Sales

Ten Ways For Salespeople To Gain Customer Loyalty

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Most successful salespeople and marketers use the “rule of reciprocity” when working with their customers. This time-honored tenet simply means that customers will return favors they have received. One should not think of this rule as a method of manipulating customers, but more as applying the “golden rule”. That means to treat customer as you would want to be treated.

In the graphic communications industry, we commonly see suppliers and print providers shower their top customers with trips to headquarters, customer events, business development resources and business insights. The “rule of reciprocity” draws on a powerful human tendency for customers to respond to a perceived gift from a supplier. There has been ample research in many areas of human interaction that confirms this process.

In his popular book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini shares research and information that describes the power that reciprocation has on impacting customer behavior. It explains why so many great salespeople and companies expend time and money to provide offers and added value to customers.

For the best results, salespeople must be more than courteous, generous and kind. It requires a deep knowledge of the customer’s needs and wants, followed by a response.

Successful Marketers and Salespeople Use The “Rule of Reciprocity”

Some large suppliers within our industry have been successful in creating a sense of obligation with customers by providing first-class venues where products and services are demonstrated or presented. This has helped establish long-term loyalty. And for individual salespeople and small businesses with limited marketing budgets, very small actions and favors can have the same large impact on sales performance. Though lavish lunches and high cost events have lost favor with most buyers, there are some much less costly ways to provide “valuable gifts” to customers. 

Here are ten examples of how printing salespeople can influence customers using the “rule of reciprocity”.

1.       Apply the “Golden Rule”

Simply treating every customer as you would want to be treated pays dividends. Being on time, living up to commitments, taking accountability for problems and following up are becoming increasingly rare. The simple act of treating your customer with respect can be a low cost differentiator from your competition.

2.       Create first class customer knowledge events

A great way to gain loyalty is by offering timely and impactful customer events. Every company should provide at least one event a year. There is no better way for customers to learn about new products, services and applications. Spending entertainment money wisely, along with providing valuable information for customers, will gain a disproportionately high return.

3.       Help with business development

Getting inside and helping build profitable applications provides a huge value to customers. Not only are customers appreciative of the support, they will repay the salesperson with more business.

4.       Give a gift

Providing small and relevant gifts is often well appreciated. Gifts such as business books and company promotional items are still welcomed by customers. A thoughtful gift will be remembered.

5.       Give them content

Providing relevant case studies, research and examples of high impact business successes helps customers reach their goals. For time- starved customers, receiving relevant and timely content is well appreciated. 

6.       Get personal

Taking the time to know and show interest in a customer’s career objectives, personal challenges and interests is useful in developing a productive business relationship. For instance, participating in a customer’s favorite charity event can be a great way to gain loyalty.

7.       Provide useful insights

Time is precious. Customers appreciate salespeople who can make them more successful by providing high impact recommendations and suggestions on how they can improve their business. A salesperson who knows their customer’s business is invaluable.

8.       Give free education

Millennials love educational opportunities. Offers to teach customers about substrates, color, winning applications, file management and cross media workflows are a few knowledge areas that print providers can offer.

9.       Take them out to the ball game

Knowing what is important to customers and accompanying them to sports events, concerts and restaurants is still a great vehicle to share business knowledge and build business relationships.

10.   Stay current

Sharing the latest in technology trends and applications is an important “gift” that salespeople can provide. With all the changes taking place in business, no customer can stay on top of what is going on without some help.

Applying the “rule of reciprocity” in all customer interactions is a powerful business approach that provides a huge ROI in time and money. Do not treat the “the rule of reciprocity” as a one-time event. Like many other things in selling, many customers have short memories… keep on giving. If done sincerely with the customer’s best interest in mind, it is very difficult for any customer to resist.

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

Five Steps When Selling to Executives

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Getting in front of senior executives can quickly change the future of a salesperson or a printing company. There is no better way to quickly develop and generate large sales than to gain access to senior decision makers.

