Joe Rickard Articles

First Steps in Hiring the Perfect Salesperson

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With an expanding economy and rising optimism, many printing companies are adding new salespeople. There is no greater frustration for printing company owners and sales managers than to hire a new salesperson only to see them quickly fail.

Since most printing companies have limited time and resources to manage the hiring process, there is little room for mistakes. Some companies we know have given up on hiring direct salespeople. However, even with a robust web presence, eCommerce capabilities and a sophisticated digital marketing program there is no getting around the fact that complex printing solutions require direct salespeople.

Planning Must Come First

There are thousands of great salespeople in the printing industry. Hiring a strong new salesperson can be done. We find most hiring mistakes are caused by inadequate planning.

Both small and large companies should begin the hiring process by completing the following steps: 

What exactly is the job that is being offered

A few years ago, we completed research and wrote a hiring guide for one of our clients. We found that without an accurate definition of the specific job requirements of the salesperson, it was almost impossible to land a great candidate.

This is a common error that companies make. There is no “one size fits all” salesperson. It is very important to begin to determine the type of salesperson required and what specific role the new sales person will take.

Create a job description with as much detail as possible.

As a starting point, here are some questions that will help create a tailored job description:

o   Exactly what products and services will the salesperson be selling and who will they be calling on?

o   Will the salesperson be responsible for new accounts, existing accounts, or generates leads through prospecting?

o   Does the candidate need to have printing industry experience?

o   How will the candidate be managed? What is expected on a day to day basis? Will the candidate work under close supervision or will the candidate be expected to work independently?

o   How will the salesperson report their activities to management?

o   Will the salesperson be involved with estimating, proposal development, pricing, project management, and customer service?

o   How much new business and total revenue will be expected in the first three, six and twelve months?

Build the perfect salesperson prototype

Listing the important skills, knowledge, attributes and traits of an ideal salesperson may be time consuming but will save time and energy when the recruiting process begins. List these attributes on a spread sheet.

The list can be broken into four categories. The first category is general industry knowledge. Record the product, industry, customer and technical knowledge necessary to do the job. For instance, does the salesperson need printing foundational knowledge of file formats, applications, and substrates. Does the salesperson need to be knowledgeable of specific markets or customers?

The second category is what sales skills are needed. Has the candidate been successful managing large and complex accounts? What prospecting or presenting skills are required? Does the salesperson need to write complex proposals?

The third category is required personal attributes, which is often overlooked. In the end, this may be the most important. What critical personal attributes are needed? Some key ones to consider are honesty, work ethic, timeliness, creativity, confidence, follow up and detail oriented.

The fourth category identifies any other attributes that will be important. These could include willingness to travel, social media literacy, education level, valid driver license and web researching skills.

Rank the attributes needed to be a high performer

After the four job categories have been listed, rank each one as; essential, important or helpful. If the candidate does not have a specific essential skill, knowledge or personal attribute, is the company willing to provide the training or mentoring required?

Too often employers settle or discount essential or important job dimensions required and make a bad hire. 

Determine how the required attributes will be measured

Perhaps the most difficult part of the process is to determine and gain agreement among those interviewing that the candidate does actually possess the required attributes. This is when in the recruiting and interview process, probing questions are asked by the interviewer(s) to determine if and how well candidates possess the required attributes. Candidates will need to skillfully and convincingly using examples from their work history or schooling of how they possess or have demonstrated the required skills and behaviors.

Taking the time to execute these specific steps will help minimize the pain and expense of a poor hiring decision. It will also save time required for recruiting since the employer will know what they are looking for. Also, the interview process will be more productive. Every company large or small moving to a path of higher sales goals can manage these steps successfully.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions is a printing industry consulting and training company. They work with digital printing organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness.  Take a look at the STEM section of the website. Intellective Solutions is offering a wide range of resources for STEM and Vocational Institutions who provide Graphic Communication workers courses. Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156. This article was first published in the August issue of the Printing News.

How Great Printers Manage the Halo Effect of Digital Media

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Graphic communications salespeople have never had as many things to sell as they do now. Advancements in cross media platforms, e commerce, digital imaging and personalized printing help print-based salespeople generate powerful value propositions. As the economy improves, there will be additional opportunities to raise sales levels as customers look to invest in marketing and training initiatives that include print.

