Sales Training

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

Ten Questions to Get the Printing Sale Moving

Customer time is scarce and many prospects resist spending it with salespeople. Consequently, making a great face to face sales call has never been more important. This is not the time to be unprepared or execute poor sales behavior.  Being able to gain interest quickly and to ask outstanding questions is vital to identify customer needs and move a customer to a close.  

Developing and asking good questions requires practice and preparation. We see many salespeople ask the same manipulative and annoying questions on each and every sales call. Asking direct questions such as “when do you need this by?”, “who is the decision maker?” or “what is your budget?” are turn offs.

Most important information can be obtained through a natural business conversation with a customer. The objective of most sales calls is to close a deal or move the process forward; not interrogating the customer.

Developing Good Questions Starts with Preparation

Salespeople must bring value on each and every call.  A poor initial face to face sales call means that the salesperson may never get in front of the customer again. .

The first step in preparing questions is to thoroughly prepare. Here are four necessary steps to accomplish this

What’s the objective of the call?

Determine what will be accomplished by the face to face sales call. If the potential outcome is not substantial, or is vague, then perhaps the call is not worth the time. Examples of good objectives can include gaining access to other decision makers, gaining exact information required for a proposal, or even closing the order.

Do your homework

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Since it is so difficult to gain access to a customer, why take any chances? Work the web and talk to current and former employees, friends, suppliers, and anyone else that could provide important insights about the account. This is how salespeople can prepare to bring interesting insights that will build credibility and create interest with prospects.

You need to be different

Every customer perceives their needs as unique. Be different.  For instance, just printing direct mail is not enough. Linking your capabilities to the success of your prospect will make them want to continue the conversation. Prepare questions and information that will create curiosity and interest that focuses on the customer opportunities to improve business and professional results.

Prepare questions

Questions are the foundation of a great sales call. Having interesting questions prepared that can gain information and methodically walk through a logical needs analysis will establish credibility and build the customer’s curiosity. Encouraging and guiding the customer to talk will determine if the opportunity is a good fit for both the printer and the customer.

Ten Great Questions

Though each sales call is different, most salespeople have their favorite pre-prepared questions. Here are some of my favorites for salespeople selling graphic communications products and services:

1.     How is the customer currently communicating and marketing? How are you presently using print and digital media to promote your new products?

2.     How does the customer measure the results of their marketing programs? How do you determine how your current print and media marketing programs are working?

3.     Where are the challenges and problems in your current marketing process? What would you envision as an outstanding cross media campaign using print and digital media?

4.     When and how often does the customer communicate with their customers?       How many communication touches do you expect your new and existing customers to receive?”

5.     Why does the company generate communications in a particular way? Can you share your organization’s strategy in determining the mix of print and digital marketing when communicating with your customers?

6.     How does the customer determine communication and marketing programs or initiatives for new products? How are print budgets determined when launching new products and programs?

7.     Who else is involved with budgeting decisions? Can you share with me the makeup of the team that is responsible for initiating and working on marketing and communication programs?

8.     How are budgets created for marketing programs? When launching new marketing programs and products, how are print and media budgets determined?

9.     What print and digital marketing programs have been successful? In your experience, what past print programs have delivered the best ROI for your investment?

        10.   What does success look like? What are your top three goals for this
        communication or marketing project?”

Expanding on answers to these questions will allow the salesperson to probe more deeply into the implications and impact of the problem or opportunity that is being addressed. The goal of the salesperson is to provide compelling business insights on why the customer should do business with them. This is best done in a consultative manner, and being face to face with a customer will allow you to guide the conversation in a way that showcases your unique capabilities.

Perhaps the best definition of this type of selling was described by the “Dean of American Printers” of the early 20th century, Charles Francis. Francis in his classic 1917 book, Printing For Profit, said that one of the essential qualifications of a successful salesperson is, “the ability to see the customer’s problems from the customer’s own viewpoint, and lead them for their own interest to place an order”.

Clearly, some things do not change.

In today’s world of unread emails and disregarded voice messages, a primary objective when selling large or complex printing projects is to obtain face to face meetings with customers. Once inside, great questions help salespeople build credibility and learn the true scope of potential opportunities.

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 the April 2016 edition of Printing News

VDP is Alive and Waiting to be Sold

The key benefit of VDP for printers and their salespeople is the opportunity for higher margins, new customers and additional services. There is nothing better than selling a large direct mail campaign along with the accompanying data, digital and social media services. The challenge for many printing salespeople is how to sell it. It requires a new way of thinking.

VDP has grown up and is ready for prime time. The equipment, the software and the workflow is developed and ready to use