How May I Help You Have a Good Day?

(This post is dedicated to Vickie, Erica, Ashley, Melissa M., Kate, Shamima and Melissa MC., our class-A Administrative Professionals at Production Solutions).

Welcome to PS Erica Williams 2013After a stressful, short commute to my office involving side-swiping teenagers texting while driving, the executive ruminating over something that causes him to not see the light turn green (had to honk) and the young lady who felt compelled to tailgate me all the way to the office, I finally arrive, unscathed and in 1 piece, only to discover that I forgot to wear a tie for a meeting as well as to take my money clip (sitting in a bowl in my bedroom). Thankfully, I walked in to the welcoming smile and warm greeting of my front office staff and suddenly all the stress melted into the background.

How can anyone maintain a frown or bad attitude when the first things you see are two smiling people wishing you the best day ever?! If they have anything to do with it, I know it will be a good day!

And how about one that hands you a tie…she just happened to have it in her drawer (“break in case of emergency”).

Full disclosure: I started my direct marketing career after two uneventful jobs after college, in a crazy-busy fundraising firm. It was a company that believed everyone in the company should do a little front office work, from time-to-time.

“From time-to-time” for me became half-my-time as the full-time reception one day decided to hand one of the partners two Valiums when he asked for “two yellow tablets.” (He really wanted yellow writing tablets)!

Not smart.

In any event, I became the front office for a couple of years… half-time. And guess what? I loved it.

I loved answering the phone on the first ring. I loved greeting our wonderful suppliers and clients representing causes that mattered by their name sans waiting for them to tell me. I loved being a team player and slipping a note to one of the partners suggesting that he “take this call…” and him thanking me afterwards. I loved greeting and thanking the UPS man, the FEDEX woman and the mail carrier for their work.

Most of all I loved how I made all my fellow employees feel at the beginning of the day as I greeted them with a smile, a fresh pot of coffee and, on some days with CINNABONS. (I was goooooood).

My childlike optimism that I bestowed upon my colleagues was due to being basically a simple man, always happy that “God woke me up” and blessed with a whole lot of energy (back then) and loving my job.

Looking back on my days as a first-impression specialist, I know that my style in which I managed the front office really set the tone and temper of the day with my colleagues and led to (many a time) disarming an angry client or supplier to having a responsible conversation with the grateful account executive. :)

Fast forward to Production Solutions… 27 years ago when we opened our doors as a production management and direct marketing firm; there was, and always will be, a beautiful soul and loving front office person ready for an honest greeting of positivity and hope, ready to represent our company and our mission proudly.

I remain a stalwart regarding certain front office protocols:

1. I steadfastly support a RESPONSIVE, WARM, REAL, LIVE VOICE when calling into Production Solutions.

2. I steadfastly support the dignity, the respect, the intimacy and caring my company demonstrates to all who visit our place, by having a wonderful soul sitting in the front and receiving all our visitors.

3. I steadfastly support one of the many layers of corporate branding that “a real” front office offers and value how it educates inquiries on what we do and who we are.

Many of my industry colleagues have gone to a virtual or digital front desk and with that I question whether they’ve compromised their uniqueness in order to save money.

Suffice it to say we won’t be testing that notion, no matter how economical it may be. From the feedback I get at least once a week from our suppliers or clients…I know we’ve got a good thing going.

Now mind you…my front office won’t be giving out any Valium anytime soon (no matter how much you may need it!), but we will have laptops, private rooms, pens and yellow writing tablets available for any visitor in need.

“Good morning, Production Solutions; How may I help you?” It is truly our pleasure to make your day.

– George

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George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service, of which he is a director.

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Make Sure Design Speaks to You

For many of you who read my blogs, you know how much I rant about the many years I’ve been in the direct mail production business and the trunk loads of stuff I’ve learned and experienced of both the good and the bad.

Art GalleryMy career began and remains mostly in the direct mail business, however slowly but surely I am helping Production Solutions maintain its industry “relevancy” by dipping into the exciting fast-moving waters of interactive/digital fundraising.

As a print-focused production manager I have had the pleasure of working with many designers, illustrators, draftsmen, carpenters, photographers on all sorts of projects from space ads, to billboards, point-of-purchase items, annual reports, catalogs, calendars, greetings cards, bumper stickers and the list goes on and on.

From there, I found myself having the pleasure of working with designers focused on web design, drop boxes, banner ads, blogs, newsletters and a host of other visual challenges having to do with digital design.

