Selling complex graphic communications solutions requires plenty of skill and knowledge. The biggest challenge for most print providers is how to get their message out and generate new prospects. It’s not enough to produce great products and services if customers don’t know about them. Persistent cold calling, email blasts and social media are not enough to create meaningful conversations with targeted customers.
We have worked with many printers to improve their sales process, and a key element has always been showing ways to generate new prospects. We find that salespeople and telemarketing representatives continue to primarily rely on cold calling to engage new prospects.
Over the years, three recommendations have proven to be very successful in creating conversations that greatly improve the chance of building new professional relationships, while at the same time shortening the sales cycle. Though these are not new tactics, even experienced salespeople neglect these three time-honored prospecting techniques:
#1 - Exchange customer information with peer salespeople
Salespeople spend an enormous amount of time and effort generating detailed customer information. This information includes such things as identifying key contacts, understanding their decision making processes and gaining valuable insights into a customer’s business. A great strategy is to network with salespeople who work in other types of businesses and exchange information with them. Potential partners could include salespeople that sell commercial insurance, computer hardware and software, commercial real estate and managed services.
For instance, one salesperson we know shares information with a local commercial real estate person. For one account, the commercial real estate salesperson was able provide information about management changes taking place as well as a new major company initiative. The result was greater insight which led to a new prospect for the printing salesperson. Both salespeople had valuable information that the other could potentially use in their sales efforts. This is a form of networking that can pay big dividends.
#2 - Always Carry a Story Board
It is not easy to clearly explain complex print products and services. Too often, customers are not able to understand or put the print seller’s offerings in context with their other communications channels.
Though most printing sales people bring a printed portfolio to their initial sales calls, we find samples are not enough. Additionally, many printing projects are part of a cross media campaign. A data driven offering will usually involve workflows and analytics that a new customer may not easily comprehend.
The story board, booklet, infographic or oversized sell sheet should be able to depict in a creative and graphical way the workflow, the components and timelines of a project, as well as provide examples of analytical results. To save time, a template can be created which would allow information to be easily changed based on the interest of the specific customer. If done correctly, there should be no confusion on the potential customer’s part regarding the print provider’s value proposition.
Having storyboards available also helps selling in venues such as trade shows. On a recent plane ride, we met a print provider who was able to share products and services with an easy to understand infographic. A creative graphic can often tell a story far better than words.
#3 - Share testimonials and gain referrals on every call
The most powerful selling tool available to any salesperson is a referral from an existing customer. Though often talked about at sales seminars, testimonials and referrals are rarely used on a regular basis. Positioning a product or service in the context of a satisfied customer scenario quickly gains the prospect’s attention.
Putting together great testimonials and referrals is well worth the effort. It is especially helpful when the entire company makes it a priority to gain customer stories. Salespeople should be able to obtain a testimonial, reference or positive online review for every sale they make.
One of the mistakes sellers make when using testimonials is that they are often much too broad. The more specific the testimonial is regarding a particular problem, details of the solution, and the results ultimately gained, the more effective it becomes as a sales tool.
Like most successful techniques used by salespeople, these three examples take time and effort. Implementing just one of these strategies can pay off by gaining new customers and sales.
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.