sales management

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

Focus on Specific Markets to Bring in More Business

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At some point, all salespeople and their companies must make a decision on where to go to develop new business.  Often a choice must be made between specializing in specific markets or not.  This is a tough decision for a salesperson if the print provider they work for has not specifically optimized their production, fulfillment, marketing and sales efforts to focus on a specific market. It is then up to the salesperson to take it upon themselves to identify the best target markets.

Get Better Results by Targeting

More and more salespeople and printing companies are trading in their “sales shotguns” and replacing them with “precision rifles”.  

History has told us that the sharper the focus and deeper the knowledge of a particular market the better the results.  Though some have resisted targeting specific markets, there is no question that targeting and specializing generates better results.

Most Small and Medium Printers Use a Shotgun Approach

Most printers and salespeople we know are generalists. They possess certain production equipment, and intend to sell as many types of generic products as possible at the lowest cost. If they can sell large sheet size brochures or on line finished booklets, their salespeople target any and all markets that may use these types of products. Unfortunately, this approach assumes the customer knows printing and how best to use it. Consequently, more and more customers are choosing other forms of media.

With a shotgun approach it is very difficult to know and meet each customer’s specific requirements. Many successful print providers, particularly large ones, have abandoned this approach and have organized around specific vertical or horizontal markets.

What is a Vertical Market?

A vertical market is a particular industry in which similar products or services are marketed using similar sales and marketing approaches. Examples of vertical markets are: colleges, hotels, retail, hospitals, wholesalers and government.  Targeting a vertical market is generally focused on providing printing and related services that are commonly used within a specific industry. Examples are providing cross media recruitment marketing programs for colleges, direct mail campaigns for retail operations or web to print programs for wholesalers.

The idea is for salespeople to become experts in specific industry niches and to anticipate their printing and related marketing needs. This concept can be applied to almost any market when selling printing solutions.

What is a Horizontal Market?

A horizontal market, by comparison, allows salespeople to sell the same products and services in more than one industry, and is therefore focused on a wider range of business segments. In a horizontal market, customers use print products in much the same way regardless of what industry they are in. Providing brochures and booklets to marketing departments is a typical example of horizontal marketing. Vista Print, Staples and FedEx sell print mostly to horizontal markets.

This is a very challenging approach for most commercial printers. There is plenty of competition and accompanying price pressure. A potential solution is the combination approach which allows salespeople to segment and target accounts by vertical and horizontal markets within a local geographical market. This can be a very good strategy for small and medium print providers.

What not to do.

The clearest path to failure is to try to develop a product that someone else has been successful with. Or even worse is buying a new press thinking that this will provide a competitive edge. At Graph Expo this year, we have met printers who are thinking that installing an ink jet press will solve their business problems. This may help in the short term. Only a carefully thought out targeted marketing and “go to market plan” will provide sustainable results.

The advantages of focusing on specific markets and accounts in a specific geographical area are:

  • Customers like to do business with salespeople who know their specific applications and business issues

  • Target marketing leverages the products and solutions that a print provider can provide

  • Focusing on sales and services to a specific market helps to  gain production efficiencies which leads to greater margins

  • Once engaged in a market, new products and solutions can be developed and expanded that are specifically tailored to a target market’s customer needs

  • Additional services such a data management, design, supply chain, and digital content can more easily be offered because of superior knowledge of the market

Here are some key steps to get started:

  1. Take a careful look at your production capabilities, equipment and workflow. What products and solutions best meet the needs of a specific market?

  2. Review key accounts and markets within a specific geography and determine what their common problems or opportunities are.

  3. Once the buying dynamics are discovered, look to tailor and customize the products that your company can produce to create effective business solutions for a specific vertical market.  We have a client that has launched a successful campaign to further penetrate the hospitality and restaurant market with personalized packaging solutions.

  4. Create a sales and marketing program that addresses specific print related and marketing products that a prospective customer requires.

A great way to beat competitors is by becoming a leader in a specific market. We are seeing more and more print providers develop sales, digital and eCommerce programs, distribution, advanced workflows and dedicated production to create competitive advantages in many niche markets in both business and consumer markets. As the New Year begins, this is a good time to take another look at what you can produce, who it can be sold to and if your salespeople know how to reach them.  

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 Printing News in December, 2015