Hey, How Are You Using The Shirt?

Hey, how are you using the shirt?

“Hey, how are you using the shirt?”

That’s the most important question you can ask a customer at the beginning of the apparel sales process. It tells you everything. For a lot of newer salespeople in the industry, they want to immediately jump to the quoting process when trying to sell t-shirts.

That’s a big mistake.

Asking the right questions and direct them into an apparel blank that is right for their needs is a great way to instill confidence in your customer that you have the background and expertise to help them. Don’t focus all of your attention on the immediate sale.

Instead, look at how you are helping your customer.

Let’s frame this part of the sales journey as a story. Your customer is the hero of that story. And what does every hero need to complete the quest?

A guide of course.

That’s you.

For every Luke Skywalker, there is an Obi-Wan Kenobi. In every Katniss Everdeen, there is a Haymitch. To be successful, Frodo needed Gandalf.

In your neck of the woods, that event chairman who has to source 1,200 Dri-fit performance shirts for the 5k needs your guidance too. For them, you can be Obi-Wan, Haymitch, or Gandalf.

That’s what customers are searching for when they come to us with their challenge.


Lead With The Right Question


“How are you using the shirt?”, gets that discussion going well. For starters, it lets your hero customer describe their intent. What if their answers sounded like one of these statements?

  • “We need something to give away at the trade show next month.”
  • “Our idea is to start a retail line, and need a shirt blank that is very fashion forward.”
  • “In our restaurant chain, we need work attire that is breathable but yet stain-resistant.”
  • “These are for online sales, and we need to be able to digitally print them.”
  • “We need customer incentives and thank-yous. We want them to be excited about getting a shirt.”
  • “The shirts are to raise money for our charity.”


The great thing about getting your customer to answer the “How are you using the shirt?” question is that it starts a fantastic follow-up guided discussion based on whatever they say.

There are probably millions of ways a customer might respond to “How are you using the shirt”, but in the six that I gave as examples above you would not use the same apparel style for each would you?

Of course not. Even noobies know better than that.

Uh, right?


Questions Are Similar To GPS


But when you lead with “How are you using the shirt?”, you are starting the discovery process to be able to present multiple options to your client.

Think of it as your own personal GPS system. The customer is essentially telling you where they want to go.

From there, you can educate them on what is the best fit. This unlocks a treasure trove of ideas that you can share. Consultative selling starts here.

You don’t rocket into your sales pitch and throw out a quote until you know what the problem is that you are solving.

Listening is key.

Pick one of the examples above.

In your mind, after you asked, “How are you using the shirt?” and they said ______________, what would your first thought be to help them?

Can you ask more questions to get to the heart of the matter? It should be a dialog. You want to dig down and find out what all of their needs are.

Some of them may not be obvious.

For example, let’s say the customer needs shirts for a trade show. Possibly one of your questions could be, “Could we ship a portion to you, but the bigger balance goes to the event so you don’t have to travel with them on an airplane?” 

Solving potential problems the customer hasn’t considered reinforces the value you bring to the relationship.

You’ve been there, done that, and printed the t-shirt.


“How Are You Using The Shirt?” Influences Art


Of course, it does.

Think about it. Once your customer details the roadmap before you, then the conversation will naturally turn to how the shirt will be decorated. In your mind, you are already mulling over the technical and creative limitations that you may discuss with your customer.

There is a big difference between how the art might be created for a motorcycle dealership versus a performance blank that is destined for those 1,200 5k race participants. Starting with the “How are you using the shirt?” question elevates that creative art discussion and gets it going faster.

Not to mention you can get any shirt parameters that might be important out of the way.

Will you be using an underbase? Maybe they have Pantone colors in logos that have to be matched? As we all know the technical specifications of how that art will be produced on the shirt can come at a cost that can impact the price quoted.

However, when during the discovery process, we focus on how the end customer or brand will feel about that shirt that can translate to better options for the creative process. “We want something truly memorable” might make a big difference from “We want to throw out shirts to the crowd.”

How would you respond to those statements?


Ask More Questions


After all, this is a conversation. You would be surprised what you can dig up if you keep the discussion going.

When you keep things general, you get general answers. However, when you dive into specificity you get ultra-clear, line-in-the-sand answers. What they like or don’t like. Their style and taste. Problems they might have had in the past. All sorts of stuff.

Don’t be bashful.

Your goal is to knock out the art development of the order in one try. That’s right. One pitch. Homerun.

Bam! Out of the park.

That doesn’t happen with “Do something cool” art instructions. If “how are you using the shirt?” is the start of the conversation, then all of the questions after that can help write a creative brief that will help your art staff hit that home run on the first swing.

Work to stimulate that discussion that will unearth better art direction.


Paint the Picture


During this conversation after everything has been ironed out, be sure to review what success should look like with the customer.

You want to be on the same page. Describe what you heard, and let your customer agree on the points you’ve discussed. Especially the details.

For example:

“Ok, so this design will be a one-color white left chest and six-color back on a 336 black (insert your brand here) t-shirts. The left-chest on the front will have your logo at 4” wide.

The full-back will feature a monkey riding a motorcycle surrounded by a bunch of floating skulls. The headline will read, “Quit Monkeying Around” in a badass, textured, sans-serif font, with your logo underneath the art in white. The back will be our max size, which is a width of 14″. 

All shirts will be adult. Small through XXXL. This is for your rally event, and the in-hands date is the 22nd of next month. 

Your total comes to $2,805.60, and per our policy 50% is due up front which is $1,402.80. After we receive payment, we will begin the creative design process and you will see a proof in four business days from then. We recommend adding a quantity of 10-15% of the total so you won’t have to have a reprint later.

Is there anything we left out or you have questions about?”


Document The Expectations


This is an example of course, but you get the idea.

Provide a written quote. Get the art approved and signed off, which includes disclaimers for spelling and shows key landmark features such as image dimensions and how many inches you are printing down from the collar.

The more detail you provide the better.

When everything is in writing, your customer approved instructions becomes the blueprint for your staff to execute the plan. The more details you provide in that early on, the easier it is for everyone to do their jobs. And it all starts with that one question:

“How are you using the shirts?”



“The question isn’t who is going to let me. The question is who is going to stop me?” – Ayn Rand

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau

“Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” -Euripides



A Quick Word About Shirt Lab


Shirt Lab Columbus Target Zone


While we certainly have shop owners from all over the country coming into our Shirt Lab Columbus, Ohio, event on October 27, 2018, this remarkable decorated apparel industry Sales and Marketing workshop style training event was designed for shops within this area.

Not sure if you should attend Shirt Lab? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have an effective branding campaign established for your shop that is incredibly strong and powerful?
  • Does your website have fantastic conversion rates for online sales?
  • How are you with your sales lead generation? Have you built a fantastic funnel for customers interested in what you do?
  • What about how you close sales? Are you the master? Do you have a process?
  • Now, think about your social media. Are you using videos to create amazing content that resonates with your customer market?
  • What are you doing to add more revenue per order to increase your sales?
  • And finally, have you created your own channel where you don’t have any competition?

If you need help with any or possibly all of these, then Shirt Lab is tailor-made for you. It’s built by people in the decorated apparel industry, and all of the instructors are masters at what they do. It’s a workshop-style day. You’ll be having fun while interacting and learning.

Our goal is to melt your brain with the best Sales and Marketing information that we can possibly provide.

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