As exciting as all of this is, there remain persistent challenges for salespeople. No website or brochure can adequately inform or convince customers to use printing in their communications. Direct printing salespeople must be up to the task of helping their customers assess their marketplace and move forward with programs that involve print.

The good news is that printing companies are repositioning themselves and customers are finally re-awaking to the inherent value of print as an integral element of their marketing communications.

The Halo Effect of Digital Media

Convincing a customer to use print is often impacted by the halo effect of digital and social media. The term was first described by psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920 and can influence a customer’s feelings of using print versus digital media.

The halo effect often makes it difficult to sell the benefits of printed products and services because of the perception of the overwhelming success, convenience and cost of digital or social media.

Printing salespeople must confront this human tendency. Though digital and social media can have obvious advantages, we are seeing signs and have proof that printing can offer a greater ROI back to our customers.  Case studies, ROI examples and models of successful campaigns that bring results to customers are required to minimize the halo effect of digital and social media.

Focus on goals and objectives

As a general rule, those salespeople that take the time to listen and learn the pain and opportunities facing each customer, will be better at breaking down their halo effect biases about print. At the end of the day, performance is what counts. Common negative perceptions of the environmental impact, cost and effectiveness of print must be met head on.

Beautiful and engaging printing, backed up by case studies of great ROI results, minimize the halo effect of digital and social media.  Salespeople cannot rely on customers to know this.

The Blind Spot(s) of Printing Salespeople

The challenge of overcoming the halo effect of digital and social media are often hindered by blind spots of the print salesperson. For example, it is not uncommon for salespeople to focus on selling a particular product or service without knowing the goals and objectives of the customer. Rather than concentrating on the needs of the customer, salespeople unintentionally commoditize their own offerings by the way they sell.

Blind spots become apparent to a customer due to poor selling habits, complacency, falling behind the times in technology, incorrect assumptions about customer’s requirements, too much information, incorrect assumptions or simply a lack of listening.

With the fast transformation taking place in our industry, it is critical to test and continually look for blind spots. Blind spots are often not realized by the salesperson. Many salespeople exhibit behaviors caused by blind spots over a long period of time.

Willy Loman, the iconic character of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman faced difficulty in keeping up with the times. He faced declining sales and income. His inability to deal with his blind spots led to his failure. Identifying and fixing issues is very difficult if a salesperson does not accept or know that they exist.

The sad part of this play was Willy’s unwillingness to deal with reality and change.

Finding Blind Spots

There are good ways to find your blind spots. Getting consistent and honest feedback formally and informally from coworkers, managers, customers, suppliers and industry experts, is a good way to identify habits and behaviors that are getting in the way of business. Another strategy is to review past account wins and losses to attempt to find patterns that may be caused by blind spots.

The simplest way to minimize the development of blind spots is to always strive for continuous personal and industry learning, regularly attending training sessions, and focusing on what the customer and their customers want and need to be successful.

If your blind spot is a lack of knowledge about how social media plays a role in your customers business, sign up to receive their Tweets, visit (and study) their FaceBook page, and learn how they are using media to get their message out. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be in a much better position to argue your case about including print in the mix.

Handling the halo effect and blind spots are behavioral issues that must be addressed by all printing salespeople. Energized and passionate salespeople can overcome many entrenched human barriers. A first step is being aware that the halo effect and blind spots exist. With an expected growth of the economy, this is a good time for salespeople to step back and take a look at what will potentially hold back their 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. This article was published in the Digital Edition of Printing News in August 2017.

Selling Beyond Print with Direct Mail

If there is one thing we have learned from successful printing companies, it is that they regularly offer new offerings to their customers. Whether you are a large, multi-plant printer or a small, local printer, one area that is undergoing changes is direct mail. With a market size of almost 47 billion dollars, according to the Winterberry Group, the opportunities for supplying direct mail to customers are endless.

Even during the recent tough economic years, the direct mail market has continued to remain strong. It is projected that this is an area that will continue to be a major and effective marketing channel used by customers, both big and small. Most experts predict that the combination of the increased use of ink jet printing, easier personalization, and the continued introduction of new substrates will spur growth.

