Is Your Sales Approach Aligned

Many sellers of commercial products and services have missed a major shift in the buying process. There is enough anecdotal and survey research available that tell us that buyers are now more in control of the buying process than ever before.

Unfortunately many current “go to market” plans, marketing and direct sales training programs have not adjusted.

This is the era of customer initiated research and networking on almost all products and services. It was only a few years ago, where customers met with salespeople to gain vital product information to investigate solutions to problems and business opportunities.

What’s Changed

Simply, buyers go to web to research projects and network with colleagues and associates before they engage a salesperson. Some estimate that more than 50% of the buying process is completed before the salesperson is engaged.

Is Your Printing Company Hiring?

Whether you are a printing company, in plant or agency that is hiring or training new employees, there is a great resource available to help with the process.

Recently, The Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) along with Intellective Solutions developed the Graphic Communications Skills Competencies (GCSC) in six key areas commonly found within the printing industry

Who Will be Driving the Direct Mail Bus

Most agree that data-driven, personalized print is not only feasible but drives better results than traditional static print communications.  Consequently, for commercial printers, there exists an emerging opportunity for new customers and revenue streams driven by direct mail solutions.

Who will drive the bus?

Who Will Drive the Direct Mail Bus

The key question now will be who will take the lead in informing and attracting customers to direct mail. Will Commercial Printers, Marketing Services Providers, Digital Agencies or Data Management Companies meet with customers and explain the value of direct mail as part of an overall marketing mix? Or, will new decision and supplier models change the way we have traditionally created and marketed direct mail campaigns

Put In Some Math into Your Training

Most agree that data-driven, personalized print is not only feasible but drives better results than traditional static print communications.  Consequently, for commercial printers, there exists an emerging opportunity for new customers and revenue streams driven by direct mail solutions.

Who will drive the bus?

Who Will Drive the Direct Mail Bus

The key question now will be who will take the lead in informing and attracting customers to direct mail. Will Commercial Printers, Marketing Services Providers, Digital Agencies or Data Management Companies meet with customers and explain the value of direct mail as part of an overall marketing mix? Or, will new decision and supplier models change the way we have traditionally created and marketed direct mail campaigns

Print Award Competition

We continually find that many direct salespeople struggle when it comes to helping customers make financial and operational decisions. If salespeople fail to perform, this may be the cause.

In response to this problem, some larger companies provide finance-dedicated specialists to assist salespeople to create Return on Investment (ROI), lease versus buy, payback, break-even and cash flow analysis. We have also seen a plethora of financial apps to help salespeople with mathematical and business calculations. This is an expensive solution that does not address a more fundamental issue.

Customers Want and Need Help

In complex sales involving technology and/or services, it is vital for direct salespeople to have the business and finance acumen to help justify big ticket purchases or leases. Customers expect it. A financial and operational decision is always part of the buying process. Knowing the technology, product, the customer and the market is not enough

 

 

You Can Only Sell What You Know

There seems to be differences of opinion on whether direct salespeople really need to have a deep knowledge of what they are selling. Some have expressed views that salespeople can and will learn what they need to know on the job. We believe this is a bad strategy.

Common Sense

Let’s apply common sense.  It is infuriating to take time to meet with a salesperson only to find out that they do not know very much about what they are selling. In a world of scarcity of time, no one wants to spend precious time with an uneducated direct salesperson.

For years we have trained salespeople in the skills and sales processes required to sell in complex accounts. It is hard enough to learn the customer’s real needs and their business problems while at the same time learning product capabilities.  As a prerequisite, we ask salespeople to know the products, services and solutions that they sell.

Nature Versus Nurture in Selling

There is not a week that goes by where I do not read or hear from someone that the pace of change being made within commercial and in plant printing organizations is too slow.

There are dire discussions about the destruction of printing due to disruption of digital media and social media. It is a somber and relentless drumbeat by many printing pundits, printers, analysts and consultants.

The recommendation is almost all the same. Printers must change their business model, redefine themselves or extend their services, solutions and product to keep pace with the digital encroachment of printing.

