Printing Sales

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.