There is a consistent theme among printing salespeople that the market for print-related products and services is very tough. Even though some printing companies are increasing their sales, the overall economy is not growing fast enough to “lift all boats”.
At Graph Expo 2016, chief economist Andrew Paparozzi at Epicomm shared the results of a survey where 71.1% of printing companies cited “our ability to increase sales” as their number one concern. Consequently, we are finding that many commercial printers with direct salespeople are reevaluating the skills, practices and sales management techniques that are required to compete in a low or no growth environment.
Given all the challenges salespeople face, we have been asking successful owners, managers and salespeople what they are doing that helps them outperform their competition.
Three Actions that Work
1. Apply the Correct Sales Process
Great salespeople and their companies adjust to every customer situation. Customers are increasingly researching new products and services online, and much of their decision is already made before a salesperson is even engaged.
As a result, applying and aligning the correct sales process is mandatory in today’s print market. Customers are dictating how they want to be approached, and an increasing number are using a formal RFP process. Those customers who know exactly what they want and how much they are willing to pay require a much shorter sales engagement.
Tim Boucher, owner of BSquared, a New York City-based printing company, sums up his company’s approach to these types of print inquiries. He said, “Speed counts. You need to follow up and respond quickly. They only stop shopping price when you educate them.”
For more complex sales opportunities, an extended sales process is required that is aligned and tailored to each customer. There are no shortcuts, and these types of scenarios typically require a fairly large investment of a salesperson’s time. Some customers will require extensive business development resources and will often involve other members of the print provider’s staff for technical support.
2. Bring Something New and Unique
In the past, print salespeople could compete by simply understanding the functions and process of getting a print project completed. Having a general understanding of the print process will always be required; a growing trend is an increased focus on specialization of print products and services. More and more print providers are focusing on specific products, communication channels, applications, and markets.
The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research reports, “Today’s sales winners go beyond uncovering buyer needs and matching their products and services as solutions to buyer problems. They provide valuable ideas and insights during the sales process.” They have found that salespeople that exhibit this behavior are three times more likely to win versus competitors who don’t.
With this approach, successful printing salespeople will be more technically capable, able to leverage their company’s unique skill sets and will be able to consistently bring new ideas and insights. More and more customers who directly engage salespeople are not only expecting but demanding it.
3. Stay on the Offensive
Sir Isaac Newton provided great selling advice when he said, “a body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest." For salespeople, this means great opportunities will only be available if they are out there talking and meeting with customers. The changes that are occurring in the printing industry today are nothing short of amazing. There are also tremendous changes occurring in each of your customer’s businesses, and a successful salesperson can quickly align new print products or services to their customer’s new needs. But to do that, salespeople must be out there talking to their customers.
We still hear that too many printing salespeople are either in the office or in the production area managing print projects instead of selling. Many still rely on existing customers, request for quotes and old relationships to drive sales performance. Marketing communications and print technology is moving much too fast to stay at rest.
Here are a few suggestions to overcome inertia and generate more opportunities:
- Set activity targets for contacting potential customers with new ideas each day. A minimum of five personal contacts a day is a good place to start.
- Never miss an opportunity when engaging existing customers to discuss best practices and insights that will lead to new business.
- Don’t just respond to quotes. Educate customers and get in front of them face to face.
- Keep up with the technology and the changes that occur in a customer’s business. Failing to do so makes it impossible to share great ideas and insights with prospects.
There is no tougher challenge for a salesperson than to gain sales at the expense of a competitor in a slow growth market. Compounding the problem is the influence of online and social media content that makes it difficult for salespeople to be the single provider of information to customers. Respond quickly to those customers who know exactly what they want and spend the time with customers who don’t, but show the potential of a long lasting and profitable relationship. Look to the future and adapt. No matter what changes occur, there will always be winners.
Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) is a consulting and training company. They work with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was published by Printing News in December 2016.