Why many printers are not changing. The answer is simple. It is hard to do and often very costly.

Who is a Great Sales Manager

In this economy, there has never been a greater need for outstanding sales managers. They are critical differentiators for sales driven companies

We can characterize many sales managers into categories. I know there are more. Even good managers can fall into these stereotypes.

The Loveable Hands-Off Sales Manager

Everyone loves this one except those who care about the organization’s sales performance. These sales managers spend most of their time taking care of administrative and compensation issues for their salespeople. They provide ongoing support for everyday problems and not much else.

 

 

Why Commercial and In Plant Printers Do Not Change?

There is not a week that goes by where I do not read or hear from someone that the pace of change being made within commercial and in plant printing organizations is too slow.

There are dire discussions about the destruction of printing due to disruption of digital media and social media. It is a somber and relentless drumbeat by many printing pundits, printers, analysts and consultants.

The recommendation is almost all the same. Printers must change their business model, redefine themselves or extend their services, solutions and product to keep pace with the digital encroachment of printing.

Why many printers are not changing. The answer is simple. It is hard to do and often very costly.

The Rule of 24

All research, on what makes an individual successful in direct sales, always points in the same fundamental direction. Confidence more than any other trait is the single most important indicator of success.

The importance of confidence is not only true in sales but in almost any profession. There are many great quotes about the importance of confidence. My favorite is from Samuel Johnson, “Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.”

I refer to the Rule of 24 when talking to salespeople and sales managers about the importance of confidence

Sales versus Marketing

For many businesses, coordinating sales and marketing messages is a daunting task. What senior management wants to communicate to customers is often at odds with what is actually communicated by sales and those close to customers.

We have found this to be a common problem among many organizations. There is a simple test to determine whether marketing and sales are aligned. It is to compare what is stated on a company’s website, Facebook page and marketing brochures versus what is actually being said by salespeople. Try this with your own organization.

For instance, here is an example of poorly coordinated messages we recently found within medium size printing company

The “Incompetent” Sales Manager Who Gets Sales Results

Recently, I read a good sales article “Dismantling the Sales Machine - Harvard Business Review”. It is a plea for sales managers and sales people to rely less on “canned” processes and controls and more on insight to manage the business.
As with many sales books and articles, it is heavy on theory and light on operational insights. This is  a problem. In our consulting experience, high performing sales organizations are full of great sales people led by great managers. It is never the other way around.

The article made me think of a very successful sales manager I had when I first started as a salesperson. At first, I thought he was an “incompetent” sales manager. It turned out that he was a brilliant sales manager. While most other sales managers were directed to manage through the rigid formula, control and process, our sales manager seemed to “fumble around” the formula and control part.

Our sales manager was strong on direction and leadership but was flexible and adaptable. I was already strong performer before he came to be our boss. At our first meeting, I brought in my proposals for his review. He said to me that I really was much stronger at sales proposals than he was and why don’t we move onto something else.

The Future of Newspapers

Within a group who work with Intellective Solutions, we have been exchanging emails about the implications of the purchase of the Washington Post and the long term prospects for newspapers. Here is in the thoughtful email shared by SEO expert and Web strategist, Matt Robson on the his view of the future of newspapers and how they will evolve. As many of our folks are dedicated to print, his opinion elicited some lively discussion from within our Intellective Solutions extended team.

 

"As the younger generation's demographics shift to living in cities, they don't have a front stoop that begs for delivery. We might pick up a paper here and there if we lack a book or device on the train or coffee break, but, it's not a daily appointment with these titles the way the older generation had them. Smart phones with Facebook and twitter nix the desire to have news pushed to us. If we really want news, there is Google news, and any number of blogs

Stop Spinning and Start Selling #Printing

With the advancement of digital printing, W2P and the gradual acceptance of cross media printing solutions, many printing salespeople have a lot of new products and services to offer their customers. There is a great deal to learn and a much to do.

The key question is “are printing salespeople and their management up to the task?”  During our sales and marketing consulting engagements with graphic communications organizations, we find many are.

