For instance, a printing salesperson could open the sales call with an IT manager by saying, “We at Acme Printing work with customer IT departments to develop personalized direct mail programs. By using their own customer data, our customers have found they can create relevant and targeted marketing programs that generate a very high ROI. How has the IT department been utilized to develop a strategy to generate data for marketing campaigns?
- Have questions prepared and pre-written before the call
- Ask the question as briefly as you can and then....LISTEN
- Questions should be built around your company’s advantages. The objective is to have customers provide information that will give the salesperson an inside track on developing print solutions, which would be difficult for competitors to match.
A salesperson may ask the IT manager, “How important is it for your group to work with an outside print provider that has extensive data base experience?” Or, “What technical skills are important to you, for a print provider to have, when working with your organization.”
Open Ended Questions are Best
Polite and friendly questioning will mark you as a professional by your customers. Using a combination of open and closed questions, salespeople can not only gain information but qualify and close accounts.
Open ended questions are questions that get the customer talking. The ability to ask open-ended questions is very important. Open-ended questions typically begin with words such as "Why" and “How” and require an explanation. For instance:
“How does the school inform parents of key events in the school?” Or “What is the reaction of the school parents to the school newsletters?” Is an open ended question
“Does the school sends out newsletters?” is a closed question, and the usual response is yes or no.
In the fact finding stage of a sale, the process is not “show and tell” but probe, listen and react. Listening to what the customer says in an objective and non-emotional manner is the key to success in understanding what will drive customer behavior.
Questions asked in a sincere and careful way will generate the prospect’s interest and start him thinking about his or her documents and how to better prepare and handle them. When reinforcing a key point, always point out the benefit to the customer in their terms versus the advantage or feature of your offering.
Key Areas to Probe
- What are your most common print jobs?
- What are the biggest challenges, opportunities or problems for the organization?
- What is the budget for communications and marketing programs?
- Which printing jobs could be designed and printed better to improve clarity and emphasis?
- What is the impact of printing problems?
- Who decides how much is spent on printing?
The fact finding stage allows the salesperson to qualify the accounts. This will determine whether the salesperson continues to engage the account or disengage and move on.
In the past, printing salespeople who understood how TV broadcast, radio, and other forms of traditional media fit in the marketing mix were able gain competitive advantage. Now, a thorough knowledge of digital media needs to be added to the repertoire of what a printing salesperson can ask questions about. How customers use media and where customers get the greatest return on their investments must be comprehended by salespeople.
With the advancement of digital media, printing salespeople are now, more than ever, being challenged to coexist, complement, or integrate. It is critical for them to expand their knowledge and grasp of marketing communications and advertising within their accounts. With concerns over the economy and confusion about the best use of traditional and digital media, customers want and need help on how best to use their marketing dollars. Asking good questions can be the key to unlocking great print-based solutions.
Joe Rickard is a training leader and consultant who works with printing and technology companies in the graphic arts to improve their sales and operational effectiveness. He is the founder of Intellective Solutions, a provider of customized sales, operational and sales management training material and services. Contact Rickard at 845-753-6156, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit. www.intellectives.com.