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Using Situational Questions To Win Every Bid

Here’s the nitty gritty, as awesome as you might be in your niche, as incredibly mindblowing your print quality is and as many customers you have coming by your shop if you’re not winning bids, you’re not going to last. Now, some people have the magical salesperson touch. They can open their mouth and people’s wallets just seem to fall open automatically. But for the rest of us, winning the bid for that order of shirts is an anxiety-inducing situation.

What do you say if they mention that the price is lower at a competitor’s screen printing shop? How do you handle getting all the details while communicating what makes your shop awesome?

The best way to understand your customer’s vision is to ask them questions. With the right questions, your sales will be stronger, and your service will be better than your competition. At Ryonet, our motto is “educate first and sell second”. This means that we help our customer to understand more about what it is that they want to accomplish and how we can develop a successful path for them to do that before we sell to them. That’s because we care about our customer’s success, and an educated sale is a much higher quality one and the foundation for a great customer relationship.

How do we do this?

We start by asking questions. Specifically, situational questions. Sounds simple, right? What sounds simple is the basis on which we have trained our entire sales team.

So, what are situational questions?

Situational questions help the seller to understand more about what the customer wants to achieve, and where they are coming from (their situation). But how you wield them matters. The key is to stop and ask first before you start answering and assuming things. Asking only a few of these questions, before saying anything, can minimize confusion, save time and help you to find the correct solutions for your customer while helping them to understand that your solutions have their best interest at heart.

Let’s walk through a situational selling dialog to help you understand how you can develop your own batch of situational selling questions to turn your screen printing bids into cash.

Customer: “Hi, I was wondering if I could get a quote on 200 black shirts for my band’s upcoming tour.”

Printer: “Sure, my name is Ryan, I’m the founder of XYZ printing. What’s your name and the name of your band?”

Interpretation: Every person’s first name is the best sounding word to them. (Yes, this is science) So, when developing a relationship with a person, it is very important to ask what their name is. I recommend writing it down so that you remember it and can reference back later. Also, take notes on the questions that you are asking, so you do not have to ask them again.

Customer: “Hi Ryan, my name is Mike, and the name of my band is The Pillars. We need these shirts pretty soon. How much will that cost me to print?”

Printer: “Thanks, Mike, we’d love to work with you, and I can work up a quote for you no problem. To help me better understand what you want so that I can provide the best screen printed shirts for you and the Pillers, I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions?”

Interpretation: First, always acknowledge the customers request. If you don’t, they could think you are trying to blow them off and not listening to them. Next, ask their permission to ask them a few question. This is the best way to get cooperation and with the intention to provide them the best service. Sometimes you may get some pushback on this, but don’t give in. Just politely say, “I take what we do very seriously, and we provide the best screen printing services in (your niche), so if you could help me by answering just a few quick questions, I think you will be happy with the results we get.”

Customer: “Ok, sure, no problem. I have already gotten a few quotes, so I am looking to see how you compare.”

Printer: “Great, well let’s start by taking a look at what you want on the shirts. Do you have a design in mind already?”

Interpretation: Remember, you can’t give someone a quote until you find out what the job is going to entail. So, find out what they want to print and how difficult it is.

Customer: “Yup, we have our band logo. You can get it from our Facebook page.”

Printer: “Let’s check it out. The logo looks pretty cool! I see that it’s on a black background, and by counting it looks like it’s about four different colors. Did you design this or have it designed for you?”

Interpretation: Again, you are trying to learn how much work will go into this job. Design time is a hugely overlooked part of screen printing costs, so find out in advance if they have the vector or original high-resolution art for it, or if you’ll have to do a lot of pre-press work yourself.

Customer: “Our drummer is a free ance designer and I think he designed it in Illustrator or something.”

Printer: “That’s awesome! You can’t believe how many people come in here with a business card or a low res JPG and want a shirt printed. The colors on the design look distressed, is that how you want the shirt to look?”

Interpretation: You’ve established that you need a high-quality image to get a print. Now, you are finding out what their expectations for the print are going to be, and a better understanding of how much work it’s going to take you.

Customer: “Yeah, we really like the distressed look. Oh, and the print needs to have a soft feeling, I hate those thick shirts.”

Printer: “Awesome, that’s actually my preference as well. As you can see from some of our examples, we use all water based inks which give a much softer feeling on the shirt. Do you like the way this shirt looks or feels?”

Interpretation: At this stage, make sure you have some examples of your work to show to the customer, and pull out one of them to give them a hands-on experience. You are also starting to educate your customer and differentiate your business.

Customer: “Yeah, I really like that! The last shirts we got were thick and crusty. Terrible.”

Printer: “They were probably using plastisol. We do that type of printing, but I prefer the feeling of water based ink, so that’s what we specialize in. How much did you pay for the last shirts you got?”

Interpretation: This is important because you don’t want to over or undersell yourself. Their answer to this question will start to establish the price expectations of the customer.

Customer: “On our last tour we got 200 shirts and then ordered 100 more in the middle of the tour. They charged us $2,000 for the first order and $1,400 for the second order, plus shipping.”

Printer: “Ok, got it. Do you think you may need to order more shirts in the middle of this tour as well?”

Interpretation: Now you’re finding out if you are going to need to print this design more than one time.

Customer: “Yeah, most likely.”

