printing sales

Three Ways to Make Cold Calls Hot

Fotosearch_k2706216012.jpg

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.

Selling Beyond Print with Direct Mail

If there is one thing we have learned from successful printing companies, it is that they regularly offer new offerings to their customers. Whether you are a large, multi-plant printer or a small, local printer, one area that is undergoing changes is direct mail. With a market size of almost 47 billion dollars, according to the Winterberry Group, the opportunities for supplying direct mail to customers are endless.

Even during the recent tough economic years, the direct mail market has continued to remain strong. It is projected that this is an area that will continue to be a major and effective marketing channel used by customers, both big and small. Most experts predict that the combination of the increased use of ink jet printing, easier personalization, and the continued introduction of new substrates will spur growth.

Direct Mail is Scalable

Almost all printing companies offer some sort of direct mail products and services. There are many variations to direct programs and campaigns that even the smallest print provider can offer. Also, there are thousands of new potential printing customers who could be introduced to the power of direct mail marketing.

Nick Nicolich, co-owner of Star Press of Pearl River in NY, said, “We learned to be successful in direct mail by listening and adding value for our customers. Our team attempts to learn what our customers are trying to do as a very first step. When you get someone to talk about their project and learn more about it, you can give them a better way to accomplish their objectives. If we can do that, we generally keep them as a customer for life.”

This is a good time to reassess how we approach the direct mail market. Here are some of the behaviors we have seen from successful companies:

Focus on customer education about the value of print

There is growing ignorance of the value of print, especially direct mail. When entry level and new managers first enter the workforce, their first thought on how to get a message out is often not print related. Educate them on the value and effectiveness of a well thought out marketing mix which includes direct mail.

Provide great customer service

Millennials are showing us the value great customer service can add to the bottom line. They are flocking to providers (such as Amazon) that provide excellent customer service. Putting together a direct mail campaign may seem intimidating to those new customers not familiar with print. By helping them overcome their fears about the technical intricacies of print, you can build a closer relationship.

Deliver an entire solution

New and understaffed customers need and want the total solution. Direct mail customers need advice, design, copywriting, data bases, print and distribution services. Having templates, samples, advice, and information readily available will create leads and also help to explain the entire process to your customers. 

Start small

A great way to introduce your customers to direct mail is by using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program for small retail customers. It’s a great solution for customers such as restaurants, banks, home improvement companies and insurance agencies. You don’t have to know the names and addresses of recipients, you simply choose a neighborhood and marketing pieces are delivered to every address along the route.

Even seemingly simple projects can result in the development of a long-term and profitable customer.

The First Step for Sales is Understanding the Customer

For most customers, direct mail is baffling. 

Since every qualified potential customer should receive an outstanding first impression, sales and customer service people should understand the customer’s capabilities and requirements BEFORE making recommendations. Here are some potential questions to ask that would make any customer feel confident in a print provider:

What is the goal and objective of the project?

  • What is the purpose of the project?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  •  How will the results be measured?

Why has the customer decided to use direct mail?

  • Have they used direct mail before?
  • Do they need design support, templates, databases, etc.?
  • What is the time frame and budget?

What is their vision of what the direct mail piece will look like?

  • Do they have a design and ideas how the project should look?
  • Have they seen other campaigns that they found appealing?
  • What is their understanding of the process to develop and distribute the piece?

Once these questions are answered by naturally weaving them in a normal conversation with a potential customer, then the specifics of the project can begin. Direct mail is an important product and service category for all printers. It takes patience to learn about data bases and the requirements of the USPS.

The payoff can be extended and a consistent flow of new applications and a profitable revenue stream.

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 first published in the October edition of the Printing News.

 

Try Selling versus Telling Millennials

Fotosearch_k25513898.jpg

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

 

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

Fotosearch_k9611991.jpg

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

How Great Salespeople Follow Up and Reap the Benefits

Follow Up.jpg

The speed of the internet has greatly affected the way salespeople and customers interact. We often ask customers what they expect from salespeople. They respond that they want sales people to take accountability and respond quickly.

One of the least discussed behaviors of salespeople that has a huge impact on sales performance is follow up. Within the printing industry, following up means responding to leads, moving customers through the sales cycle and responding to customer problems.

Great Salespeople Follow Up Better

If 20% of salespeople generate the vast majority of business within our industry, what are they doing differently? Great salespeople seem to be able to prioritize and effectively manage customer communications at every step of the customer life cycle.  

I am not completely sure why many salespeople do not follow up better. My suspicion is that salespeople are so busy managing customers and issues that they do not always prioritize their time most effectively. We do know that top salespeople set customer expectations, identify opportunities and are able to pounce on ready prospects faster than lower performers.

Areas Where Follow Up is Required

For salespeople, there are three critical customer interactions that require great follow up:

The Lead

Quickness and timeliness is vital when a lead comes in. These are when customers express interest on line, on the phone or through a reference. All research affirms that a quick response increases the chances of closing business.

The Harvard Business Reported, “U.S. firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”

The Sales Process

Moving customers through a sales process and follow up requires good judgment, great listening skills and the ability to set expectations.

For instance, how quickly should a salesperson follow up on a quote or presentation that has been presented? Ideally, follow up should take place within 24 hours. Each customer may be different, but all sales steps require timely follow up.

