Printing management

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}

Four Areas to Assess your Sales Coverage

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Sales coverage is one of those phrases that many owners and managers worry and talk about when meeting with their salespeople. But what does sales coverage really mean? More importantly, are common printing industry sales coverage models effective for today’s printing environment?

What is Sales Coverage?

The way a company structures its sales process and resources to drive revenue is its “sales coverage model”. Printers have many different types of sales coverage models, depending on the type of company they are, their size, their customer base and also the types of products and services they offer. For instance, one company may use a combination of telemarketing, internet marketing and some outside direct salespeople while another may have a team of direct salespeople coupled with an ecommerce portal.

Four key elements of evaluating your Sales Coverage Model

Below are four areas that are common issues within printing company sales coverage models.

1. Sales Territory with No Boundaries

There is still a persistent and stubborn practice in our industry to allow printing salespeople to determine where and whom they call on. They gain new customers wherever they can find them. This strategy most often fails and causes frustration for both the salesperson and the sales manager.

Management, not salespeople, are best able to determine the type of accounts and/or markets that best sync to the company’s products and services. Management picks the targets and salespeople call on them. Effective targeting of likely suspects based on “best fit”, is the most efficient and productive use of valuable sales and marketing resources.

2. Too Few Hands on Deck

Most sales territories we find are much too large to be effectively managed by the salesperson. In today’s market, everyone within the printing company must be part of the selling process. All employees must feel accountable to reel in new business, not just the direct salesperson or CSR.

Though there will always be tension and battles between sales and the production team, complex and large opportunities require a team effort to be successful.

That means everyone connected with the workflow supporting a potential customer participates in some way in sales calls, presentations, customer problem resolution, and proposals. Regular customer contact and problem solving by management, sales and operations is a requirement.

3. No Credit for Leads

Perhaps the biggest disconnect on an effective sales coverage model that we hear is the issue of lead generation. Too often managers and owners resent crediting direct salespeople for business that result from leads. A common feeling among owners is that the salespeople should be generating their own leads and companies should not have to pay commissions on this business.

New models are evolving where companies are segmenting sales efforts. The thinking is that leads are generated by inside sales telemarketing reps, digital and social media and digital marketing efforts. Higher paid direct salespeople spend their time qualifying and driving these opportunities through the pipeline to a sale.

If there is a concern about the amount of leads that are being generated by salespeople, the issue most often lies with marketing, sales process or compensation and not where or how the lead was generated.

4. Marketing versus Sales

In the past, only large companies tended to have strong links between marketing and sales. This is the approach where marketing drives awareness and consideration into the hands of direct sales people. With the transformation of the internet, all companies must consider carefully how marketing is integrated into sales and how this affects sales coverage.

A fully developed and updated marketing plan is the surest way to ensure that marketing and sales are working well together. Targeting accounts and markets, selling the right products and services and sharing common objectives are just a few areas that should be examined and aligned for success.

Next Steps

To determine if a company has the right sales coverage model, managers and owners should consider the following:

  • Which accounts and markets are the most lucrative based on the products and services of the company?
  • How will marketing and sales work together more closely to generate business?
  • What types and amounts of salespeople are required to cover the identified opportunities and at what cost? Should the company use inside sales, direct sales, team selling, sales specialists, ecommerce or a combination of all
  • Does the compensation plan reflect where leads are generated and how much effort is required by the salesperson to turn leads into prospects and then customers?

As with most industries, technology has driven fundamental changes to the selling process within the printing industry. We find most print providers stay with what has worked for them in the past. Old habits die hard. It is never too late to reconsider your company’s sales coverage model.

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 at PrintingNews.com

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.