Printing Sales Training

Applying Successful Low-Cost In-House Sales Training Strategies

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Growing printing companies need skilled sales talent to communicate transitioning and complex offerings. Though most owners and sales managers agree with the need for training, there is often neither the time nor the money to spend. Regardless of the constraints, it is necessary for graphic communications companies to conduct continuous training for salespeople.

What Is Learned in the Classroom Is Often Quickly Forgotten

In our work as a printing industry consulting and training company, we have found on-the-job training to have a much greater impact on performance than formal training. We tell our clients that 30% is learned in the classroom or on-line, and 70% is learned on- the-job. Formal classroom or on-line training is required from time to time to ensure skills, technical knowledge and sales process are learned and updated. Unfortunately, what is learned is often quickly forgotten. It is the day-to-day, on-the-job reinforcements that will keep a sales team sharp and motivated.

Formal training can be provided to printing salespeople through in-house experts, outside training companies, trade associations, suppliers, and readily available on-line printed materials. Because what is learned is often forgotten, companies sometimes fail to see a return on investment. It can be an expensive time out from the business.

Easy to Implement On-the-Job Training Strategies

We find that successful companies use on-the-job training as a way to ensure salespeople remain sharp and effective. Even very small companies can deploy simple on-the-job training strategies. Here are three strategies we recommend to our clients in our digital printing consulting practice:

1.    Role Playing

Legendary sales leader and CEO of SAP, Bill McDermott, regularly led his successful sales teams, either at meetings or when traveling, with role playing exercises. He would ask what tough objections the salespeople had heard, and would then have team members role play answers to those objections. This is a simple and timely training exercise.

Salespeople often enjoy being given potential objections, sales situations and common customer scenarios to rehearse and share best practices. This should be done regularly so that salespeople begin to anticipate potential objections. This exercise helps keep mistakes and sloppy communications away from the customer.

New and tenured salespeople will learn from each other in a simulated and risk-free environment. Areas to role play can include all aspect of sales, including phone prospecting, opening a sales call, closing a call, or meeting an executive. The sales manager and one or two salespeople can practice playing customer and salesperson.

2.    Mentored Sales Calls

This is an ideal training practice for printing companies. Often owners, production managers and sales managers have a great amount of business acumen and experience. It is of great value to have someone with experience play a passive role on a call and observe carefully the interactions between the customer and the salesperson.

Immediately after the call, the salesperson shares what they believe went well - or not so well – during the call. Then, the observer shares their insight on what happened on the call and makes recommendations, if required. This can be a valuable training experience with real-time feedback.

For new salespeople, a great practice is to have an experienced salesperson or sales manager role model a sales call. In this case, the new salesperson is the observer and records what they learned. If it is possible to take notes versus trying to remember the details, the feedback will be even more impactful.

3.    Win Reviews

At meetings, having salespeople share the details of how a significant order was obtained can become an engrained company practice. This is a great way for all employees to understand the teamwork and the steps necessary to close a big deal. Aside from recognizing great achievement, it helps reinforce good practices.

At the Win Review, a salesperson should be able to describe the customer situation and what problem was solved. The details of the discussion could include:

·         How long it took to get the order

·         What was the decision process

·         What were the main objections and concerns of the customer

·         The Sales process

·         The production workflow

·         The ROI for customer or for the printing company

·         Who were the competitors

·         What and who made the difference

·         Is there a future opportunity

Win reviews are great on-the-job training and can be done regularly. With some creativity and consistency, the Win Review can become of a vital part of a company’s sales management process.

Training and professional development cannot be one-time events. They must be an everyday occurrence. Even successful salespeople can become complacent. Adding planned and structured on-the-job sales training to a printing company’s business process may not always be cost effective, but it will generate business results.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) is a printing industry training and digital printing consulting 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 has been published on the PrintingNews.com website.

Selling Print is a Great Career

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We know you are out there. There are thousands of students and professionals capable of selling print within the graphic communications industry.  

