Technology is continuing to drive the transformation of communications. We are seeing changes in what and how buyers are purchasing their communications needs. Increasing use of targeted mailings, highly accurate tracking platforms and print-to-anywhere solutions are also transforming the role of direct salespeople.
Transformation versus Change
In looking to the future of selling, the words “change” and “transform” are often used loosely. The key difference is when we talk about change there is always an option to going back to the way things used to be. During a transformation, there is no going back. Many of today’s printing companies and salespeople are in the “transformation” stage.
It’s encouraging that even with all the competition from other media, there is a large appetite for print. Leading economists, who report on our industry, tell us that the worst is behind us and print production and related services is on the road to recovery. Many printing companies are seeing improved sales and revenues. We have asked both successful direct salespeople and print providers how direct selling will look in the future.
Five Areas Where Printing Salespeople Will Transform
To succeed, salespeople must not throw their current skills and knowledge away. They will need to build new competencies to capture opportunities in a changing market. We have identified 5 key areas where the actions, skills and behaviors of successful direct salespeople will be transformed:
1. Bring new light to problems
Customers can find a lot of what they need online. Great salespeople will bring new ideas and insights to a customer’s real problems. They will do this in a challenging and executive style that will instill confidence in the salesperson. Customers require business experts who can solve difficult problems.
2. Provide technical expertise
Most great printing salespeople are experts in printing technology and processes. Now printing salespeople are being asked to be technical experts in many more areas outside of traditional printing. Knowledge of software, media integration and application development at the customer level is a necessity.
3. Collaborate to develop tailored solutions
The role of business development and direct sales will continue to converge. Customers are looking for help in creating tailored and customized solutions to their problems and do not possess the expertise nor time to figure it out on their own. In some cases, salespeople will function as consultants, identifying and organizing the elements and partners required building a complex customer solution.
4. Move beyond transactional selling skills
Customers are not responding to the endless probing questions and annoying pressure tactics of a traditional salesperson. Ongoing training that focuses on gaining the skills necessary to sell high value offerings effectively is becoming commonplace. Specifically, new approaches in developing targeted accounts, communicating, financial acumen, negotiating, project management, analyzing, proposing, presenting, and research skills will be required in the salesperson of the future.
5. Drive customer service
This is an area facing the greatest transformation. Customers will accept nothing less than outstanding support and service. Printing will eventually take the lead among other industries in providing multichannel end to end customer service. What has been demonstrated by Amazon and Google will be the norm for printing companies that desire high growth and profits. The direct salesperson will position customer service as part of their value proposition.
The good news is more and more successful printing companies are beginning to adjust and transform their selling efforts. We are seeing an increasing number of outstanding web, ecommerce and social media sites used by printing companies. Larger organizations are investing outbound and inbound telemarketing efforts to support lead generation. For direct salespeople, more emphasis is being placed on retaining experienced and knowledgeable high performers who can manage large deals, maintain relationships and manage elongated order cycles.
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 first published in the February edition of the Printing News