Sell More with Samples

One of the best ways to build your screen printing business is presenting prospective clients with samples. But which items should you present? How much should you spend? And do they always pay off? Consider the following dos and don'ts.

Do keep it simple. There are physical limitations to how many samples you can take to a sales meeting. You should have samples of what you want to sell, as opposed to taking in rolling racks of everything in the world. Besides, limiting the selection makes the customer's choice-and your job-easier. Try to have samples that show each of the processes you offer including screen printing, embroidery, special effects, etc.

Do keep it interesting. It's a good idea to show a few samples that your competition isn't likely to present. Anyone can show white cotton T-shirts, but how many can present T-shirts with discharge, high density, puff, foil, or glitter? Even if your customer hasn't requested the look, he still may jump at the chance to purchase something novel.

The greatest advantage of owning a cutter is you do not have to limit your products to apparel. Show off decals, magnets, bumper stickers, and banners as well. Consider creating a sample the client will keep such as a No Smoking sign or a magnet with emergency numbers with your shop's logo. Then there is a visual reminder so that when a client has a need, your phone number is handy.

Do keep it thoughtful. When a potential client mentions a birthday or a special occasion, remember it and use it on a sample later. For example, if a client has a new grandchild, you can decorate a one-piece snappie with the name of the baby and the date. If you listen, it's amazing what people will tell you.

Don't spend too much money. Although it's a great idea to put a customer's logo on a sample and present it, don't haphazardly throw money at this sales method. It's best to know who the decision maker is and know that you have a chance at a sizable order.

If you're not confident you'll get an order from a custom sample, consider maintaining a supply of samples representative of the different processes you provide. For example, you might print some extra decals or shirts at the same time you are doing a job so you have them on hand when an opportunity arises.

And even though you spend time and effort to produce custom samples, they're definitely not "free." Work it into the price of the order.

Don't get yourself in legal hot water. As a matter of law, you need permission to reproduce a copyrighted logo. But in general, you don't need to worry about facing a lawsuit for producing a customer's logo on a sample. However, it also doesn't hurt to check with a client about using his logo for samples. It can be an opportunity to stroke his ego. Present the request in such a way that you want to use his logo because it's one of the best ones that you do.

Do use samples to make your point. By choosing your samples carefully, you can overcome customers' brand objections. For instance, if a customer wants Lands' End garments, you could order a sample from that company and show it, side-by-side with a brand equal in quality from the decorated apparel industry, with both garments' labels covered. Let your samples reinforce what you are telling the customers.

Don't be sloppy. With a sample, you are making a first impression and you want to put your best foot forward. Avoid using seconds or irregulars. Even though you may be trying only to emphasize the color brightness, opacity, and soft hand of the print, a client might see the small hole by the collar and judge your entire company on that imperfection.

Pay close attention to the details, making sure that it's neat and professional. Is the garment pressed? Are there any printing mistakes? Is it clean?

Don't stop with samples. Showing samples is only part of the sales process. You must present yourself professionally by dressing and acting appropriately and following up promptly.