Just recently, my son (he runs a sound and filming company) and I met to review an entire new logo concept and tagline. Not only were there serious considerations regarding the message the logo might convey, the paper stock, the typeface, etc., but also whether or not the new logo would be transmittal in it’s true form as in the case of HTML or digitally and not just print.

This whole exercise got me to thinking about the tremendous importance layout and design still plays when it comes to the visual sensory.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some extremely talented print designers who time and time again can take copy and weave the most spectacular design around the message.

My privilege of working with many designers has opened my eyes to the fact that the talent and creativity of print designers are not necessarily transferable from print to Colorful eyedigital.

Conversely a computer expert does not necessarily possess the aesthetic to create stimulating design or even pick out a supportive typeface.

Design has to pop and speak to your audience as strongly as the message. The challenge, as we enter the world of multi-channel, is that the audiences are different with each channel and design cannot simply be reformatted for each medium with any significant success.

In my early days of design I tried just that. An agency partner simply took a direct mail package and pieced together a similar look for email marketing. It didn’t work.

We learned that copy has to change to be short and lively and the artwork has to have a larger “voice” in conveying the message.

I also realized that with digital art, such as in the case of websites and newsletters, there’s a lot going on in the banners, the background art, and the use of vertical and horizontal messaging.

Simply put…digital design appears at first glance to be “messy” but I think that’s what pulls you in.

Please don’t get me wrong…some incredible print designers are making the transition from print to digital successfully. Some computer geeks are becoming very sensitive to design and applying “ease of reading”.

However the cutting-edge firms that do multi-channel marketing right understand that:

1. There is now a growing resource of interactive copywriters who understand the average 17- second attention spans and the right eye-catching typefaces, and can use punctuation like an Olympic javelin thrower!

2. There’s a different “eye” for layout and design when it comes to digital, whether it be a website, a blog, a banner ad, etc.

3. Catchy and painfully brief is good.

4. Conducting layout and design surveys with your constituents…fundamental.

5. Conducting layout and design surveys with the multi-generations regarding multi-channel should not be overlooked.

Let’s face it folks…the world of multi-channel is a new world for all of us. Ain’t no one has it down to a science just yet.

Lewis and Clark stamp.pioneersMany “experts” study trends, work off of their gut and intuition…and make mistakes (quickly). That’s how all pioneers have done it through the ages.

I say don’t lose sight of surveys and fundamental testing so that you can obtain a data base of your subscribers…donors. But remember, PREFERENCES. Marry those preferences to layout and design that speaks to you and don’t be afraid to be a pioneer yourself.

– George

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George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service, of which he is a director.

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I Just Want the Money

After going on 40 years working in direct response, specifically direct mail fundraising, I realized that my love for the industry surpassed my want to make some money.

Go ahead… snicker and chortle at YOUR notion that I don’t need the money and that’s why I’m making what is a somewhat “self-actualizing” statement.

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needsYou have every right to laugh.  You have every right to make sarcastic remarks.  Because it’s true…I’m old, I’ve saved money and I can look past “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” and become a tad philosophical.

I will even go so far as to say that for 32 of those 40 years it was all about the money for me.  I liked what I did but money is what I wanted, needed and expected.

Don’t get me wrong.

In my early to mid-career, agency life was not so bad.  Nice were the pats on the back for a job well done…awesome.  Stress-releasing organizational group hugs, company parties, staff awards…all of these were truly inspiring and noble efforts that my former agency conducted with the utmost of sincerity in honor of everyone’s stellar efforts.

Nice was the group I worked with and nice were the group lunches…the FREE group lunches and the happy hours every once in a while.

I was always eternally grateful when my company would allow me to work from home when my child was ill.  I am ever so grateful that my company thought so much of me to provide a wonderful insurance plan and created a really aggressive 401(k) plan which I joined right away!

I've Lots Of Money!But frankly, my dear…I wanted more jack.  I figured that I was pretty darn good at my production management job.  I was consistent…I worked my indentured 60 hours a week…I was darn consistent.  When my colleagues were in the weeds, I didn’t hesitate to help them.

I was a winner.

It was awesome to get kudos from the boss man/woman.  It was nice to hear that if I continued to work hard that I’d be going places!

But…what…I…wanted…honestly…was the experience of positive and frequent job reviews….a title with muscle (vice-anything, senior-anything, director, king, captain, etc.)… and the pay to go with the honors.

I mean, let’s face it, who are we fooling? I KNOW I SHOULD BE MAKING MORE MONEY THAN THAT PERSON IN THE OTHER WORK STATION!?

