Hey, You're Human: "The Client Wasn't Pleased With the Print."

Everyone makes mistakes. Here’s how to learn from them.

Everyone makes mistakes. Here’s how to learn from them. 

“The client wasn’t pleased with the print.”

The Problem: Harry Ein’s 2014 was a home run. The sales pro drove revenue to new heights and was named Advantages’ Sales Rep of the Year. And yet, even a high performer whose success is proceeding apace in 2015 admits he is no stranger to orders gone askew. “It’s something we all deal with,” says Ein, owner of Perfection Promo, an affiliate of iPROMOTEu (asi/232119). “What matters is how we react when things go wrong.”

Not long ago, Ein found himself embroiled in a difficult order. A large cosmetics company required rush delivery on approximately 2,000 bags, 2,000 buttons and 1,500 T-shirts. Fearing the disaster of a missed deadline, Ein green-lighted the screen printer to go to press on the shirts without first reviewing a pre-production sample with the client. He soon came to regret the decision.

While the buyer liked the buttons and bags, she was unhappy with the shirt’s imprint, which was difficult to produce, featuring as it did a complex design and an abundance of spot colors. Still, the print’s relative difficulty was not the buyer’s problem; she had expected the graphic to look a certain way and she felt let down.

“The print was good, not perfect, but not poor,” says Ein. “I showed friends outside the industry and they didn’t see a thing wrong with it. But, the fact was that the client was not happy. To me, whatever the client thinks is the most important thing. You have to meet those expectations. You have to make them happy.”

The Solution: Not one to hide behind voicemail and email, Ein spoke one-on-one with the client in an effort to find a workable solution. One was soon arranged. To best accommodate the buyer’s needs, he provided a portion of the shirts at a substantially discounted rate. Additionally, he had the remaining shirts re-run; he did not charge the client for those tees.

While Ein’s vendor helped ease the financial blow, he still lost hundreds of dollars on the deal. “But it was,” he says, “the best decision I could have made.” Indeed, Ein’s performance influenced the buyer to view him as a committed partner, someone who would do whatever is necessary to help. “It improved our relationship,” says Ein. “Since then, I’ve done well over a quarter of a million dollars in business with her, and she has given me referrals.”

The Lessons: Most basically, the order re-emphasized to Ein the importance of pre-production samples. “Even if it’s a rush, I make sure we do one,” he says. “I explain to clients that the most important thing is that they know exactly what they’re getting and that they’re happy with that.”

From this, he pulls a broader lesson: To be a true partner, sometimes salespeople must draw on their expertise and clearly explain why certain things are in the client’s best interest, even if the client doesn’t realize so initially. “We should do all we can to make sure their brand is depicted in the right way,” says Ein.

Finally, the order proved to Ein that making every possible reasonable effort to please a client – even if it means a short-term financial loss – can be highly beneficial in the long run. “You never want to lose money,” says Ein, “but this was well worth it, many times over.”

When we fall short, the important part is to learn where we went wrong and do better next time. That’s why Advantages is asking you to share your tales of trying sales scenarios and the lessons they taught you. Contact writer Christopher Ruvo with your story.

Advisory Board Weighs In

How can reps best manage client expectations?

“Communicate regularly throughout the project and always be honest. For instance, when it comes to the quality of the items or odd requests, we are always honest if we are unfamiliar with the items. We recommend a sample or pre-production sample be reviewed before the order is finalized. Being upfront from the beginning has saved many misunderstandings on the backend.” –  Danette Gossett, Owner, Gossett Marketing (asi/212200)

“Profiling your client ahead of time is the key to meeting their expectations. Asking the correct questions on the front end allows you to know what type of client you are working with. Has this client seen the good, the bad and the ugly in our industry? Is this their first time buying? This knowledge allows a seasoned professional to lay the groundwork up front for a client.” – Matthew Watkins, CEO, (asi/246818)

“In today’s fast-paced promo world, clients want immediate results.  My advice is to promise responsibly. Don’t just agree to something when you know it might not be possible. Buy yourself a little time and tell customers you will have an answer shortly, then make sure you can follow through on that promise.” – Mark J. Resnick, VP of Sales/Promotional Branding, The Artcraft Company (asi/125023)

“The best ways to manage client expectations are to a) ask the important questions up front. You need to know what the client expects in regard to delivery and performance.  Then b) you need to be honest and upfront.  Communication is the key.” – Kirby Hasseman, Owner, Hasseman Marketing & Communications (asi/221824)

“Communication is essential. Be upfront with the customer and educate them. Clients might have the wrong expectations simply because they don’t know better. Explaining the process and educating them can help them better understand proper expectations.”– Tej Shah, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce, Overture Premiums & Promotions (asi/288473)