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Set Your Sales Guardrails for 2024

Six tips for developing a better sales engine to grow profits.




WITH THE NEW YEAR should come a few foundational ideas for generating effective sales for your company. Over the past few months, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with business owners regarding their challenges with growing sales.

When it all comes down to the best practices for developing a better sales engine for your business, here are the top ideas to champion:

1. Get 100% of the Money Upfront

Still lingering is the notion that your decorated apparel businesses should be okay with getting a partial payment or paid on some Net30, Net45, or worse, Net60 arrangement. If there is one thing that COVID has taught, it is that companies with accounts payable situations go out of business quickly.

Your business is not a bank. Quit loaning your customers money.

When an order is placed, charge the client the full amount upfront. This is before any work commences, including artwork. Yes, some customers may have a problem with this. However, those same customers don’t have a problem with buying an airline ticket, or ordering from Amazon, or any other company that they use with an upfront payment requirement. Find out how to get on those same terms.

Have them write a check now or pay with a credit card. If you are shipping, determine a standard shipping rate per item and include that in your pricing. Tell your customer that freight is included. Businesses that operate without an accounts receivable total are much stronger financially than those constantly juggling cash flow issues.


2. It’s OK to Say “No”

How often have you said, “This would be a great business if it weren’t for the customers?”. The thing you need to keep in the back of your mind is the fact you are in control of your own business. You get to decide:

  • Who do you want to work with?
  • What are you willing to put up with?
  • What is reasonable?
  • How much to charge?

Remember, not every customer is a good customer. Some are jerks. Many won’t value your work. A few are deceitful.

6 Ideas to Build a Better Sales Engine For Your Business

Last year, I heard stories regarding customers that would either make you cry or singe the hair off your head. In every case, the business owner stood his ground, enforced his rules, said no to the job, or fired the customer. After the dust settled, all were happy with the outcome, and in a few cases, it actually strengthened the relationship.

What worked was the ability to clearly communicate the points that mattered most. Business owners were looking for alignment with the customer to meet all expectations. Red flags were raised if anything was out of alignment, and a deeper conversation was needed. Do yourself a favor and create a checklist for sales and customers on the “Go” and “No-Go” points so everyone understands clearly.

3. Protect Your Sales Time

Often, when I ask shop owners about their sales work habits, many lament that there isn’t enough time to actually sell. Daily questions that pop up for me usually are, “Tell me about the sales calls you had yesterday. How many did you have, and how did they go?”


That’s when they tell me they didn’t make any sales calls that day. Or the day before. Occasionally, this gets embarrassing because the shop owner knows he needs more sales. As everyone knows, sales is the lifeblood of any business.

No sales = No business.

Even though these smart people know they need sales, what are they doing? The short answer is that they are busy with the other stuff involved in running their businesses.

  • Ordering inventory
  • Designing
  • Purchasing
  • Receiving
  • Screen room activities
  • Printing
  • Shipping
  • Miscellaneous activities that creep in

Does this sound like your business? If so, do yourself a favor and conduct a time audit on what distracts you (or your salesperson) from spending actual time selling. And when I say “selling,” I mean all of the aspects of sales, including lead generation, cold calls, phone calls, quoting, following up, etc.

There are daily activities that are eating away at your time. If sales truly are the lifeblood of your business, one way to be more effective with sales is to increase the time spent doing the sales work. You have to protect it.

Here’s an easy rule. The “Golden Hours” of sales are between 8:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., and 1:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Those two chunks of time are when you should be selling.


Find a yellow legal pad and track the amount of time you spend developing your sales. Just jot down the times you are doing sales work. Then, every day, add it up. Total it for the week. Finally, post it somewhere obvious, such as on a whiteboard or bulletin board. A good start is to create a goal to increase your sales activity from week to week. The more time you spend with potential and current customers, the more sales you’ll have.

4. Your Customers Don’t Care About You

Newsflash: Your customers only care about one thing. Themselves.