I needed my ego fed with title and the compensation that comes with it.  Was I crazy…or just human?

Shower me with gestures of kindness and appreciation.  Make my work environment as close to Disney World as you want…provide health plans, 401(k) plans, even a bonus…but, really, just pay me.

Uh…uh…uh…uh… I know what you’re going to say.  “But, George, all of the perks above were part of your compensation.”

Ney Ney.

My salary is the direct deposit that goes into my bank account every two weeks…the stuff that Uncle Sam taxes.  This “other stuff” is not part of my compensation.  It’s a gesture of kindness and respect, but not part of my salary.

Sizzling steakNot even an annual bonus was really part of my salary…that was just the sizzle.  I wanted the biggest steak I could get.  Damn, I worked smart and hard for it.

Fast forward…now, at this point in my so-called-life as “the boss man.”  I realize that as much as I try, human resources and management never seems to understand that employees see things a bit differently when it comes to compensation and salary.  It’s head shaking at times.  But it’s real.

This disconnect may soften as the employee develops tenure and gets older, but for the most part there will always be this disparity.

So, in honor of Tax Day and for all those hard and smart-working employees out there, my advice to H.R. and management:

1). Remember how you felt when you were coming up in your career and worked damn hard for the money;

2). Strike a balance within in that recipe of salary, benefits, bonuses, games, parties and working environment.  Go heavy on the meat, not just the sizzle.

Ka-ching.

– George

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George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service, of which he is a director.

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An Exercise in Futility?

As I was leaving the office the other night, I was stopped by one of my executives to alert to me to the fact that an international nonprofit had approached us to provide them a response to their annual premium production contract (a.k.a. a request for proposal – RFP).

Office lifeNow mind you, we had been doing some of the premium fulfillment for this organization in the past and our relationship with the internal staff and our overall performance has been, to say the least, very satisfying.

At first glance we were all extremely flattered to be invited to participate, especially since this organization is, as far as I’m concerned, a model of mission effectiveness and although in its past has had its share of “scandal” it pales in comparison to the level of some of the ones in the news today.

So to say we weren’t ecstatic that they approached Production Solutions with this opportunity would not be honest.

And so it was intriguing that in a meeting with my “RFP” Team, the one I shall call “Mr. Wet Blanket,” says to the rest of us “…is this RFP wired or is it for real?”

This gave me pause.

To those of you young, “virginal”-types, “wired” is trade lingo implying that the RFP went out to several qualified candidates but that it may be due to protocol, whereas, in fact, there is a favorite candidate already identified.

The end-result being that many professionals will probably end up spending a tremendous amount of time and resources to respond to the RFP which might prove to be an “exercise in futility.”

When Mr. Wet Blanket asked the question as to whether this RFP was wired, my immediate response was, “’wired’ or not, it is incumbent upon us to respond to it.” My philosophy has always been to respond to every RFP (okay… at least the first two invitations).

Furthermore, I believe that when you are the incumbent in the RFP you’d better damn straight submit the most creative, the most strategic and the most comprehensive response to it. Treat it as if it’s the very first time you’ve ever submitted a proposal to the organization. NEVER…EVER assume anything…especially a win.

I’ve experienced too many jaw-dropping surprises. Actually I was so angry at not winning an RFP one time that I tore up the “Dear John” letter in front of my team and tossed it into the trash can. Thank you, Dr. Grant, for your anger management treatments.

“Wired” has a negative connotation when there is bribery or collusion, meaning a contract is earmarked for a specific service provider before the RFP is even sent out. In my experience, cases like that are very rare.

But losers will whine…

What DOES happen is that an RFP is rumored to be wired because candidates DO talk amongst themselves and discover that parameters varied with each RFP. What’s not rare is the frustration many candidates have with spending so much time and money on responding to an RFP that isn’t won.

Responding to an RFP is extremely expensive. The research and the time invested are huge.

On the other hand, “wired” is not necessarily a bad word.

If a good relationship exists between the service provider and client then there may be no need for change.

Responding to an RFP, as far as I’m concerned, is simply ongoing positive exposure and continued “branding” of my company. Looking at it another way, the RFP itself actually serves as a learning tool and wake-up call for staff and marketing to comprehensively inventory our value proposition.

Most importantly we capture a wealth of knowledge about the potential client and that to me, as a salesman, is invaluable information for the future. To make the “cut” and be called in for a presentation is an even better opportunity for immediate or future work!