Printer: “That’s no problem, we do that all the time. I can actually save the screens for you as well which will make the process easy. What types of shirts did you use on the last run?”

Interpretation: Before you provide any pricing or quotes, you want to find out more about the type of shirt they will want because the type of shirt is your number one cost line item in the job.

Customer: “They used a ringspun shirt I think because we wanted a soft feeling, but the shirt kinda sucked. I think it was called a Gildan. It shrunk after the first wash.”

Printer: “Ok, Gildan makes a good and affordable shirt but let me show you a few other options that won’t shrink. This is an American Apparel ringspun shirt, and this is a Next Level. They are both a little more expensive than a Gildan but not too bad. Do you care if your shirts are American made?”

Interpretation: This question helps you to uncover what the customer prefers and educates them on different options out there.

Customer: “We don’t care much about it being American made. This Next Level feels nice.”

Printer: “Great, they make awesome shirts. Would you guys like your own custom labels printed on the shirt?”

Interpretation: Again, you are uncovering the possible needs of the customer.

Customer: “No, we just want the best quality for the best price. How much is it going to cost us?”

Printer: “I think we can provide you exactly what you are looking for. How soon do you need them?”

Interpretation: The last piece to the puzzle before you can offer a quote.

Customer: “We are leaving for tour in one week.”

Printer: “Okay, our production schedule is pretty busy, but I think we can fit you in if we get things going soon. Before I give you the quote, I wanted to ask you if there were any issues you had with your last printed that you’d appreciate not happening again.”

Interpretation: This question will not only help you to understand how to take the best care of your customer but will also show the customer how attentive you will be. Setting that bar high.

Customer: “Oh it was pretty bad. The shirts were late, so I had to meet my band at the first show, and the prints were not the best as we already discussed. Plus, they charged us more for the second batch and didn’t tell us that up front.”

Printer: “Okay. Communicating and timeliness are definitely things we pride ourselves at here at XYZ printing. While I work up this quote for you, you can check out some of our customer testimonials and print examples on the wall over there.”

Interpretation: You are now educating the customer on your service, customer experience, and quality.

Time to quote!

Pull out your profit calculator, and plug in the information you just got by asking situational questions:

Next Level dark ring spun shirt = $4
Cost of ink and supplies = $.25
Labor = $.45 (see print method below)
Screens = .50 per shirt (4 screens at $25 each)
(ALWAYS charge for screens even if you don’t put it on the quote)

Material costs = $5.2 per shirt

Print method – Water based custom Pantone matched inks, printed directly on fabric with no flash to give it a soft hand and distressed look.

You know that you can print these manually at about 125 per hour because there is no flashing, and you can make the screens and ink in about 1.5 hours. So, the total time to do the job will take around 3 hours.

3 x $30 an hour labor cost = $90 / 200 shirts = $.45
Time costs = $.45 per shirt.

$5.20 + $.45 = $5.65
Total Cost without profit = $5.65

You already have a good idea of the customer’s budget because you know what they paid the last time, but you don’t know how much your competition is bidding for this job yet. This is another situation question you could ask during the process above if you feel like you have a good relationship with the customer already. Or, you could also ask who else is bidding on it because you should already know your competition’s general quality and pricing.

Let’s assume that you didn’t ask these questions and/or don’t know the answers. Your material costs are lower than the bid for the last print job they got, so you don’t have to worry about that. But you decide to bid a little higher than the last job because of the better quality shirt. But, you will not charge the customer more for their second shirts if they need more.

Customer: “So, what’s my price?”

Printer: “Alright Mike, we are going to print this job using water based ink, which will give you the soft feeling like you see here in this example. We are also going to use a higher quality Next Level ringspun shirt. And I can have these shirts printed and ready for you, guaranteed, the day before you leave on tour. For this print, we will charge $12.50 per shirt, which includes the cost of the garment, screens and everything else. $12.50 will also be the same cost for any additional shirts you need to order since we will save the screens and ink for you, so we don’t have to make those again.”

Interpretation: You describe your process and differentiate your business and quality through the description, you also are going to show examples.

Customer: “$12.50 is a little higher then we were looking to pay since we only paid $10 for them last time and some of the other bids have come in a little lower.”

“Okay, keep in mind that our pricing is flat for the first and second order. From the examples you’ve looked at, do you think that the quality of our product will be to your liking, and better or worse than the other places you are looking?”

Interpretation: You are implying with this question that your quality is superior, but you will let the customer answer it for themselves.

Customer: “I do think that we would be happier with your service and quality. The other places just shot me out a price, and I don’t think they use this water based ink either.”

Printer: “What if we could do this? I can do it for $12.00 a shirt for the first order. We want to earn your business and develop a long-term relationship with The Pillars. The cost for 200 shirts will be $2,400, and the cost for an additional 100 would be $1,200, giving you a total price of $3,600 for 300 shirts. Last time you paid $3,400 for those same shirts, but you and your customers were not happy with the results, and the shirts came late. If I deliver late, I will give you a 20% discount on the order as well.”

Interpretation: You have established the need, you have worked up a solution, your final question is a question that seals the deal and proves that you can put your money where your mouth is. That your shop is a good investment for the customer.

Customer: “Alright, sounds good, let’s do it!”

Now, obviously not every sale will go like that, but the purpose of showing you that scenario is to give you an example of how it could go and the types of situational questions to ask along the way.

Now it’s your turn!

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