Sales Clinic: Four Steps to Get Vertical in Printing Sales

More and more printing customers are looking for ways to reduce costs and align communications strategies with their own growth strategies. Targeting specific vertical markets is a common strategy for many printing salespeople to gain more sales. Once a decision is made to go vertical, the challenge is then to determine what market is best and what is needed to “break in” to those targeted accounts.

The argument for organizing around vertical markets is timeless. Customers want to do business with suppliers who have the expertise to shorten their time to market and reduce risk. Top print salespeople are able to provide customers with new ideas that support growth and reduce costs. Ideally, those ideas are closely aligned to the print provider’s ability to support the solution.


Here Are the Steps to Get Started in Vertical Selling

1. Decide on a market

The best place to look is within your current account base. It is tough and costly to break into a market that you do not know. The key questions to ask are why our top accounts within a specific market do business with us, and do we have insights into their business beyond just print.

Recently we worked with a printer who, when asked, felt he had no single vertical market expertise. On a closer examination, it was obvious that this printer had some great customers in the non-profit arena. This printer knew a lot more than most about what it takes to build a fund raising campaign. It is now the time to capitalize on it.


2. Stay current

There are two ways to approach gaining insight into an industry. The first is to identify every print-based application, such as tri-fold selling brochures or technical training manuals that are common within a specific industry, and then learn everything there is to know about them. This means creating print samples and understanding exactly what it takes to produce each application.

Another approach is to learn everything there is to know from the customer perspective and the steps they take to create communication. This requires much deeper industry knowledge. If you can’t document the customer workflow from idea creation to fulfillment, then you probably do not know enough about the industry or the application.


3. Stay current

Working in an industry for a great many years is not enough. Issues, financial models, and policies change constantly. Just think about how regulations and a difficult economy have impacted the healthcare industry in the last few years. In this market, recent changes have altered business models and patient care dramatically for most patient caregivers.

This requires “all hands on deck” within a print provider organization. It is not only the job of the print salespeople to continually update their learning, but includes the management and production teams as well. Reading trade magazines, attending association events, and researching the Web are good places to start.


4. Build extended solutions

Once a print provider has a foothold and deep knowledge of a particular industry, then the ability to create extended solutions becomes greater. Knowing a particular industry doesn’t just mean more traditional print sales. It also allows print providers to generate incremental revenue from additional services such as creative, database, binding, and fulfillment services. Some of the most successful printers who have successfully morphed into cross marketing services providers have started as vertical market experts.

For instance, helping a manufacturing company design, host, print, and fulfill safety signage leads to the logical progression of adding QR codes to each poster. Perhaps building a microsite is the next logical step, or providing additional print materials, at the request of those who view the poster.

It is hard to find people who do not subscribe to the value of vertical selling. As always, how well someone does in a particular market depends on planning and preparations. The key is to know the customer bottlenecks and pain points in a particular workflow or application, and then building solutions to address them.

Joe Rickard is a training leader and consultant who works with 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, or visit