In fact, it is our duty as principals of service-providing companies to conduct research on the organization requesting the proposal, on the contract and on the competition to see if we are indeed a “fit” with the organization or if it’s just… oh wait, could it be, a learning experience?!

Bottom line…if you are invited to propose on a contract, the only exercise in futility is to whine about it.

– George

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George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service, of which he is a director.

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The PS Experience from the Outside

I invited one of our newest managers, Leah Ibraheem, to be my guest writer this week so she could share her incredibly frank perspective on her first impressions of Production Solutions…from the first touch being our job posting to her first visit to www.productionsolutions.com to her first day on the job. It is truly the emperor’s new clothes with a modern day twist.

– George

Who Am I?

My name is Leah Ibraheem. I’ve come to Production Solutions to help launch a suite of digital services that dovetail with the marketing services we already provide. I’ve been here since January, and have had a blast with the great PS team over the past few months.

Since PS has so many employees with long tenures – people who’ve been here 10, 15, 25 years – folks have been asking me what the company looks like from the outside. Here’s what I thought:

When I applied for the job, I was intrigued by the mention of a new division. The HR Director reached out to me right away to schedule a phone interview, so I did some more research on the company to prepare.

A Blast from the Past?

The first thing I saw was a web site that looked like it hadn’t been redesigned since 2006. The call-to-action on the site was “Call us today.” Ouch. Staff profiles included bios of four male executives (C and VP level) and one woman (Director-level). Double ouch. I thought about cancelling my interview. I wasn’t sure I wanted to step into what I was sure was a boys’ club steeped in old marketing techniques where women couldn’t get promoted past Director.

Then I decided the whole experience would be good practice. Even if I determined that the culture wasn’t a good fit, I could still learn something. The phone interview seemed promising, so I sat down to do more research. I checked out the benefits (great), and looked for the company on social media. Their Facebook page had some employee pictures, which showed a diverse crowd (even better). Their Twitter feed had a variety of content and linked to a new blog (also good).

Boys’ Club

Vintage photograph Victorian Men and boysBut my invitation to interview included meetings with one woman (the HR Director), and three or four men – the VP and C-level execs. Where were the rest of the woman leaders at this company? Production Solutions was launching a huge new initiative – and only men were involved? This was pretty disheartening. I didn’t want to work in a boys’ club environment, where women’s ideas were marginalized, we weren’t included on important projects, and our work was credited to others. Still, it’s an honor to be called in to interview, especially in a challenging job market, so I persevered. These people were taking time out of their busy schedules to talk with me, so I prepared as best I could, dressed accordingly, and showed up on time.

OK, Not Really a Boys’ Club

When I walked in, things changed. The first person I saw was a woman who was handling the front desk while others were at lunch. Her name is Kate and she made me feel welcome, asked me why I was there, and wished me good luck. I felt better already – I’d met someone I could identify with immediately.

Then I met Anna, the Director of HR. In our session, the first thing she asked me was if I was OK working for a diverse company. She emphasized that all kinds of people work at Production Solutions – all ethnicities, religions, ages, and sexual orientations. This made me feel welcome and comfortable. Then she talked about the clients. PS clients support environmental, human rights, animal welfare, political, health, international development, and LGBT issues. Was I cool with that? Yes, definitely.

THEN, she said something that just floored me. I’ve had a lot of jobs (this is my ninth), so I’ve been on a LOT of job interviews. No one has ever said what Anna said next, which was “As HR Director, it’s my job to make Production Solutions the best company to work for.” Period. In the world. Ever. What?!? Now I was intrigued. I wanted to work for a company that focused on being a good place to work.

The interview with the VP/C-level “Boys’ Club” also went far better than I imagined. They were down-to-earth, extremely intelligent, very nice guys – they didn’t seem like they belonged to any kind of club that would exclude me. Plus, they were well on their way to redoing the web site with the “Call us today” call-to-action. I left the interview feeling good and looking forward to meeting one more VP for a third evaluation.

My new friends Erica, Ashley, and Kate at the front desk welcomed me back when I returned for the third interview, which went pretty well. Then I had a decision to make. I’d also been offered another job, working exclusively with women at a larger company, also doing online marketing. At this point, based on the interviews with Production Solutions, it looked like I’d be the only woman on my team. I’d never worked that way before and wasn’t sure I wanted to.

Joining the PS Club

But I had a choice. I could go with the comfortable job – the other position not only featured an all-woman team, but all projects I’d handled before in an industry where I’d already worked – or I could accept something challenging – I’d never worked for an agency, I’d never launched a new division, and I’d never been the only woman on a group project.

