Have you ever wondered why customers rarely ask printing salespeople for help in building their overall print communication strategy? It may simply be because the print provider does not know enough to help. Coming up with new ideas and impactful solutions to big communication and marketing problems requires a great deal of time and information. In printing sales, we call that stage of the sales process the fact finding phase.
Unfortunately, this is the part of the sales cycle that is commonly rushed through by many printing salespeople. Building potential printing solutions that are unique and targeted can only be attained through well executed fact finding by a skilled salesperson.
Preparing Questions in Advance is a Great Idea
Taking the time to gather information, qualify opportunities, and build value is best accomplished by asking well rehearsed and prepared questions to a multitude of customer personnel. Many printing salespeople we know spend a lot of time preparing for who they are going to see and how they will handle objections, but little time preparing the precise questions they will ask prospective clients.
Gaining facts through good questioning techniques is a critical skill for printing salespeople in building solutions that are difficult for competitors to meet. Once inside an account, great salespeople use a variety of questions to gain knowledge of their customer’s organization and potential problem areas. Asking good and probing questions, which can lead to innovative solutions early in the sales cycle, is a sure path to sales success. To accomplish this, printing salespeople need to turn to their six best friends: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Using Printing Salesperson’s Best Friends
Though salespeople must often be spontaneous in their questions, here are questions using our six best friends:
• Who else is involved with the decision?
• What are the current ways of communicating and marketing?
• When and how often does the client communicate with their customers, stockholders and employees?
• Where are the challenges and problems in the current process?
• Why does the company generate communications in a particular way?
• How does the customer decide to initiate communication and marketing programs or initiatives?
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
We have found that some salespeople find it difficult to probe for customer business problems. Thinking that the customer will get annoyed, salespeople often miss opportunities to add value. Much of this is common sense. Telling a customer that their recent marketing campaign was terrible obviously would be a bad strategy. But asking informed, researched and prepared questions focused on improving the customer’s business will be appreciated.
To minimize the risk of offending customers, asking probing questions around customer perceived opportunities and challenges can flush out problems and pain points. If salespeople focus on what customers perceive as big problems and challenges early in the sales cycle, they will have opportunity to build solutions difficult for competitors to match.
Only by asking great questions and then carefully listening can a printing salesperson learn what is necessary to advance the sale.
Here are five good practices that will help improve the fact gathering stage of the sales process:
- Any person, who is part of or potentially part of the work process involved with a print job or application that could drive print, is a potential person to contact. Fact gatherings often must be done in multiple calls to the same person or calls to multiple people within the organization.
For instance, if a potential project uses the customer’s internal data for a direct mail campaign then a visit to the IT department may be a good strategy to understand the quality, format and availability of data bases.
- Each fact gathering meeting should begin with a tailored value statement built on the print provider’s value proposition. This will reinforce why the salesperson is there and the importance of the meeting.