Six Ways to Confront Customer Indifference

When selling print, a customer who lacks any interest in looking at new printing providers, print products, solutions or services can be the toughest barrier that any salesperson can face. For many salespeople, customer indifference is their greatest competitor.

The reason indifference is so frustrating to print salespeople is because it is based on customer perception about print.  They view print as a commodity and are not interested in looking at any new ideas.

Common responses from customers are:

“We are happy with our current print supplier.”

“We are not using direct mail anymore.”

“We are moving to digital marketing.”

“Talk to our purchasing department.”

Customer Indifference Can Be a Salesperson’s Toughest Competitor

Selling to the indifferent customer has been the basis of sales training courses for many decades.

The buying process has changed. Current research tells us that customers are 60% of the way through their buying process before they even talk to a salesperson. This is because of readily available information on the Web and within Social Media. As a result,  it is  even more difficult for a printing salesperson to attract attention and present their print solution.

Reasons for Customer Indifference to Print

Here are some more reasons why customers are indifferent to print:

·       Print has been a victim of the success of digital and social media. Some customers have completely “tuned out” print. They view print as a relic of the past that is being overwhelmed by digital and social media. The result is that print will become even more commoditized in the eyes of the customer and will be pushed to the purchasing department for price management.

·       Customers are not responding to traditional print sales and marketing approaches. Buyers of print are getting their information from other sources outside of printing salespeople. Print providers and salespeople have been hesitant to adjust to changing buying habits of customers.

·       Print is not viewed as positively as it has been in the past. There is a relentless push by opponents of print to create the perception that print is too expensive, bad for the environment and overall not effective.

These reasons for customer indifference do not mean all is hopeless. Below are six proactive actions that printing salespeople and print providers can use to combat indifference.

Six Ways to Confront Customer Indifference

1.       Bring Value to the Conversation

Forrester Research states that only 15 percent of customers see value in conversations with salespeople. Salespeople must bring insights and ideas that address customer problems.  Case studies, examples and best practices that are tailored to each customer are good ways to create interest. Focusing on the business problem or opportunity should be the foundation of any sales approach.

2.       Dominate a Market Segment

We have always been a fan of vertical marketing. Knowing an industry well with its specific jargon, work processes and issues brings instant credibility to indifferent customers. There are an enormous amount of examples of industry-focused innovative and creative print solutions that have delivered outstanding return on investment.

3.       Be an Expert

Customers are less interested in hearing why one printing company is better than another. Research consistently confirms customers are looking for experts in communications and printing. Being an expert in print is a given; customers also expect salespeople to know how digital and social media integrates with print.

4.       Reinvent Print

If indifferent customers have entrenched opinions about print, then print providers and salespeople need to position print in a new way. We are already seeing print providers reposition cross media and data-driven print in a creative way. Don’t waste time on customers who are stubborn. Look for influencers and champions who value new ideas.  There are many users and creatives who will embrace the beauty and effectiveness of print if given the chance.

5.       Put Yourself in the Position of the Customer

Spending time with customers and simply listening to them is a great way to move indifferent customers. We recently observed an indifferent customer become interested because of the way a print company simplified the print process. The customer’s perception was that commercial printers were much more difficult to work with than digital and social media agencies. The printer offers virtual and rapid customer service, immediate status of jobs is provided, and samples of substrates are sent overnight to creatives and end users.

6.       Focus on the Vital Few

80% of our business comes from 20% of accounts. Don’t confuse sales activity with sales effectiveness. Existing customers with problems or opportunities that can directly be addressed by print solutions are the place to start. Those customers that can improve sales or profits by an innovative direct mail campaign or a cross media product launch or implementing a web to print system are places to focus.

Addressing the indifferent print customer has never been more important. The change has occurred gradually.  In most cases, indifference is not due to unhappiness with their current printing company. It is because the customers have so many alternative communication choices available to them.

Great salespeople recognize indifference when they see it. The key, as always, is to know the customer and their business. Listening, building a customized strategy and creating new insights is the best way of gaining their attention and interest.

Joe Rickard is a training leader and consultant dedicated to the graphic communications Industry. He is a printing industry expert and works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales and operational effectiveness. Joe founded Intellective Solutions LLC (www.intellectives.com) to serve the printing market. Intellective Solutions Inc. provides consulting and training material and services. He can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was published December 1, 2014 in Quick Printing Magazine and MyPrintResource.com