Direct Mail is Scalable

Almost all printing companies offer some sort of direct mail products and services. There are many variations to direct programs and campaigns that even the smallest print provider can offer. Also, there are thousands of new potential printing customers who could be introduced to the power of direct mail marketing.

Nick Nicolich, co-owner of Star Press of Pearl River in NY, said, “We learned to be successful in direct mail by listening and adding value for our customers. Our team attempts to learn what our customers are trying to do as a very first step. When you get someone to talk about their project and learn more about it, you can give them a better way to accomplish their objectives. If we can do that, we generally keep them as a customer for life.”

This is a good time to reassess how we approach the direct mail market. Here are some of the behaviors we have seen from successful companies:

Focus on customer education about the value of print

There is growing ignorance of the value of print, especially direct mail. When entry level and new managers first enter the workforce, their first thought on how to get a message out is often not print related. Educate them on the value and effectiveness of a well thought out marketing mix which includes direct mail.

Provide great customer service

Millennials are showing us the value great customer service can add to the bottom line. They are flocking to providers (such as Amazon) that provide excellent customer service. Putting together a direct mail campaign may seem intimidating to those new customers not familiar with print. By helping them overcome their fears about the technical intricacies of print, you can build a closer relationship.

Deliver an entire solution

New and understaffed customers need and want the total solution. Direct mail customers need advice, design, copywriting, data bases, print and distribution services. Having templates, samples, advice, and information readily available will create leads and also help to explain the entire process to your customers. 

Start small

A great way to introduce your customers to direct mail is by using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program for small retail customers. It’s a great solution for customers such as restaurants, banks, home improvement companies and insurance agencies. You don’t have to know the names and addresses of recipients, you simply choose a neighborhood and marketing pieces are delivered to every address along the route.

Even seemingly simple projects can result in the development of a long-term and profitable customer.

The First Step for Sales is Understanding the Customer

For most customers, direct mail is baffling. 

Since every qualified potential customer should receive an outstanding first impression, sales and customer service people should understand the customer’s capabilities and requirements BEFORE making recommendations. Here are some potential questions to ask that would make any customer feel confident in a print provider:

What is the goal and objective of the project?

  • What is the purpose of the project?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  •  How will the results be measured?

Why has the customer decided to use direct mail?

  • Have they used direct mail before?
  • Do they need design support, templates, databases, etc.?
  • What is the time frame and budget?

What is their vision of what the direct mail piece will look like?

  • Do they have a design and ideas how the project should look?
  • Have they seen other campaigns that they found appealing?
  • What is their understanding of the process to develop and distribute the piece?

Once these questions are answered by naturally weaving them in a normal conversation with a potential customer, then the specifics of the project can begin. Direct mail is an important product and service category for all printers. It takes patience to learn about data bases and the requirements of the USPS.

The payoff can be extended and a consistent flow of new applications and a profitable revenue stream.

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 October edition of the Printing News.

 

Try Selling versus Telling Millennials

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Millennials are a major force in the use and acquisition of printing. Though it is hard to generalize about an entire generation, it is important to know how they are influenced. Just as generations past, they are described in unflattering terms. They are smart and want to succeed like everyone else. We still run into print providers who stereotype this generation as difficult to work with and miss important selling opportunities.

Millennials Are Largest Group Ever

The work force is now dominated by 18 to 36 year old millennials. This group represents 25% of the entire population and is the largest group in history. Today they represent 25% of decision makers and will soon grow to dominate the market. Those who ignore them do so at their own peril. The good news is that research tells us that they are still using and valuing print books, circulars and direct mail as long as they are relevant to them. They seem to like the emotional connection that physical print can bring.

They are the first generation that was brought to the workforce with a completely digital upbringing. This poses two challenges for print marketers. One is organizing sales and marketing efforts around a different way of buying, and the other is educating potential print buyers on the value of physical communications.

What Makes Them Different

Just like any other type of generational group, sellers must adjust. Sell to them appropriately and they will be loyal customers. What makes them different?

1.      They have been brought up in digital

This is the first generation that has been immersed in digital media and devices their entire lives. They know and care less about print than the previous generation. In fact, much of what they have heard may not be correct. Print is sustainable, effective and has a high ROI.