Great printing salespeople can impact decisions about strategy, budgets and marketing that are driven by senior levels of management. Many of these decisions cannot be found in the purchasing or department manager levels.

Executives want to talk to salespeople who can help them address their “big” problems and opportunities. For salespeople, that requires confidence, a thorough knowledge of graphic and digital communications and an ability to bring creative ideas to their customers.

There are two great outcomes of an executive sales call: one is to gain agreement that what you have to offer is valuable to the executive’s organization; and two, the executive opens the organization to further sales meetings.

Five Steps for a Great Executive Meeting

1. Preparation

It may take hours of preparation to gain just one great meeting with the right executive. It is worth it. The first challenge is to identify those CEOs, Presidents, Division Presidents and Executive VPs in each targeted account. Having detailed information about their company, its objectives, its campaigns and programs will increase the likelihood of success in securing the first meeting.

With gatekeepers blocking the way, and the likelihood that the target will not pick up the phone, a brief and impactful talk track to generate interest must be prepared in advance. In a few cases, the executive may actually pick up the phone. A short crisp message and a simple request for a meeting is the best strategy.

2. A Great Entrance

A great first impression is vital. Though rapport building is important, keep the superficial banter to a minimum. Executives are looking for information and expertise. A professional appearance and demeanor will help. Briefly state your purpose, a brief overview of why you are there and what you expect from the meeting. Make sure you share amount of time you will need for this meeting.

Then just ask, “Is this OK with you?”

A confident start will establish a solid foundation for the rest of the sales call.

3. Share the Dream

Once the stage is set, it is time to share what you have discovered about the customer and their problems. You can do this by using facts and research on issues being faced by similar organizations and sharing them in a tailored way.

For instance, as part of your story to a hospital executive looking to expand their services, you could say, “According to the Direct Marketing Association, “83% of people find direct mail easier to absorb than email. We have found that our hospital clients who integrate direct mail along with their digital communications have increased their ability to sell additional and new services to their patients.”

Be prepared to share your case studies on how specifically you have helped similar organizations.

By sharing facts about how your company and printing has helped other companies improve their performance, potential customers will want to hear more. 

Then follow up with questions like this:

“How are you currently marketing your new clinical services?”

“What is the strategy of the hospital to attract new patients?”

“How will you address the new trends in the market?”

By asking probing questions, listening and letting the customer talk about the company and their priorities, the executive will become part of the sales call. Creating an optimistic vision for the customer will allow the discussion to continue.

4. Sync Up and Discuss Linkages

Now is the time when the salesperson connects what has been discussed by the customer to how your company can help.

By tailoring and summarizing the key points of the customer’s problems, you will be able to link what you sell to what the customer needs. A good exchange of ideas and agreements on how the salesperson can help the customer will lead to a close.

5. Close for an Open Door

The final step is to gain agreement on what needs to be done next. It is rarely the time to close for an order. It is an opportunity to gain the executive’s endorsement for access to key influencers and stakeholders who are involved in the decision chain. The ideal goal is an open door to developing a well-qualified recommendation to visit other departments and staff.

Since it often takes much time to gain a good meeting, preparation and execution is paramount. There may never be another chance to get a second meeting.

There has never been a time in recent history where it has been as important for printing salespeople to raise their level of contact within their customer organization. There is so much change in how printing can impact a customer’s top and bottom line that executives will welcome a meeting with a knowledgeable salesperson.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) is a consulting, research 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.

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

 

Getting Ahead of the New Way of Buying

The way print is bought has changed forever. In recent times, customers have gained much more control of the buying process for print. For salespeople, this fact is a serious challenge. Getting to potential customers early in the buying process has never been more important. 

How the Web has Changed Selling Print

The cause of this trend is simply that buyers are using the Web and networking with colleagues and peers to research print solutions. In many cases, customers are making up their minds on what they want before they even engage salespeople. The sad fact is that customers do not need salespeople as much anymore. Many customers do not feel they have enough time to speak to a parade of salespeople.

