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.

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