Sales Managers Lead through Change

Joe Rickard

For those printers who have direct salespeople, sales success is most often dependent on the leadership, skill, and knowledge of the owner or sales manager. There is no substitute when launching new products, penetrating new markets, and/or generally attempting to reinvent their business.

Business media pundits relentlessly talk about how companies prosper by reducing headcount and improving workflow efficiencies. This is true, but unfortunately, unsustainable. There is no better way to grow the bottom line than by increasing the top line.

For print providers, adapting to changing customer requirements and launching new complex offerings built around cross media, packaging, direct mail, digital media, and signage to name a few requires a dedicated and skilled direct sales force and management leadership.


Old Printing Adage

There is a very old saying in printing, “Good printers are not frequently found, good sales managers are less common; the combination of a good printer and good sales manager is rare indeed.”

Based on our experience working with more than 100 print providers, we have observed common threads where management has successfully modified or, in some cases, completely reengineered their sales management programs and sustained profitable sales growth.


Five Behaviors of Sales Leaders

Below are five behaviors exhibited by successful by owners and sales managers within the printing industry:


1. Lead by continuously staying ahead of new developments and practices.

Salespeople will take risks and adopt new approaches if they are encouraged by management. That means providing the sales team with a steady stream of new products, services, ideas, best sales practices, and resources to create interest with customers.

If sales management or an owner is waiting for salespeople or customers to lead change, they have waited too long. Owners and sales managers must be the ones who lead.


2. Create a shared purpose and vision.

Great printing companies have the ability to communicate a shared purpose and key goals with salespeople. If a salesperson can articulate the company’s vision, objectives, and value proposition, the printing company will have a committed and potentially successful employee.

Here is the test. If an owner or sales manager can’t provide a convincing company value proposition, then one can be sure the salespeople can’t either. There is only one way for an owner or sales manager to test this. They need to ask each salesperson to share the company’s vision, objectives, and value proposition. If this cannot be done well, then there is no chance it can be done in front of a customer.


3. Build trust and relationships.

Great sales management is much more than a compensation plan and threats of firing. Building and encouraging relationships across the production team, estimating, customers, suppliers, and salespeople will ensure that company plans and agreements will be carried out reliability.

Organizations will not succeed when estimating, prepress, and production are in constant conflict. Team work and collaboration leverage company and sales resources.


4. Empower salespeople.

This may be the toughest characteristic for printing companies to achieve. Printing salespeople will take accountability for their results if they have the resources, training, encouragement, and information to do the job. Without this, sales and profit growth will be elusive.

Yes, it is important to hold salespeople accountable. To do so effectively, salespeople require timely sales tools, pricing information, regular training, and management support to close profitable deals.


5. Sync up with the salespeople.

Gain agreement with each salesperson on what needs to be done and how best to go about it to achieve success. Ensure compensations are completely aligned with the sales and profit objectives of the company.

It is sad to see so many printing salespeople being driven by compensation plans that do not give them incentive to call on new large, targeted, and profitable accounts and offerings. Compensation plans must be updated to reflect the current business conditions.

When facing the challenge of leading a sales team to change, great owners and sales managers have the confidence or are simply not fearful of change. No matter what the issue, sales leadership is a critical prerequisite for business growth within the printing industry.


Joe Rickard is a training leader and consultant who works with printing and technology companies in the graphic arts to improve their sales and operational effectiveness. He 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