being absolutely clear with our clients. We need to state the obvious.

It is best if we spend our time being obvious with the right clients. Often the best clients are the most profitable clients. I’ll be discussing this more in my next and final lesson from my visit to the pub. Look out for “Why choosing premium customers makes sense” next week.
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