A cost-cutting market is a serious challenge to printing salespeople and their companies. Reduced marketing budgets and rapid introductions of new digital media have encouraged marketing decision makers to reduce print and look for less costly alternatives. In some cases, customers have either delayed or simply eliminated print-based programs. This makes the tough job of selling print even tougher.
In addition, there is a growing number of customers who are unwilling to pay any extra for good service, quality, or past relationships. This makes it very difficult to gain even small price increases. The stories of long-term customers choosing competitors based purely on price are common.
Fundamental selling principles must be re-evaluated
Refusal to adapt your selling strategies in this environment is a prescription for failure. The key question for many of the print and direct marketing companies we work with is how to not only survive but to grow in a cost-cutting market. Using the same sales strategies and techniques that were useful in better times is clearly not the answer.
Since buying behaviors have changed, why not look again at how we are selling? It is in these times that salespeople often reflect on their philosophy and the basic principles of their sales approaches.
Sales principles are business rules based on reality. It is on reality that we develop our selling behavior, tactics, and strategies. Every salesperson has principles. Some are formal and some are simply based on what we have always relied on. For many salespeople, the assumption is that the principles we are operating under are true. This is a good time for salespeople to test their selling principles.
Based on our observations of the print providers we work with at Intellective Solutions, listed below are five principles that successful graphic communications salespeople follow in today’s market. I keep these principles in constant view on my desk, desktop, and mobile device.
A printing company’s products or services alone are no longer enough for salespeople to get the business. Great selling gets it.
The days of getting business by selling unique or differentiated products for extended periods of time are now gone. As soon as a company offers new substrates, larger paper sizes, or new integrated digital services, someone else quickly responds. A salesperson’s individual efforts and their company’s efforts make the difference.
Spending a significant amount of time, to first determine the most likely prospects to call on, is the best and most valuable use of time for salesperson and company resources.
The scarcity of time and resources available for selling is the biggest challenge. Wasting time on old, aging, or lost causes is a recipe for poor performance. Some salespeople and managers think spending a great deal of time on planning is not productive. It is not only productive, but is an essential characteristic of successful salespeople.
In all of the sales training and consulting engagements in which we participate, this is a common problem for print providers. Mapping the company’s strengths to specific customer or market targets increases the likelihood of success. That means targeting accounts, by clear criteria based on the best fit for products and services, versus a shotgun approach. This is never about the number of accounts called on, but calling on the right accounts.
Use as much of the company’s sales, marketing, and production resources as possible as early in the sales cycle as possible
Bringing in executives, marketing materials, and proof of concepts after the customer has a clear understanding of what they need and who the competitors are, is generally too late.
Don’t waste valuable and costly resources on lost causes, but as accounts become likely suspects, overwhelm them with marketing resources. This means that before the customer’s requirements are firmly set, use all your resources to influence customer direction. Make sure everyone is on deck to meet and work with top prospects including management, production, design etc. Establish roles and responsibilities for every key member of the company who will potentially engage customers.