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Want to Sell More Signs?

Maybe you’re asking the wrong question.

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FIRST OFF, YOU should be proud of yourself. I mean, look at you, taking your limited time to read a sign industry online column. You recognize the value in getting new ideas, confirming best practices and commiserating with like-minded managers.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not own a signshop. I own a print shop with a sign department. So why should you care what I tell you? You signshop purists out there might turn up your nose a bit at taking advice from a print shop hack. However, I’ve been in this industry for more than 30 years, and my company has been profitable for each of them, very profitable for most of them. The printing industry and sign industry are closely related, sharing many of the same challenges and opportunities. I’m also irreverent, periodically humorous and thought-provoking.

So, you want to sell more signs? Are you sure that’s exactly what you want? We could have a case of “be careful what you wish for; you might get it.” For instance, if all you’re focused on is selling a bunch more signs, then slashing your prices will do the job — that is, until you go out of business at 3 p.m. today.

You’re not going to be able to get the results you want or need until you ask the right question: Do you want to sell more profitable signs?

And I’m assuming if you’ve read this far, the answer is a resounding darn skippy I do!

This question has a two-part response. The first part has to do with “profitable” and the second with “more.”

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Here’s the framework: “Profitable sales” have to do with understanding your costs, both fixed and variable, seen and unseen, known and surprising. Running a profitable shop is a mindset the owner needs to have and then communicate to their employees. Profit = lifeblood.

Without profit, a business might teeter on the edge of solvency for a few months or possibly years. (Did you hear the one about how to make a small fortune in the sign business? Start with a large fortune! Haha.) Your business could eventually go the way of thousands, closing its doors, disappointing its customers, hurting its employees.

But the larger the profit your business makes, the longer you can be around helping your clients, employing your team, doing really fulfilling work. Profit drives your ability to invest in new equipment, offer additional products and services, attract top-notch people by paying above average wages, and employ industry best practices. Don’t believe those who say profit is evil, and don’t feel guilty about making a profit. Don’t apologize for it, be proud of it and revel in it!

The ”more” part has to do with your ability to attract and retain new clients, and sell additional products and services to existing customers. You can certainly sell more signs by lowering your price. However, that negatively impacts your profitability. Let’s take that option off the table. Pricing is another topic I could spend hours writing about; yet, in the interest of keeping you awake, I’ll just say that it’s possible to sell more signs at a higher price than your competitors.

How, you reasonably ask? We’ll look into that next month.

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Paula Fargo is the owner of Curry Printing, a small commercial printing and sign company in Baltimore, and has managed tens of employees and satisfied more customers than that over the past 35 years. Contact Paula at [email protected].

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