The Art of the Graphics Deal

Walk-in business is usually easy money. That’s because it is more about the customer buying than about you selling. Real selling, in which you must hunt for new business, isn’t so easy. It fact, it can be a complex process. First you need to track down viable prospects: those who need your products and services and have the ability to pay for them. Then you must identify the prospect’s needs and develop a graphics solution that satisfies those needs.

Now here is the tough part that differentiates them buying from you selling. You have to close the deal.  In the 1992 movie, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blake, the sales manager from hell played by Alec Baldwin, explains in no uncertain terms what selling is all about. He berates his sales people telling them that the name of the game is to get the prospect to sign on the dotted line.

Everything that you do in the selling process from planning to intelligence gathering to needs analysis to your proposal should lead to the climax in your performance – closing the deal.


Pre Call Planning: How to Prepare for a Sale

Before your first meeting with a prospect, you should gather information about the prospect’s company, their industry and their competitors. As you build an account profile, you also need to identify those within the organization who influence the company’s buying process.

Each organization is a little different. To help you find your way within larger organizations as well as avoid any potential landmines that could sabotage your efforts, it helps greatly to find an ally or sponsor within the account.

Much of this research can be done online and through phone prospecting. You can supplement this initial research with information gathered through networking with other salesmen in the industry. The help that I received from truck leasing salesmen was invaluable.

Leasing salesmen will know long before you ever will who is in the market for equipment. They can also help in making introductions with key contacts within the account. Just as important, they can include the sales of the graphics in the leasing package. This helps everyone involved. The cost of an expensive graphics package can be amortized over the duration of the lease, making it easier for the customer to buy your program. The salesman’s commission increases with every add-on to the lease agreement. The graphics salesman is happy, too. Not only is it easier for you to sell big programs, but vendors must be paid before the equipment is turned over to the customer.

Why Site Surveys are Important

Site surveys are also an essential part of pre call planning whether you are selling building graphics or fleet graphics. By inspecting the graphics you can uncover problems. In your inspection, take plenty of pictures to document your findings.

By asking questions during your survey you can probe for any dissatisfaction, which you can use to drive a wedge between the customer and the incumbent vendor. Keep in mind that if the prospect is completely satisfied with his current graphics supplier, you have absolutely no chance of making a sale.

Problems too look for include fading graphics, edge peeling and inconsistency in application of the corporate imagery. By questioning, you can try to uncover any problems with the way their program has been implemented in the past.

Prepare Your Questions

As part of your pre-call planning process, prepare a list of key questions to raise in your meeting. The most important question is: what is the goal of the meeting? Unless you are focused on specific outcomes, the sales call usually becomes an aimless but congenial sales conversation. You end up leaving the meeting scratching your head, wondering what you accomplished.

If there is something specific that you want to learn from the prospect, prepare your questions in advance of the meeting the way a good journalist prepares before an interview. As important as your objectives are, put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and imagine what he or she would like as an outcome of the meeting. Ask yourself, what questions will the prospect likely ask?

When the meeting concludes, the final question in your preparation is: what is the next step in the negotiation of the deal? You can pose this question in a number of different ways. You can simply put the ball in the prospect’s court and ask his advice on what you need to do next to move forward on the program.  His answer to that question opens the door to the follow up meeting.

The Introductory Sales Call

In the introductory sales call, you need to accomplish a number of key objectives.  These objectives should include identifying the prospect’s problems and needs; understanding the prospects business goals; discovering who your competitors are; and determining the potential for your company. Above all, the most important task is to identify the key decision makers and influencers within the account. By establishing an initial relationship with someone willing to assist you, that person can sponsor your efforts by introducing you to key contacts; warn you of potential landmines that could sabotage your efforts; and can help direct your sales actions.

Why a Win-Win Agreement is Important

Any type of agreement between you and your customer must result in a win-win conclusion. You must make a fair profit and your customer must feel that they are getting reasonable value for the money that his company is spending. No other outcome is acceptable. Otherwise, someone walks away from the negotiating table feeling that they got the short end of the stick.

If the buyer feels that he paid too much for his graphics, your chances for repeat business are slim and next to none. As veteran salesmen are fond of saying, “anyone can make the first sale; a real salesman gets the next order”.

Making a few concessions in the bargaining process can go a long way in building lasting customer relationships. I am not saying that you need to give away the store. What I am suggesting is that you can build in a little leeway in your estimate, which allows you to give in on a couple of minor points.  A concession on payment terms might be one way to make your customer feel that they made a good deal.

What is Quid Pro Quo Selling?

The key is to make sure that after you make a concession that you immediately ask for something in return. This negotiating technique is often referred to as quid pro quo selling. “Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase that literally means “this for that”. In selling it is one of the best ways to establish an agreement: if I do this for you, you agree to do that for me. It is also an effective technique when you use it to close a deal.

Here’s an example of quid pro quo selling.  On one large fleet graphics sale I had quoted the pricing on two different quantities of trailer graphics – 50 sets and 100 sets. The prospect could only afford 50 sets at that time. However, in six months he would need another 50 sets. To close the deal, I agreed to sell the 50 sets at the 100 set price, with the agreement that he would buy the additional material six months down the road.

