printing industry training

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.

Applying Successful Low-Cost In-House Sales Training Strategies

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Growing printing companies need skilled sales talent to communicate transitioning and complex offerings. Though most owners and sales managers agree with the need for training, there is often neither the time nor the money to spend. Regardless of the constraints, it is necessary for graphic communications companies to conduct continuous training for salespeople.

What Is Learned in the Classroom Is Often Quickly Forgotten

In our work as a printing industry consulting and training company, we have found on-the-job training to have a much greater impact on performance than formal training. We tell our clients that 30% is learned in the classroom or on-line, and 70% is learned on- the-job. Formal classroom or on-line training is required from time to time to ensure skills, technical knowledge and sales process are learned and updated. Unfortunately, what is learned is often quickly forgotten. It is the day-to-day, on-the-job reinforcements that will keep a sales team sharp and motivated.

Formal training can be provided to printing salespeople through in-house experts, outside training companies, trade associations, suppliers, and readily available on-line printed materials. Because what is learned is often forgotten, companies sometimes fail to see a return on investment. It can be an expensive time out from the business.

Easy to Implement On-the-Job Training Strategies

We find that successful companies use on-the-job training as a way to ensure salespeople remain sharp and effective. Even very small companies can deploy simple on-the-job training strategies. Here are three strategies we recommend to our clients in our digital printing consulting practice:

1.    Role Playing

Legendary sales leader and CEO of SAP, Bill McDermott, regularly led his successful sales teams, either at meetings or when traveling, with role playing exercises. He would ask what tough objections the salespeople had heard, and would then have team members role play answers to those objections. This is a simple and timely training exercise.

Salespeople often enjoy being given potential objections, sales situations and common customer scenarios to rehearse and share best practices. This should be done regularly so that salespeople begin to anticipate potential objections. This exercise helps keep mistakes and sloppy communications away from the customer.

New and tenured salespeople will learn from each other in a simulated and risk-free environment. Areas to role play can include all aspect of sales, including phone prospecting, opening a sales call, closing a call, or meeting an executive. The sales manager and one or two salespeople can practice playing customer and salesperson.

2.    Mentored Sales Calls

This is an ideal training practice for printing companies. Often owners, production managers and sales managers have a great amount of business acumen and experience. It is of great value to have someone with experience play a passive role on a call and observe carefully the interactions between the customer and the salesperson.

Immediately after the call, the salesperson shares what they believe went well - or not so well – during the call. Then, the observer shares their insight on what happened on the call and makes recommendations, if required. This can be a valuable training experience with real-time feedback.

For new salespeople, a great practice is to have an experienced salesperson or sales manager role model a sales call. In this case, the new salesperson is the observer and records what they learned. If it is possible to take notes versus trying to remember the details, the feedback will be even more impactful.

3.    Win Reviews

At meetings, having salespeople share the details of how a significant order was obtained can become an engrained company practice. This is a great way for all employees to understand the teamwork and the steps necessary to close a big deal. Aside from recognizing great achievement, it helps reinforce good practices.

At the Win Review, a salesperson should be able to describe the customer situation and what problem was solved. The details of the discussion could include:

·         How long it took to get the order

·         What was the decision process

·         What were the main objections and concerns of the customer

·         The Sales process

·         The production workflow

·         The ROI for customer or for the printing company

·         Who were the competitors

·         What and who made the difference

·         Is there a future opportunity

Win reviews are great on-the-job training and can be done regularly. With some creativity and consistency, the Win Review can become of a vital part of a company’s sales management process.

Training and professional development cannot be one-time events. They must be an everyday occurrence. Even successful salespeople can become complacent. Adding planned and structured on-the-job sales training to a printing company’s business process may not always be cost effective, but it will generate business results.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) is a printing industry training and digital printing consulting 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 has been published on the PrintingNews.com website.