So, as it turns out, there are plenty of women at Production Solutions (including those who turned out to be on my team), and plenty of women leading in a variety of ways. In addition, PS is sponsoring a Women’s Leadership series for those of us who want to advance our careers. Like I said, I’ve had nine jobs, and none ever offered this kind of thing. I’m glad to be at a company that invests in its employees, is committed to being a great place to work, and offers many opportunities to succeed for those who work hard and persevere.

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“Where are the bagels?” and Other Inane Utterances of Inexperienced Production Managers

In last week’s blog I felt compelled to advise my fellow supplier colleagues as to what to do and what not to do when making that first impression and obtaining a positive and lasting good impression with new business.

Business people taking donutsI know some of the points were candid and awkward but then who was really going to “come clean” with you?

Just sayin.

I’m going to touch on more “tips” from Production Interrupted on salesmanship/saleswomanship in a future blog, but let’s give equal discussion to things a media buyer or production manager should do and should not do when meeting with suppliers.

Having hired over 500 production managers in my career (loved 413 of them…the rest hopefully found other vocations) and working with 40 production program managers at Production Solutions currently…I thought I’d share with buyers and production people things salespeople REALLY want you to know.

Being a media buyer or production manager is a really challenging occupation. I should know…I’ve been one for over 35 years. In the early days, production staffs were always considered ancillary to those in creative, strategy and analytics. Anecdotally, I was once told by an account executive that he could do production with his eyes closed because it was so tactical. Really?!

And because of that perception… no wonder many production people carry chips on their shoulders or develop unconscious defensive body language and communication skills. This makes for some to be quite unpleasant to meet with.

Add to that, next to suppliers, it is the production staff that gets their asses kicked when deadlines are missed.

UNDERSTAND KIDS THAT…WE ARE THE MAGNETS OF MISDIRECTED RAGE.

In this business…“No good deed goes unpunished for a production manager.”

But alas, if you really like yourself, love to solve problems, enjoy working with people, don’t take yourself too seriously, are incredibly organized/nosey/curious, relentless in getting things done and always willing to learn…you have the makings of a great production manager!

Having said that let me share with you five things to ponder when meeting with suppliers whom you know or are just meeting for the first time:

  1. YOUR BODY OF SUPPLIERS IS NOT THE PLACE TO FIND A HUSBAND OR WIFE. Listen up production professionals…you purchase hundreds-of-thousands, even millions-of-dollars of materials and services. It’s not your wonderful personality or your eyes suppliers are falling in love with… it’s your buying and decision-making power. Talk to those buyers who went from large companies to smaller companies…they learned.
  2. BE CAREFUL IN NOT BEING KNOWN AS “SIR LUNCH-A-LOT.” Candy, flowers and lunches are nice but there is a price to pay. Paybacks ARE expected (and by paybacks, I mean more business sent their way, not anything else – see #1 above!).
  3. SUPPLIER MEETINGS ARE NOT A WASTE OF TIME. No pain no gain. It’s easy to get tired of yet another supplier presentation or meeting but you short yourself and most importantly you short your company when you feel that supplier meetings (especially new supplier meetings) are a waste of time. Book the darn meeting at a future time…keep the meeting…prepare for the meeting…give that one hour of your undivided attention. GET REFERENCES AND SAMPLES OF WORK AND FOLLOW THROUGH ON THEM.  Technology and innovation are ALWAYS CHANGING…BE PART OF THAT CHANGE.
  4. COME CLEAN ABOUT YOUR PAYMENT TERMS. You would be stunned at the laughing and joking that occurs in parking lots after sales meetings when suppliers learn at the very end or when doing a credit check how bad your company is in paying bills. The smart suppliers laugh and walk away shaking their heads. The not-so-smart suppliers take a chance and then sooner or later file Chapter 7.
  5. PRINTERS AND MAILERS MAY BE HIGHLY COMPETITIVE BUT THEY TALK AND SHARE THINGS ABOUT YOU AND YOUR COMPANY.  It’s not a big secret that suppliers help each other. It’s not a big secret that suppliers share with each other  what agencies are disorganized,  what agencies are bad payers,  what end-users are slow payers  and who are those reliable, good payers. They share what agencies require a supplier “rebate” or would rather not pay for a mistake but want to “bury the work.” Oh…and never underestimate a supplier…they know who your “favorites” are.

