Sell It Straight—Don't Tell and Manipulate

Great printing salespeople achieve great performance by knowing their customers and how they make their buying decisions. They have learned that persuading and influencing their customers to make decisions, versus manipulating or telling, is a key prerequisite when selling high value printing programs and projects.

We have spent a great deal of time over the last few years observing printing salespeople—on live calls or within training workshops—attempting to sell customers on new ideas and new offerings.

We have found that many are still relying on outdated sales techniques. These include the regurgitating tired and canned spiels or the use of manipulative sales techniques. Since printing sales is based on a high value, trusted relationship, telling and manipulating is not a sustainable strategy.



Telling Vs. Selling

Salespeople, who are tellers versus sellers, are those who present prepared presentations, case studies, solutions, or value propositions without regard to the customer’s specific wants or requirements. Print buyers and executives have consistently told us that they want customized sales presentations targeted to their business issues and opportunities.

Here is a typical teller sales scenario. The salesperson walks into the call with a prospective customer and commences with a rehearsed generic spiel. It could begin like this: “We are a general commercial printer with offset and digital printing capabilities that can handle all of your printing needs.” Or, “We are a marketing service provider who offers variable printing services for direct mail.” At this point, the salesperson launches a lecture on his or her company’s capabilities and presents a cascade of print samples. At no point has the salesperson tried to identify what problems or opportunities are facing the customer.

An observer would know if a salesperson is being a teller if the salesperson is speaking 75 percent of the time. The call most often ends with the customer trying to cut the meeting short by politely saying that he or she will give the salesperson an opportunity to quote on a job and no further follow up is required.


Manipulation is Not a Sustainable Sales Strategy

Another common and unsuccessful selling strategy is manipulative selling. We define manipulative selling as a way to control the conversation or play upon the emotions of potential buyers, by clever or sneaky tactics, to achieve a short term advantage for the seller.

Most of us recognize this approach when we receive an aggressive telemarketing call looking for a quick sale or a car salesperson appealing to the emotions of a buyer when trying to get a sale from a customer who walks into a showroom. The problem is that manipulation works for certain types of transactional commodity sales. For most printing sales, it will end in disaster.

Customers eventually realize they are being manipulated. Telling the truth in a convincing manner is the best approach.

Manipulative selling in printing can occur at any time in the sales process. To gain interest, making over the top claims on the phone, or using aggressive tactics to get past a screener to gain an appointment will eventually lead to failure. Another example is falsely telling a customer that they must place their order before a certain time in order for their project to be completed. If the customer senses they are being unfairly manipulated, it will lead to a lost customer.

Manipulation and pressure techniques cannot work in a printing sales process where there are multiple decision makers or where a long term relationship with a customer is required.

Selling is About Persuasion and Influence

With all that is written and said about the importance of demonstrating the ROI of print, new printing solutions, sophisticated sales processes, and elaborate CRM systems, the key driver of sales is the ability of the salesperson to persuade and influence the customer. In addition to facts, customers make decisions based on emotions and feelings. This is not only true about what kind of printing they like, but how they feel printing relates to other forms of communications such as social media and digital media.

When you persuade and influence a customer, you are guiding that person to a mutually beneficial decision. This is done by demonstrating that you know their business and what is required to make them successful. The customers appreciate that they have choices and that you are helping them make the right decision.

As printing evolves and the economy improves, customers will continue to face tremendous choices on how to spend their dollars to communicate and inform. Printing salespeople make the difference. They are the direct key persuaders and influences on the value of printing. Simply telling and manipulating is not enough.


Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions, a provider of customized sales, operational, and sales management training material and services. Contact him at 845-753-6156, or visit