Both the customer and I were happy with this deal. He purchased the graphics at a fair price and my company made a reasonable profit. For a minor concession, I secured the business with this account for the year. For me it was a win just to get the deal at all, because I was the high bidder.

By meeting the customer halfway and closing the sale right then and there, I prevented my competitors from getting another opportunity to modify their offer and make their own deal. Always work to close the deal now. If you allow negotiations to drag out, your chances diminish rapidly and it becomes less likely that you will be awarded the business.

The quid pro quo selling technique is also a great way to stop a prospect from nibbling away at your initial offer by asking for one concession after another. Nibbling is a loathsome technique that buyers will use on unsuspecting salesmen to get just one more concession at the conclusion of negotiations.

Your Sales Proposal

After you determine the customer’s needs, it is time to make your proposal. In selling a graphics program, it often involves presenting design concepts.  In making a presentation I always felt more comfortable covering all of the details in writing. That way I did not miss a trick. If a customer raised an objection, I could turn to the section in my proposal that provided him with the information that cleared up any question. Most importantly, people believe what is written.

I only had one customer that challenged me regarding the tome that I had prepared for meeting. I answered his challenge explaining that this document constituted a legal contract which offered what my company was obliged to do in implementing his program. That was the only explanation that he need. At that point he was prepared to sign the contract. I didn’t even need to ask.

Presenting Your Pricing

In presenting a price proposal, many successful sales people begin with a high price. There are two reasons for doing this. The first reason is that you just might get what you ask for. The second reason is that you can very easily make a concession and reduce your price. If your prospect doesn’t like your offer, they probably let you know. On the other hand, once you have started to negotiate on price, it is nearly impossible to increase your opening offer.

You will note that I said “nearly impossible”.  The only time that I would be as bold as to ask for a higher amount is to stop the prospect  from nibbling away at  initial proposed opening price. What I am referring to is a prospect that is asking for concession after concession.  At some point you have to draw a line in the sand.

Before you make a proposal, make sure that you have decided in your own mind the lowest amount that you are willing to settle upon. The negotiation must result in a win/win. Your customer needs a price commensurate with the value that you provide in your graphics package.  As a sales person, you are responsible to demonstrate to your prospect how your proposal satisfies his needs.

Just as important as a win for the customer, your company must also win. In other words, the agreed upon price must also be beneficial to your company.  That price must not only cover any burdened costs (labor, material and an apportioned amount of overhead), but it must also provide your business with a profit.

A win/win outcome is critical for developing long term business relationships. No other scenario makes sense.  A successful negotiation should inevitably lead to the next negotiation.  If you cannot settle on a deal that provides value for the customer’s dollar and profit for your business, it is often best to walk away from the deal.

Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away 

If you have invested considerable time and design talent in putting a together a graphics program, it is becomes increasingly difficult to walk away from the negotiating table the longer the sales takes.   A smart buyer knows this. As a salesman, you need to be aware of this and how a prospect can use this to his advantage and your disadvantage.

As a sales negotiation drags on, the more desperate many salesmen become and the more likely they are to cave into making concessions. The concessions not only include price, but also payment terms as well as concessions involving installation of the graphics.

Closing Techniques: Getting to Yes

Many sales people are not comfortable with what has been derisively termed manipulative selling.  While old school selling techniques can smack of the deceptive sales trickery that a con artist would use, the fact is that many of these selling tactics actually work quite well. In the follow paragraphs I will cover several of the closing techniques that I have used to seal deals.

Settle the Minor Issues First

To paraphrase Donald Trump: big deals are often comprised of many small agreements. In selling it is often much easier to first settle the minor issues such as the design, colors, delivery and timing of the graphics installation. After coming to agreement on all of the details of the program, only one decision remains:  “when can we get started?”

After you ask a question like that, keep your mouth shut. Wait until the customer gives you an answer.

Alternate Choice Close

In gaining settling on the details of the program, use the alternate choice close.  The quickest way to reach an agreement is to present the prospect with two choices. Which color do you like, the red or the blue? Which design do you like?

The key to using this technique is never give them more than two options. Otherwise the decision making process can drag on and on.

Take Action

I have used the tactic of taking action in the customer’s office to close many deals. It starts with a question. That question could be as simple as: “when do you need the graphics to be delivered?” After the prospect gives you a date, my response was “I don’t know if we can do the job by then, but let me find out.”

I usually knew that we could produce the job in time but I would call the plant manager and ask. It’s always good if the plant manager knows what you are doing. I would then tell the prospect: “the plant is really busy right now, but we can fit your job in if we get your approval now.” In many cases, the prospect will proceed with the order.

Contingency Close

If the prospect doesn’t close then, follow up with the contingency close. Here’s how it works. Have the contract  prepared in advance stipulating that the “order is contingent upon approval of color matches and the full size artwork”. Point this provision out to the prospect. Conclude with “all I need is your OK and we can get started”.


Using  the closing techniques suggested can help shorten the sales cycle. These aren’t the only ways that salesmen get to yes in a negotiation. You need to find what you feel comfortable with and what works for you. What’s most important is that you find a way to finalize the deal as quickly  as fast as possible before your competitors has a chance to respond.

Good Luck Selling!