Here is the challenge. Large customers have continued to reduce expenses and in particular marketing budgets. Many small and mid-size customers have suffered the most. They have been especially hammered by uncertainty and a slow recovery. It is tough enough to sell printing in a good economy; it is really rough to sell in a bad one where there are lots of less expensive digital and social media choices

#Sales Management and Infoparalysis

A new trend is taking shape in sales management

Over the last few years, we have seen more and more companies move to a control sales management style. This is particularly evident in larger companies. The theory here is if you determine all the steps necessary to generate an order and then manage the sales force to those steps, sales will increase. An added benefit is it helps executives provide more fact based revenue and  profit forecasts.

Using sales automation software or CRM systems, sales management and executives count how many prospects are in the pipeline and what sales activities are being generated to produce orders. It is science over art.

A good compensation plan and a “kick in the pants”

For a long time, we worked with companies whose sales management program could best be described as a good compensation plan and a “kick in the pants”. In this scenario, the sales people determine where the prospects are and what needs to be done. Everyone is happy as long as business is coming in.

Why Are Many #Salespeople Still Not Consultative Sellers?

It is mystery why so many direct sales people are still attempting to sell complex products and services in a non-consultative way. Consultative selling is simply a process of knowing what the implied and expressed needs and wants of clients before making a recommendation. This is generally achieved through asking relevant and informed questions

Why Do So Many #Printing Companies Respond To Blind Request for Quotes?

It is mystery why so many direct sales people are still attempting to sell complex products and services in a non-consultative way. Consultative selling is simply a process of knowing what the implied and expressed needs and wants of clients before making a recommendation. This is generally achieved through asking relevant and informed questions.

Research, surveys and experience that tell us consultative sellers are more successful. This simply means that those salespeople who know and respond to their customer’s business, pain points and business model make more sales and earn more commissions.


A good example of how this works was illustrated by a recent experience we had. We worked with a client within the graphic communications market helping them put together a large and complex RFP. All the potential suppliers had an equal chance to gain information and ask questions.

Poor Content and #Printing of Product Documentation Is Bad Marketing

Am I the only person who gets frustrated with poorly designed, poorly written and poorly printed product documentation? It never ceases to amaze me how companies can invest so much money into the development and production of their products and then not take one additional small step to ensure that all their marketing is first class.

Here are two examples of many that I have recently uncounted:

I recently bought a high end car. There were four manuals provided. Sitting in my car and attempting to learn all the features and capabilities was daunting. The content and graphics depicting and explaining the car elements were not clear enough. Using my laptop within my car was not a viable alternative. I learned most of what I need through trial and error.

Forever #Print

We have consistently found pockets around the US where there is a shortage of skilled professionals to fill qualified jobs within the printing industry. From bindery to press operators to sales, print providers frequently struggle filling open positions. What makes this problem even more daunting is the fact there is high unemployment, throughout the economy.

Historically, the printing industry has faced this dilemma. Though a huge industry that still ranks among the largest manufacturing segments within the US, it is made of up of many small companies dispersed thought the country. Because of boom and bust trends and rapid changes in technology, no print provider can afford to be complacent.

Since few print providers can provide the resources to conduct basic training for print professionals, the industry has relied on trade schools and industry provided training. Both of these sources of training have been under strong pressure economically. Consequently it is now of great concern how will print providers, industry suppliers and the educational community step in and provide the leadership required to support the industry over the next 10 years

What Sales Managers Can Learn From the NCAAs

Watching the NCAA men’s final four games this weekend made me think of the impact that coaches have on successful teams. The execution, intensity and teamwork of the teams were a beautiful thing to watch. Louisville, Michigan, Wichita State and Syracuse were all great.  In each case, it was clear that these teams are being driven by a coach who is more than just a recruiter or tactical expert or motivator. They are led by head coaches who are leaders.

Too often in business, we see good salespeople led to failure by sales managers and owners. You would think in these tough economic times, we would be seeing more leadership and better execution. Unfortunately that is not the case.

Great Sales Management Makes the Difference