Our industry, like many others, is undergoing a major transition. What makes the graphic communications industry a good choice for a career in sales is that we are accustomed to change and innovation. Offset is giving way to exciting new production inkjet technology. New consumer and industrial applications are being developed every day, and many print providers are a driving force in cross-media communications.

We continually hear from print providers across the US who are looking for confident and creative salespeople to help drive new revenues and profits. For many printing companies, sales and marketing is their number one priority. Having the ability to produce great products and services is not enough.

Sales jobs currently available in the printing industry range from direct sales positions presenting complex printing solutions to customers, to inside telemarketing salespeople who generate leads for new products and services. We have trained thousands of printing salespeople. We are always impressed with their commitment not only to make high commissions, but also their commitment to customers and their pride in the printing industry.

Here are some reasons why selling printing is a great career:

Print is a huge business. If you consider print and related industries such as paper, ink and industrial printing, there are close to one million workers currently employed within the industry. Almost all of the 45,000 print locations nationwide require salespeople. It is among the largest manufacturing industries in the United States.

Print is exciting. The industry is a technology-driven business. Imaging innovations, along with the constant stream of new advancements and uses of print, will keep salespeople very busy for a very long time. Whether a new packaging application or a beautiful personalized direct mail piece, printing salespeople always have something compelling to talk about with their customers.

Print works well with others. Most marketing and business executives agree that no one channel can gain awareness and generate business. New communication marketing platforms and data analytics allow customers to track which factors drive customers to buy. Emails, social media and digital marketing alone are not enough. Print can be personalized, customized and effective for each recipient when combined with other forms of communications.   

Print is green.  Industry champion, Two Sides (www.twosidesna.org) has done a great job overcoming the myths surrounding print’s negative impact on the environment. It is a great story for salespeople to share with the many millennials who have misconceptions about print. Print is sustainable and is unique among communication channels.

Print selling builds skills. In addition to deep knowledge of printing and customer buying models, successful printing salespeople possess great listening, negotiating, presentation and closing skills. Developing these and other selling skills makes a professional salesperson a vital component of any printing organization and can ensure a long term career.

Print selling is a great profession. Print selling is a perfect fit for those who have the self-discipline to work both independently and on teams. Many have moved from sales to management and executive positions throughout the graphic communication industry.

Print is profitable. Through the ebb and flow of economic upturns and downturns, we see changing fortunes for many print providers. At any time, there are countless graphic communications companies and salespeople achieving great financial rewards. Through hard work and skill, salespeople can earn a substantial income commensurate with their sales and achievements. Selling has been in the past, and will continue to be, a lucrative career.

Print selling is the future. There will always be a job for a great printing salesperson. Though customer buying cycles and attitudes may change, the selling process and the skills required to close sales do not. As our industry continues to change and transform, successful salespeople learn and adapt. They are the ones who will take the message about the exciting changes in our industry to their customers.

Finding opportunities for a print selling job is not very difficult. There are thousands of openings. Every national and local print industry trade association has a “job bank” with ample opportunities. In addition, public web sites and executive recruiters are constantly on the lookout for new and existing salespeople.

The best news is there are positions for any level of salesperson. Recent graduates or those desiring to enter sales can launch their careers as inside salespeople, customer service reps or front counter workers. More experienced salespeople can work in a very large variety of sales positions selling products, services and software. Also, vendors who sell equipment, paper, ink and software are always looking for new salespeople. For someone like me, who has been in a sales and sales executive role for many years, I cannot think of a better career than selling in the Graphic Communications Industry.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) is a consulting and printing industry training company. They work with printing, STEM and technology organizations to improve their operational effectiveness.  Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156. This article was published in the February edition of the Printing News (http://www.printingnews.com/magazine}

Three Great Sales Approaches

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.

Great References Create a Selling Advantage

One of the most powerful selling tools is a customer reference. Customers like nothing better than networking and identifying successful solutions being offered to similar organizations. Putting a customer reference on a website, or providing references to existing prospects, is a smart thing to do.  Obtaining customer references to prospect and identify new opportunities should be a part of any sales plan.