I could go on…but I hate long blogs. Whether you supply the direct response industry with printing, mailing, data processing or production management, selling and buying these services are, as I have said before, vewy, vewy twicky.

It’s much of the time, a game. It’s much of the time, a crap shoot.

However if you conduct yourself with dignity, candor, consistency, humility, sincerity and most of all know your product or business well…you will receive the same in return.

I know. I learned the hard way. But I learned.

Now, go out and buy your own bagels and don’t expect suppliers who visit to always buy you breakfast.

What have you learned that you’re willing to share with us here? Comments are welcomed from PMs and suppliers alike! We always like to know how your production was interrupted and what you learned from it.

-George

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George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service, of which he is a director.

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Oh…It’s You Again

As a supplier or consultant (whichever you think you are) in this highly-charged business of selling printing, data processing, personalization, mailing, fundraising/strategic services to agencies and nonprofits, selling or developing new business can be vewy…vewy…twicky.

Oh it's You AgainGo to Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble and in the business reading section you will find a plethora of “success in sales” and “good client relationship building” books.

In these millions of pages there is advice upon advice on how to SELL. There are pages and pages of how to “get that seat at that table!” Book upon manual upon book upon manual upon book of “how to” build relationships and “how to” get onto the cross hatches of that company “thought leader” or “stake holder.”

To me, some of it is just common sense and some of it is really good advice on interesting strategies and habits in building relationships. I would have to agree that in the many books penned by Harvey Mackay for example, there ARE some thoughtful pieces of relationship-building advice that I use and has really had a positive impact on my business development efforts through the years.

But, no one advising on successful sales has really had a candid discussion on the real truths about selling and new business development.

I mean the down low…whispering…elephant-in-the-room-type discussion on how to be a good salesperson or how not to crash and burn.

I’ve seen ‘em all. And I feel it’s time to really help our fellow salespeople in understanding things that will help you succeed, but that are never discussed…until now.

So what am I getting at?

After interviewing hundreds of suppliers I think I have earned the right to really advise…ummm suggest…to those suppliers both new and old alike…what it takes to get in the door of a new opportunity or WHY your voice mail or email is ignored.

So here we go…five things I learned in my selling career and as a buyer for 27 years.

Good or bad…take heed:

  1. BRING ENTHUSIASM AND PLENTY OF MINTS TO ALL ENCOUNTERS. When I say enthusiasm I don’t mean effusiveness (that’s annoying). I mean a winning smile, dry hands, good posture, happy eyes, pride and a good understanding of your product. Plenty of mints because bad breath, garlic breath, Pinot Noir breath, sushi breath can be detected by a good nose FEET away and is truly off-putting. Bad breath and bad teeth are sales suicide. NO…NO…GUM CHEWING.
  2. DRESS AS YOU WANT TO BE PERCEIVED. There is true meaning to the phrase “business smart” when it comes to dressing for a marketing encounter. A suit…a suit…a suit…will always bring credibility to that first impression. Trust me…even though the company is in jeans and a Yankees tee shirt…you should not be. Customers can be two-faced. You are not Steve Jobs nor do you have his money. Embrace your body type AND YOUR AGE. No need to, as they say in Britain, look “like mutton in lambs clothing.” Well-made clothing can be spotted and I don’t care how young you are, don’t be too trendy. Simple and classic wins.
  3. BE AWARE OF THOSE UNCONSCIOUS TICS AND SNORTS. Nose-clearing, hair-plucking, dandruff-brushing, sudden jerks in your body posture, toe-tapping, crotch-grabbing/adjusting are not only obvious and distracting but a source of humor after your meeting with buyers. So check with your loved ones about these things as they will be the first to tell you.
  4. DON’T TRASH TALK YOUR COMPETITION AND NO SELF-BOASTING. You may be the best thing since sliced bread but it is in bad form and, frankly, un-American to trash talk your competition. Buyers don’t really care if YOU have been in the business for 25 years, or that you were once a CEO or whatever. I want to know what your daily through-put is on those inserters! Focus on results.
  5. LEARN TO LISTEN BOTH WITH YOUR EYES AND YOUR BODY…it’s a science and an art. (That’s all I’m going to say about that one).

Okay…so these five are for starters. After 30 years of selling and interviewing over 500 supplier partners, I thought I would share my mistakes and things I learned along the way that helped or thwarted me in the new business hunt.

So, in order to have our readers not be “that guy” (or woman), what practical pearls of sales wisdom can you add? I will publish them in a future post if I get any good ones (and give you credit for it!)

– George

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George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service, of which he is a director.

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