To make any business—typesetting included—succeed, you must sometimes sell. But that doesn't necessarily mean a back-slapping, glad-handing door-to-door effort. If you're uncomfortable "selling" you may find composing to be a very attractive business because you can introduce the service to potential buyers largely by mail. One small presentation kit, duplicated as many times as necessary and sent to prospective customers, can save you the endless time and frustration normally invested in "cold calls".
The kit should consist of three basic elements: a cover letter, your business card and representative samples of your work. Be brief in your letter: don't force a prospect to wade through an epic, because he won't. Quickly introduce yourself, list the major advantages of your service (low cost and availability) and refer to your samples. Close with the promise of a follow-up phone call to answer any questions.
With a prospect introduced to your composing service, it's up to you to learn what he thinks of it. When you call, begin your telephone conversation by referring to the letter . . . then let things take their natural course. If a potential customer isn't interested the first time around, don't give up. Each time you increase your capabilities (by adding new type fonts to your inventory or expanding into layout work), send every buyer and possible buyer of your services a written notice. Let 'em know you're there, in other words . . . and keep on lettin' 'em know.
It's always a good bet—unless you have an "in" with a printer—to address your samples to a print shop's "Production Manager." In many cases you can obtain the production manager's name by simply calling the company and asking. If that doesn't work, use the title.
There's another—perhaps even better—way to get those jobs . . . and that's by hiring a salesman to do it for you. This is not as difficult nor as expensive as it sounds if you know how to go about it. The trick is to find a retired or semi-retired graphic arts salesman who is interested in part-time work on a commission basis. Many such folks exist and a good number of them—just like you—are looking for an opportunity to keep active and supplement their incomes.
The best way to find your representative is through a classified advertisement in the Part Time Employment section of your local newspaper. Writing the ad is just a matter of describing the job and the person you want. In screening applicants consider sincerity, interest, experience and contacts. An older graphic arts salesman will be hard to beat on those last two points because he'll probably know—and have dealt with—every printer in the area. Of course, you mustn't discount an eager young rep either . . . sheer fire and vinegar can make a lot of sales. Just insist that the man or woman you hire represents you honestly at all times.
Once you have a representative, don't drop the entire promotional burden into his or her lap. Help your salesman in every way possible. Make sure he understands all the details and advantages of your service. Remember, he may know the business inside out . . . but he's starting out completely unfamiliar with you. Follow his suggestions, when necessary, in preparing your sales kit. Work with your representative on a list of prospects and arrange for him to report his progress regularly.
When your salesman brings in an order, let your gratitude shine through. The folks out on the firing line get a lot of their satisfaction from the psychological end of the bargain. And the money doesn't hurt either: 10-15% should be about right on a straight commission deal but that's negotiable for a few points either way. Pay your rep promptly when he brings you a sale if you can . . . or, if your budget is really tight, immediately upon your receipt of payment for the jobs he's brought in.
If you choose a salesman carefully and hammer out a fair working relationship, you'll both have a most satisfying situation going for you.