That’s right. They have problems and challenges, and they are looking for the best solution for those. Does this show up in your marketing or how you interact with your customers? Everything you do should be viewed with this perspective in mind.

Can you:

  • Save your customers time?
  • Save your customers money?
  • Provide answers they need?
  • Make your customers money?

It’s all about them.

What do they need? How have things gone wrong in the past? What is important to them now? How are they using the product? Is there anything special about to happen?

Ask more questions before you start jumping into the quoting process. You have industry knowledge and wisdom that your typical customer doesn’t possess. Take your customers on a journey they didn’t know they were on by unraveling a better comprehension of their challenge. Your value in the relationship is that of a trusted mentor or advisor.

Stop trying to sell stuff by offering the same solution to every situation.

5. You Need a Bullseye Target

If you have ever played darts in a bar or shot a gun at a target, you know the importance of aiming at the bullseye. Bullseyes are a great thing to have in sales. But let me ask you, is your bullseye a moving target? Too distant and undefined? Maybe completely in the dark somehow?
Those are hard to hit with consistency and ease.

Let’s shed some light on how to define your best bullseye. Answer this: Who are your business’s best customers, and what is the most profitable thing they order? That’s a bullseye. A better sales plan relies on specificity.

Your best bet for sales is to hone that down to a few sales scenarios. You are amazingly good at solving distinct challenges with somewhere between one to three specific customer types. Other types of customers naturally will find their way onto your sales radar, and it will be up to your guardrails to see if they are worth pursuing.

However, your sales bullseye will be the North Star for your business. Your efforts and success will get easier once you have a direction. Also, to really level up, do plenty of research about your bullseye target customers. Ask pertinent questions, some of which your customers may not have the answers to because they have not considered things from that perspective.

One great question to start any sales conversation is, “How will you use this? What’s it for?” Commodity customers usually are only concerned with price. Better customers have other points to consider. What type of customers are in your bullseye? Your sales mission is to determine how you can serve them better.

6. Sales Accountability & Metrics

Let’s close the article and outline something you may or may not have in your business — a way to measure success in sales.

What is the outcome that you want to achieve this year? Has that been brought up yet? Do you have your 2024 sales goals defined?

That’s great if you do. But what about goals for gross and net profit? Did those two important metrics get on the agenda? For many shops, that isn’t discussed. Most businesses in this industry define themselves with their total sales revenue number. “We’re a million-dollar shop,” for example.

This means that they have $1,000,000 in sales. But what if they had $650,000 in COGS (cost of goods sold) and $250,000 in overhead? That only leaves $100,000 in net profit. A shop down the street might have $800,000 in sales, $350,000 in COGS, and $100,000 in overhead. That company has $350,000 in net profit. These numbers are just examples. Yet, some industry decorators view only the total revenue numbers as the yardstick to gauge success.

One thing that you should consider defining this year is the metrics that you will use to guide your sales success. Here are some suggestions:

  • Total Revenue (Week, Month, Quarter, Year)
  • Gross Profit Total (Week, Month, Quarter, Year)
  • Gross Profit Average % (Week, Month, Quarter, Year)
  • Net Profit Total (Week, Month, Quarter, Year)
  • Net Profit Average % (Week, Month, Quarter, Year)
  • Number of quotes (or estimates) outstanding
  • Number of quotes (or estimates) closing %
  • Number of sales calls or interactions (Day, Week, Month, Quarter, Year)
  • Upsell $ total – (total number of dollars of increased orders)
  • Average dollar amount per order
  • Average dollar amount per customer

Take some time to establish what the numbers should be for each of these listed. You can do this based on historical information or thinking about how a sales or marketing campaign could add to the mix.

With this exercise, you are aiming to outline your expectations of what should happen. Reality will, of course, be different. But based on what happens, you can keep adjusting and trying different ideas until you achieve your outlined success.

The worst thing you can do is sit there and end 2024 like last year. When you don’t have a roadmap for success, is it any wonder you wind up at the wrong destination?



Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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