Joe Rickard

Three Ways to Make Cold Calls Hot

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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.

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.

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.

Use Social Media to Build More Sales

As social media continues to evolve and new me­diums emerge, it can be difficult to keep up with new trends and strategies for using social media effectively. More and more printing salespeople are creatively using social media, mobile, and digital communication as a way to expand their networks and engage with their customers. Printing customers are there, so salespeople should be there, too. The key is finding the right channels to invest your time and determining how to use them to grow your business.

Don’t Give In—Negotiate!

We often hear from printing salespeople that negotiating with customers over terms, price, and specifications is the least enjoyable part of their job. Negotiating is not for the faint of heart. It can be contentious and, if not done well, it can cause of lot of hard work to be wasted. To make matters worse, many customers perceive print providers as a class of suppliers with which the customer holds the power.

A Salesperson’s Six Best Friends

Taking the time to gather information, qualify opportunities and build value is best accomplished by asking well-rehearsed and prepared questions to a multitude of customer personnel. Many printing salespeople we know spend a lot of time preparing for who they are going to see and how they will handle objections, but little time preparing the precise questions they will ask perspective clients