It is time well spent developing customer references

Most printing companies are facing changing market conditions. Differentiation is difficult and price pressures are intense. Gaining opportunities to separate from the competition to build trust and credibility with their customers is a key to success. We define a good customer reference as an advocate who has a set of products and/or services that has solved a specific problem or generated a significant opportunity in a specific market. 

We are finding many print providers may have forgotten this proven marketing method to develop new sales opportunities. Research has shown that customer references help companies attract new customers and shorten sales cycles.

The best salesperson is a satisfied customer

Why would a prospect buy a high cost and high risk solution from a company that can’t produce a genuine customer reference? Sharing with potential prospects how a specific print-based offering has solved a problem that generated great results is a powerful selling tool. Not only will customers gain confidence in a particular solution, but salespeople will also build their own credibility and confidence with their prospects.

Customer references should be part of a company’s marketing strategy

Almost all salespeople agree that using customer references increases their chances of closing more business. The problem is that individual salespeople often guard their references. Then when there is a need for a reference everyone is scrambling. This usually does not end well.

What makes a great reference?

The value of a great reference can be substantial. For instance, a great reference would be an insurance client who is soliciting customers through direct mail. The problem is that they are getting a very low response rate. The print provider helps develop a direct mail piece that includes personalized content. The result is that the client gained a much higher response rate and subsequently gained 12% in sales revenue.

To capitalize on references, we recommend companies approach references in an organized way.

Set a guideline and target

You should look for clients that have had a business issue or opportunity which was solved by using a print solution that resulted in a great ROI.  The sales team should have a specific type of client they are targeting for a reference. This should include the size of an account, type and size of offering, the market, the problems solved or opportunities created. It is best to have a specific format for them to follow.

Ask them for a reference

Most satisfied customers are happy to provide a great reference. Sometimes customers will not have the time to provide a written reference. A good practice in these situations is to draft one for the customer and then get their approval. Occasionally larger clients do not want their successes publicized outside the company due to fear of competitors getting a good idea. We find getting a good reference is part of good selling. Great salespeople get great references.

Document each reference in a consistent format

We recommend a simple but well-branded three part approach: what was the problem or opportunity faced by the customer, what was the solution provided by the print provider and what were the results generated for the customer. Having some information about the client such as industry, type of services, location, size will make the reference that much more powerful.

Market your references

How a reference is presented and displayed makes a difference. The reference should be branded, designed and part of an overall marketing strategy. It should be created to potentially be used in case studies, websites, printed collaterals, social media, PR and sales presentations.

Integrate them into the sales process

Once the customer references are obtained and completed, then it is time to ensure that they are used within the sales process at the appropriate time. Don’t wait until a customer asks for a reference. Use these to develop new markets and prospects. They attract attention and interest of clients.

For some, it requires closing the first deal and gaining a reference that can open the door to a new market segment. For others, they already have great customers that just need to be asked. Printing is a relationship business built on trust.  Customer references have traditionally been an integral part of the selling process.

Using satisfied customers is essential to managing new opportunities and overcoming competition. Print providers selling large and complex programs, products and services are missing a big opportunity if they don’t use references from satisfied customers.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com)  works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. He can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was published in Quick Printing Magazine and MyPrintResource.com

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?

Six Ways to Confront Customer Indifference

When selling print, a customer who lacks any interest in looking at new printing providers, print products, solutions or services can be the toughest barrier that any salesperson can face. For many salespeople, customer indifference is their greatest competitor.

The reason indifference is so frustrating to print salespeople is because it is based on customer perception about print.  They view print as a commodity and are not interested in looking at any new ideas.

Common responses from customers are:

“We are happy with our current print supplier.”

“We are not using direct mail anymore.”

“We are moving to digital marketing.”

“Talk to our purchasing department.”

Customer Indifference Can Be a Salesperson’s Toughest Competitor

Six Concerns Every Salesperson Must Answer

There are always customer concerns that must be answered during the printing sale. If they are not handled correctly, the sale is lost.  Common concerns of the customer may be questions, misunderstandings and actual objections to doing business with a specific print provider. Each year we ask salespeople what are the toughest objections they face in closing business. It is amazing how similar they are year in and year out.

