PrintHustlers Guide To: Growing a Successful Screen Printing Business, Chapter 6: Sales and Commission Team Management

Business Lessons

As you establish your printing company, you learn quickly that sales are the fuel keeping the lights on and your presses printing. Whether you exist in a market saturated with print shops or work in an area where you’re the only shop around, you exist to fill a need in that market. Individuals, teams, social organizations and events of all types need custom printed products. But it’s crucial to understand that selling a custom-decorated item is much different than selling cars, tools or copiers and fax machines. 

The ideal salesperson can relate to the customer but also understands the decorating process. You may need to train your salespeople on the production process if they don’t already have that background. When you decorate for a customer, that customer is in charge of ordering apparel for an upcoming group event and they have one concern — don’t screw up the order! Hiring salespeople is more about building relationships than generating cold leads. Your salespeople should be solution oriented, aiding the customer while building trust in your business so your customers have the confidence that they are ordering apparel that is exactly what they pictured. 

So what’s the best way to retain, compensate and incentivize a great sales team? Commissions. There are a few different ways to calculate commission percentages, but a flat percentage is not recommended. Your salespeople need to be invested in the gross margins of your product and decorating costs. It will help them sell smarter. If a salesperson sells a job that requires an eight-color flash front and back, you might dread printing it – and might even lose money on the job. If they are incentivized to reduce screens and speed up production time, you will more profitable. Then you’re able to grow your business quickly.

Make sure that your commissions are designed in a way that grants salespeople the flexibility and autonomy to make decisions on the fly so they can close deals. Decorated items can turn into penny wars, so arm your salespeople with variable pricing and variable commissions. Allow them to make more commission on higher-end products that make you more money (while taking into account product cost). Margins are better on cold weather apparel like hoodies and jackets, so adjust your pricing and commission model to accommodate the seasons. 

When you start working with a sales team, continually track them, teach them and inspire them. We call this the management triangle. There is no guaranteed universal way to manage salespeople, but every salesperson requires tracking, teaching, and inspiration. A regular and recurring meeting is how you can build a strong foundation. While entire team meetings can be productive, individual meetings focused on tracking, teaching and inspiration drive the best results.

Tracking a salesperson means holding them accountable. We recommend you look at weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly performances. If your salespeople use Printavo to enter in their orders, you can quickly navigate and select a window of dates to see their numbers. By tracking and holding them accountable, they are constantly reminded that they need to perform at the same level or better than they previously did. Creating these metrics is a subtle way to say you are watching and keeping a close eye on their sales while ensuring they’re always on top of their own numbers. Tracking also means diving into individual jobs to see how healthy they are. Are they strong orders with good margins and simple prints? Or are they selling very tough jobs with low margins? 

Teaching a salesperson or team needs to be a very personal process. Each salesperson will have a different skill set. Some might be great at building rapport, but lack screen printing acumen. They might need to see what goes into setup and teardown so they can limit the number of screens that are used in their orders. Other salespeople may need to roleplay initial calls or client visits. As the coach of your team, it’s all about practice, practice, practice – regardless of their strengths or weaknesses.  

Inspiring your team means being a great leader. Sales are a grind. You’ll face more rejection on a daily basis than any other job, and you need the right perspective to be successful. Check in on their process and progress constantly to see how things are going. Double down on what is working. It’s important that you be the leader and have a strong, positive and consistent attitude. 

Remember that salespeople are the arms and legs of your business. Spend time getting to know your people on a personal level through lunches, dinners and social outings. Be their boss, but also cultivate a genuine relationship. Take care of them and show them you’re interested in their success. In return, good salespeople will care about your business – and sell smarter for your company.


Screen printing is a multi-billion dollar industry with customers from every part of the world. Every year, thousands of entrepreneurs discover their passion for screen printing - and they want to claim their cut of the billions and billions of dollars spent on custom printed apparel.

But the majority of new screen printing shops fail before they reach the 5-year mark. They fail because of poor business planning, dull branding, and a lack of ability to scale.

Your shop can be different.

This is an excerpt from our book, The PrintHustlers Guide To: Growing a Successful Screen Printing Business. Written by Printavo's dynamic founder Bruce Ackerman, Campus Ink's enterprising Steven Farag, and Adam Cook. The PrintHustlers Guide To: Growing a Successful Screen Printing Business is the next generation's guide for building your own lucrative print shop.

You can purchase a physical copy of the book on Amazon.

Previous chapter: Chapter 5: Hiring Takes Time — Here’s How We Do it in Four Steps

Next chapter: Chapter 7: Equipment
Coming soon!


Next Post: How Superior Ink Manages Their 15,000 ft² Screen Print Shop

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