Thirty-plus years in the sign business has helped Mike Meyer, Mike Meyer Sign Painter, Mazeppa, MN, hone his sales skills. He’s spent a lot of time with other sign people, and sales is a topic that always comes up—whether in the US, Australia or Europe. SignCraft asked him for a few of the key things that he’s found to make the sales process go easier and faster, so here goes:
Talk about price and budget right away. Mike gets the price issue resolved as soon as possible. Otherwise you are likely to waste time. He gives a price range for the signage they’re asking about and watches the reaction. If it’s obvious that it’s out of reach for them, he goes right to other options. If a full wrap or full 3D sign is over budget, let them know you know how to get them the impact they want in other ways.
Explain how you can add a 3D graphic or border to an otherwise flat sign. You can treat their whole van as a sign without necessarily wrapping it. Now, instead of being a salesperson, you’re a consultant helping them find a solution where they get some of what they want without spending much more than they were planning to spend. You may find that they start to feel more comfortable about stretching their budget as you show them examples, too.
Tell them what goes into the sign. “I’ve trained myself,” says Mike, “after talking with lots of other sign people, to say what goes into the sign out loud, rather than just thinking it in my head. I might say, ‘I’d do a sign like that on cedar, so I’m going to have to buy the wood, then laminate it into a panel with waterproof glue. Then I’ll sand it flat and put on a coat of top-quality primer followed by at least two coats of finish.’
“At this point, they often say something like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize that much went into it...’ You can’t blame them, but this helps them realize this isn’t like McDonald’s, where I just go in the back and get his sign off the shelf.” This helps them justify the cost.
Consider a digital printing job. The customer doesn’t know you need to get very high resolution images, create the file, choose the substrate, deal with color issues, print it on a $30,000 printer, laminate the graphics—and apply it to his trailer, using heat and special tools to make it conform to each rivet. You don’t just click Print as soon as they walk out the door.
Remember that most customers don’t know what a sign will cost. They may have a number in their head, but it’s probably not based on any factual experience of what a sign like this costs. They may not have bought a sign for years. They may have never bought a sign. That’s why so many say, “That much?” no matter what price you quote.
Be prepared to respond. “For every move there is a counter move,” says Mike “just like the wrestling coach said.” If you stumble looking for a response, you’ll look unprofessional and maybe even untrustworthy. If you get aggressive with your response, it’s a turn off. But if you empathize then offer to help them find an option that fits their budget, they’re more likely to realize you’re there to help—rather than just sell them something.
Compare your businesses. Most sign customers are in business as well, so Mike often likens their business to his. Explain how you’re sure that they have overhead and material costs and labor costs just like you. You know that they couldn’t afford to do a child’s orthodontics or sell a bouquet of flowers without factoring these costs in. They wouldn’t want to have someone look at the menu in their restaurant and say, “Look, I’ll give you $6 for the ravioli dinner….” Many customers can relate to this.
Give or show examples whenever you can. Point out a similar sign and say what it sold for. Mike says he might say something like, “You know the sign on the Evergreen Inn? I did that. It was about $800 dollars, too, and Bob is really happy with it.” It helps the client identify with other business owners who made a wise decision.
Be confident, and keep learning. Most sign customers are in business as well, so he likens their business to his. Mike says that if you pay attention, you’ll soon realize a pattern in customer’s responses. Then you can be ready to handle their concerns. Above all, be confident in your pricing.
“Don’t be ashamed of what you have to charge,” says Mike. “No one can work for free, no matter what business they are in. The reality is that all this work costs more than we’d like it to, but this is what it costs to get the job. The great thing is that, like I often tell them, ‘You’ll make a lot more on this sign than I will.’”
Mike produced all of the great-looking signs you see here. --Editors