VDP is Alive and Waiting to be Sold

The key benefit of VDP for printers and their salespeople is the opportunity for higher margins, new customers and additional services. There is nothing better than selling a large direct mail campaign along with the accompanying data, digital and social media services. The challenge for many printing salespeople is how to sell it. It requires a new way of thinking.

VDP has grown up and is ready for prime time. The equipment, the software and the workflow is developed and ready to use

Printers, What Do You Sell?

The very first thing that a printing salesperson must do before conducting a face to face sales call is to be able to clearly articulate what they are selling. Most of us have experienced situations where after talking to a salesperson, we were not really sure what the salesperson was actually offering. Customers find this frustrating and annoying.

Sales Managers Lead through Change

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 Strategies to Improve Prospecting

Like anything else in business, it’s always good to take stock of what’s working and what is not. Sales prospecting is one of those areas that always needs attention. Prospecting is an activity required by salespeople to generate new leads. That means moving the most likely candidates for printing products or services from unaware suspects to hot and likely to buy prospects. Prospecting is definitely a vital skill to develop to be successful in selling.

Sales Strategies in a RFP World

Over the past few years, print buyers, agencies, and procurement offices have turned RFQs and RFPs into art forms. For them, the intent of well documented RFQs and RFPs is to bring structure to an often confusing and complicated process. For print providers, it can be a frustrating process.

Sell It Straight—Don't Tell and Manipulate

We have spent a great deal of time over the last few years observing printing salespeople—on live calls or within training workshops—attempting to sell customers on new ideas and new offerings.

We have found that many are still relying on outdated sales techniques. These include the regurgitating tired and canned spiels or the use of manipulative sales techniques. Since printing sales is based on a high value, trusted relationship, telling and manipulating is not a sustainable strategy.

Sales Growth Requires Great Service

Selling printing or any service is a relationship business. Since so much of producing printing products and services is customized, building trust and personal relationships are vital in maintaining top customers. We occasionally hear from back seat critics who refer to a successful salesperson pejoratively as a “farmer” or “account manager”. This is simply not true.

How to Get Past the Screener

The ability to gain access to decision makers is a sure sign of a top printing salesperson. Moving beyond screens is an important job requirement for all salespeople. A screen is defined as anyone who needs to be engaged before meeting the person or persons who make print buying decisions.

Five Sales Steps to Create More Value

Printing salespeople, who try to win deals by consistently quoting lower prices, face the shortest path to low sales and ultimate failure. In a tough world, where there are always alternatives to print-based communications, producing high quality print at low prices is not enough. Great printing salespeople create value for their customers

Selling Starts with Confidence

This is good time to take stock in one’s own confidence level. Lately, we are seeing a loss of the
confidence in many printing salespeople. Previously confident printing salespeople have been
shaken by a brutal economy that has seen millions of potential print users leave the workforce
through downsizing or business closings.

To make matters worse, there are the unrelenting changes in technology, pervasiveness of digital media and stiff competition from other printers.

There is a large amount of research that confirms confident salespeople outperform those who
are less sure of themselves. Confident salespeople are more resilient to rejection, more
persuasive and believe in themselves.

10 Steps to Selling Financial Value

In every print-based sale, from a simple brochure to a com-plex cross media campaign, printing salespeople must be able to justify the sale financially. Creating the coolest or most interesting print program in itself is not enough to close business. Every order requires the ability to sell the job financially, as well as convince the customer that the printer has the ability to print the job well.

Whether it is justifying the cost of print by providing the lowest price, comparing achieved benefits, using an ROI calculation, or showing a fast financial payback, great print salespeople are skilled at selling financial value.

Four Steps to Get Vertical

More and more printing customers are looking for ways to reduce costs and align communications strategies with their own growth strategies. This trend is not lost among successful print salespeople. Targeting specific vertical markets is a common strategy for many printing salespeople to gain more sales. Once a decision is made to go vertical, the challenge is then to determine what market is best and what is needed to “break in” to those targeted accounts.