2.      What they want, they want FAST

They buy on-line at sites such as Amazon or Google. Not only is what they sell available now, there is often no charge to have it sent. Individuals in this group want to be treated specially and individually.

3.      They will not just rely on a supplier’s claim

They are very comfortable researching everything on line.  They will not call a printer until they have formed an opinion based on a web search or on social media networking.  

4.      Bureaucratic rules and policies common in the printing industry are not welcomed

They are accustomed to getting it their way. Any of the popular social media sites they use are completely personal and customizable. Print is more difficult to produce than digital media. This can present challenges for Millennials in design and production.

5.      They will pay extra

Millennials are perfect candidates for personalization and cross media campaigns. Research shows that they are loyal to their brands. They will get beyond the price game if they can see how print fits into the big picture.

Ryan Doran, millennial and creative director of Turkois Design said, "There is a massive opportunity to create printing relationships with ‘millennial’ clients. The real disconnect is in fluency. Lost-in-translation equals lost sales. Traditional printers have an often untapped value and can benefit from playing the sage guide rather than the entitled merchant. It’s as simple as taking the time to inform your customer. If you talk to them like an equal working towards a goal you might even pick-up a tip or two from their own digital work-flow."

Recommendations for Sales Success to Millennials

Some of this may be obvious, but in our experience, this is not enough of a common practice to impact the vast millennial market. Based on a great deal of anecdotal evidence and research, here are some recommendations for the sales process:

1.      Get there first

You know the buying process is changing. Get there before all decision criteria is established. Most opportunities are decided before the first sales call is made. Expect decision makers to research alternatives thoroughly before calling. That means networking, going where the buyers are and providing lots of educational information for millennials.

2.      Help Them with Print

These are not old time print buyers who are experts in the specifying, design and production of print. Show them physical samples to gain emotional connection. Show them how print connects them to other media. Do not bog them down with printing bureaucratic procedures and jargon.

3.      Think, Act and Speak Digital

Millennials have grown up with technology. The pressure is on print salespeople to speak the language of digital and digital media. Knowing the details of how digital campaigns are created and produced will gain huge credibility with this generation. Sharing cross media and personalized printing builds confidence in printing. Also, the production of printing is exciting with many advanced technical features. Share with them the best samples you have.

4.      Manipulation will not Work

Millennials may wear jeans and flip flops to work, but don’t be fooled. They are results driven and see the big picture. What is different about this group, they are turned off quickly by pressure and manipulating sales tactics of days past. Scare tactics such as the price is only good to the end of the week or if you do not order right now, we will not make the deadline. Keep presentations short and provide interesting solutions to business problems.

5.      Handle the Unsaid Objection

With this generation, the difficult objection is often not stated. Questions about the effectiveness or ROI of print as a communication media is often on the minds of millennials. Printing is perceived as expensive. Most buyers are influenced by what they know best. Print is often a mystery. The message of the environmental unfriendliness of printing is pervasive in many forms in our social and business culture. It is not true and must be addressed with facts. Sharing case studies and examples that address these hidden objections is a smart way to sell.

We have a huge challenge as sellers of print. Most of our customers will soon be from generations that have grown up connected and on line. We have a great story to tell. Print is dynamic, interesting, high tech and effective. This story must be integrated in a professional selling approach.

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 in the Printing News Magazine and their Online Site August 2016

 

How Top Salespeople Stay Motivated

With a steady drumbeat of negativity and business challenges, even the best printing salespeople sometimes struggle to stay focused and motivated.  From motivational books to daily meditation, we have seen salespeople try any or all techniques imaginable. Whatever the strategy, self-motivation is always longer lasting and sustainable than external motivation.

Unfortunately, there is no magic potion to ensure salespeople can stay motivated. With the changes taking place within printing and communications in general, salespeople must stay motivated to embrace change and forge ahead to success.

What is Motivation?

Logic and Analysis is Not Enough

A big mistake both print and digital marketers make is they think that rational analysis by customers is how buying decisions are made.  Big printing decisions are more often made by emotion as by logic. Information and facts can prove your case but emotions move the customer to action