Anyone can find a wide variety of videos, blogs, print samples, print education, research and best practices immediately on the Web.  There is plenty of research that confirms that the majority of B2B buyers search on Google, LinkedIn, and other digital channels when planning to make a purchase. We are seeing many blind RFPs arrive at printing companies without any prior salesperson contact.

In the past, print salespeople controlled much of the information flow that customers needed early in the buying process. We have moved from a lack of information to an abundance of information. To complicate the problem, suppliers of other forms of media, such as digital marketing, do a better job positioning their solutions on the Web than print providers do.

What Does The Change In The Print Buying Behavior Mean for Salespeople?

If salespeople are not providing the information required for customers to make good decisions early in the sales process, it minimizes the opportunity for customers to hear about the new ideas and products. Consequently, salespeople must adapt.

Many customers have perceptions and even requirements firmly in place before they talk to a print salesperson

Dealing with customers who have already made much of their decision about what they want and want to pay creates a serious dilemma for the salesperson. It is very difficult to change specifications or make recommendations on a project or campaign when requirements are already set.

More people within accounts are involved in making decisions

The greater availability of information to more people within organizations has added to the decision process. In many organizations, there are no professional print buyers available to guide print decisions.  Younger customers are very comfortable using the Web and talking to more stakeholders to educate themselves without the aid of a salesperson.

There are less prospects within the order cycle

We have seen this trend working with many of our clients. The customers feel they are in control of the buying process.  There is less need for salespeople to create needs, qualify opportunities, bring new ideas or build new applications and solutions that would create more selling opportunities. Consequently, the number of total prospects has been reduced.

How Great Print Providers Are Responding

For commercial printing salespeople, there is good news. Printing sales is a relationship business. Since printing is a repeat business, customers are not just looking for one time programs and campaigns, but long term relationships.

Here are six recommendations based on what we are seeing to avoid the internet traps and bring added value to customer relationships.

1.       Get closer to your customers

Selling print is a marathon, not a sprint. Knowing and responding quickly to customer problems and opportunities consistently over time builds deeper relationships. The less they love you and know you, the more likely they will move on. Customers need and want trusted salespeople to help them solve complex problems.

2.       Get ahead of the Web

Relentlessly engaging leaders within your accounts with new ideas is paramount. New buyers and influencers are constantly changing in both small and large accounts. Therefore, getting in front of them before they go to the Web is a chance to provide valuable, tailored and customized information that they could not find anywhere else.

3.       Attack leads with a fury

Perhaps the most frustrating behavior of many print organizations is the length of time it takes to respond to a Web or social media inquiry. Customers’ expectations of response time for information requests have closed dramatically. Since buyers will often go to three or four sources on the Web for information, rapid response to a Web inquiry is a requirement to compete.

4.       Work to your market strength

Specializing in targeted markets and applications is a source of competitive advantage. Customers are drawn to print providers who can demonstrate a deeper understanding and success with a particular solution. It is not easy to find all the details of a complex and industry focused project or campaign on a Web site. Possessing a niche market is an advantage to direct sellers.

5.       Make each meeting a marketing event

We have said this before in previous articles. Never miss an opportunity to be a “smash hit” with every direct face-to-face meeting or phone call. Meetings are hard to come by these days. Being prepared with an exciting and engaging presentation is an important approach.

6.       Work your networks

If customers are gaining information through their professional networks before they talk to salespeople, then that is where salespeople need to be. Customers feel comfortable researching solutions with people they know and trust. If you are not networking, you are not selling. A good place to start networking is LinkedIn and Google+.

There is no question that customers are more in control in how they buy than ever before. With the availability of more channels of information, it is no wonder that customers are well along in their buying process before they even engage a printing salesperson. It is critical for salespeople to adapt and react to a changing shift in how customers gain information and ultimately make decisions.

Joe Rickard is a training leader and consultant dedicated to the graphic communications industry. He and his company 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.