Business Toolkit - Mastering Sales

David Hammond, Director of Seymour Sign & Print, talks about sales in signage in this month’s Business Toolkit.


Now entering my 13th year in the signage industry, until recently working alongside my father, I’d like to share one of the most important things I’ve come to realise, and it’s taken me a while for the penny to drop.

Sales before stickers – I’ve gotten flack for saying this in the past, but the process of applying vinyl to something isn’t overly difficult. There’s an abundance of tutorials on YouTube, training courses, even spending time with roll ends to practise and experiment, and if you do mess it up, there’s always the option to rip it off and start again.


The same isn’t true for the sales process, or working on, rather than in the business in general. There are fewer tutorials, guides, and resources, there’s often great apprehension about trying something different, or even finding the time to implement new things.

I feel many small companies fall short in their sales and marketing. There are many great signwriters, wrappers, printers, and designers, whose technical abilities are amazing yet they fail to sell their services. I’ve seen for myself small sign companies transform flat, simple logos into realistic 3d renders, and they don’t charge for it, unable to see the value they’re providing to their customers’ brands. I don’t profess to be an expert by any means, this is an area I’ve worked on with the help of a business coach with industry experience, and after more than a decade of trying to find my feet.

How will knowing your numbers help with sales?


There’s no denying it’s boring, tedious, and even uncomfortable to scrutinise your business. But a worthwhile venture, provided you take onboard what you discover. You’re not going to stand back and look at your spreadsheet with a sense of achievement like you do after completing a customer’s project.


I’ve spoken with other business owners who believed themselves not to be cheap, but after further discussion, the reality was their pricing whilst not the cheapest wasn’t sufficient. Understanding your overheads and costs puts things into perspective and should give business owners the confidence to charge appropriately, and even decline those work that isn’t viable. For example, if it’s costing £30 an hour to keep your workshop open, spending 5 hours designing, producing and installing some signage on a van and charging £200 is barely breaking even. Using this data, it’s relatively easy to establish starting costs.


If your setup is providing very specific products, such as stickers, or banners, things that can be standardised, the same costs can be used to calculate the number of units to sell in order for it to be viable at varying prices, and decide whether the amount of units is realistic and achievable.

There is little point in comparing your business with others, there are trade printers who are buying panels by the pallet load, with machines capable of printing full panels in minutes, capable of producing hundreds of boards a day. It’s fruitless trying to compete with these prices without being able to achieve the volume to make it truly profitable.

How can you avoid time wasters in your sales process?


You don’t need every customer, there’s the old adage “busy fool”. During initial conversations, I try to find if there’s a reason not to work with the customer. Whether that be the customer’s budget, if they’ve unrealistic expectations of lead time, and that trusty gut feeling we all have. That aim is to vet the customer as much as possible before investing valuable time into them.

I’ve been guilty of chasing around, measuring up jobs, meeting customers, and preparing quotes, all in the hope of winning some. Now by qualifying customers early on, it reduces the time chasing around, leaving time to concentrate on those customers who have qualified, following up on their quotes, and delivering a more responsive service to these customers.

What is the number one thing people can do today to close more sales?


If you’re wrapping interiors, you’re not just applying stickers to furniture. You’re potentially saving the customer thousands of pounds. You’re saving them time and effort in having to source replacement furniture, the time and inconvenience of furniture being installed. All achieved by applying vinyl to existing furniture.

It’s another worthwhile exercise identifying the real benefits of the service you provide, and the problems you solve. We’ve gained several customers simply because we’re able to respond to their enquiry. Others because previous suppliers have required their vehicle for over a week to install signage, where we got that down to hours. 


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