Customer Complaints or Questions

Anytime a customer has a concern or complaint, a direct call or email should be made by the salesperson within an hour. If that is impossible, a designated CSR should respond letting the customer know when someone will get back to them and respond to their problem.

How To Ensure Great Follow Up

Here are three recommendations for better follow up:

1.    Build a Professional Process

Don’t wait for sales managers or customers to complain. Create a personal follow up plan. Make changes and adjustments based on results and customer feedback. The first step is to set a follow up guideline for leads, customer complaints and sales process follow up. The last step is to review your results.

For instance, you may want to set an objective to follow up with a phone call or email within an hour for every lead that comes in. The idea is to quickly qualify the lead and arrange with the customer a good time to talk or meet to further discuss the opportunity. For customer problems the goal could be for a CSR to contact the customer in one hour and you follow up in two hours.

Another potential objective is to contact a prospect who has not responded to your calls at least three times and then wait a period of time to contact them three more times.

2.    Set Expectations Early And Often

After each customer contact always gain agreement and set an expectation for the next step in the sales process. Too often salespeople forget to do this.

For instance, if you had a meeting with a customer who is asking for a print sample, negotiate a time-frame with the customer as to when they want to receive the sample. Some customers will expect it in one day and others may want a week. Gaining agreement with customers up front will ensure a satisfied customer.

A common printing sales scenario is when a customer is unhappy and requires the salesperson to fix a problem. Again, testing to make sure you understand the problem, setting expectations for resolution, gaining agreement on what and when things need to get done is good selling.

3.    Get Customer Feedback

There is no better way to know if you are doing a good job or how good your follow up process is than by just asking the customer.

In the printing business, salespeople and relationships make the difference. A key driver to higher sales performance is effective follow up. Getting better at follow up may very well be the key element required to move up to the next level of sales.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) works 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 @joe.rickardis. This article was published October 1, 2015 in Printing News Magazine.

 

 

 

Great References Create a Selling Advantage

One of the most powerful selling tools is a customer reference. Customers like nothing better than networking and identifying successful solutions being offered to similar organizations. Putting a customer reference on a website, or providing references to existing prospects, is a smart thing to do.  Obtaining customer references to prospect and identify new opportunities should be a part of any sales plan.

It is time well spent developing customer references

Most printing companies are facing changing market conditions. Differentiation is difficult and price pressures are intense. Gaining opportunities to separate from the competition to build trust and credibility with their customers is a key to success. We define a good customer reference as an advocate who has a set of products and/or services that has solved a specific problem or generated a significant opportunity in a specific market. 

We are finding many print providers may have forgotten this proven marketing method to develop new sales opportunities. Research has shown that customer references help companies attract new customers and shorten sales cycles.

The best salesperson is a satisfied customer

Why would a prospect buy a high cost and high risk solution from a company that can’t produce a genuine customer reference? Sharing with potential prospects how a specific print-based offering has solved a problem that generated great results is a powerful selling tool. Not only will customers gain confidence in a particular solution, but salespeople will also build their own credibility and confidence with their prospects.

Customer references should be part of a company’s marketing strategy

Almost all salespeople agree that using customer references increases their chances of closing more business. The problem is that individual salespeople often guard their references. Then when there is a need for a reference everyone is scrambling. This usually does not end well.

What makes a great reference?

The value of a great reference can be substantial. For instance, a great reference would be an insurance client who is soliciting customers through direct mail. The problem is that they are getting a very low response rate. The print provider helps develop a direct mail piece that includes personalized content. The result is that the client gained a much higher response rate and subsequently gained 12% in sales revenue.

To capitalize on references, we recommend companies approach references in an organized way.

Set a guideline and target

You should look for clients that have had a business issue or opportunity which was solved by using a print solution that resulted in a great ROI.  The sales team should have a specific type of client they are targeting for a reference. This should include the size of an account, type and size of offering, the market, the problems solved or opportunities created. It is best to have a specific format for them to follow.

Ask them for a reference

Most satisfied customers are happy to provide a great reference. Sometimes customers will not have the time to provide a written reference. A good practice in these situations is to draft one for the customer and then get their approval. Occasionally larger clients do not want their successes publicized outside the company due to fear of competitors getting a good idea. We find getting a good reference is part of good selling. Great salespeople get great references.

Document each reference in a consistent format

We recommend a simple but well-branded three part approach: what was the problem or opportunity faced by the customer, what was the solution provided by the print provider and what were the results generated for the customer. Having some information about the client such as industry, type of services, location, size will make the reference that much more powerful.

Market your references

How a reference is presented and displayed makes a difference. The reference should be branded, designed and part of an overall marketing strategy. It should be created to potentially be used in case studies, websites, printed collaterals, social media, PR and sales presentations.

Integrate them into the sales process

Once the customer references are obtained and completed, then it is time to ensure that they are used within the sales process at the appropriate time. Don’t wait until a customer asks for a reference. Use these to develop new markets and prospects. They attract attention and interest of clients.

For some, it requires closing the first deal and gaining a reference that can open the door to a new market segment. For others, they already have great customers that just need to be asked. Printing is a relationship business built on trust.  Customer references have traditionally been an integral part of the selling process.

Using satisfied customers is essential to managing new opportunities and overcoming competition. Print providers selling large and complex programs, products and services are missing a big opportunity if they don’t use references from satisfied customers.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. 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.com