One of the great sales tools for selling sign work are before-and-after examples of the same sign layout. What faster way to get the prospective client's confidence than to show a generic layout of their sign (or any sign) beside a drawing of what you would have produced?
Seeing is believing, and if you have the design skills, the prospect will likely think, "Hey, I've come to the right place…"
Before-and-after examples also give you something to talk about other than price. If they just hand you their business card and say they want a price on a sign like that, there's not much else to say except, "I can do it on aluminum for x dollars...."
The generic layout got the message across, but Lisa's use of contrast and and panels was sure to catch the eye of more prospective customers.
Lisa Freshler now works in the US Marine Corps sign shop in Cherry Hill, North Carolina. Back when she worked in sign shops, though, she used this as part of her sales approach. If a prospective customer brought her a layout and she saw the opportunity to sell a more effective design, she offered to show them an alternative.
“Price becomes secondary when they see the difference,” says Lisa. “If you are competing with shops who do generic layouts, and you have before-and-after designs that show what can be done with the same copy, it’s pretty hard for them to compete with you.
“All of these layouts were done on the spot. They're just low-res proofs for the customer to see. When I have to work quickly, I usually fall back on formulas and principles that come from practice. I also do my designs in black and white, then worry about colors later. If it looks good in black and white, it will look good in color.”
Compared to the generic red-and-white layout, Lisa's version was an easy sell.
As you look at Lisa’s examples, you’ll see a few key elements that she uses to help set her designs apart.
Dramatically increase the emphasis on the business name and/or primary service. Compare these examples to see how much more emphasis the primary message gets in her versions.
Put contrast to work to organize the copy. Make the key message stronger—bigger and bolder—so the reader doesn’t have to figure out what to read first.
Use panels to add interest and help control the copy. This is a great way to help guide the reader’s eye through the copy.
The client thought they wanted their business card reproduced as a sign until they saw Lisa's layout, which delivered a lot more impact.
Keep in mind where the sign is located. On a small yard sign in front of a house under construction, it’s important to emphasize the company name so that viewers don’t overlook the sign altogether.
Use black generously to add contrast and increase legibility. Contrast increases impact, and many sign designers take advantage of the power of black to help do that.
It pays to shoot before-and-after photos of signs that you replace, and to do a few redesigns of other signs you’ve photographed. It helps you keep your sales effort visual—based on real results that the prospect can see—rather than just on words.
You'll find more of Lisa Freshler's work and comments on selling with before-and-after examples in SignCraft Magazine.