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Overcoming Obstacles: Selling

Five years ago, Tom Crouser looked me dead in the eyes and said “Patrice, you have one critical flaw in your business plan. You are relying on the printer to make a sale in order for you to make money and printers hate to make sales calls”. Actually going out and selling is the biggest difference between failure and success when adding a new product or service. We were talking about my business and how we could help printers sell web solutions. I appreciated Tom’s insight and set out to create tools to help reluctant printers make the sale.  But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink (unless you are Chuck Norris. I hear he can make a horse drink water).  Read on to learn how to increase your chances of closing the sale.

#1 Be Prepared is a motto that works for both boy scouts and sales people alike (and remember we are all in sales).

Your client is going to be wondering if they can trust you, if you can relate to their problems and concerns and if you will be available when they need help. You’ll need to be prepared to answer these classic “what’s in it for me” questions. You’ll also need to be ready to talk about your company and what makes you different. Why should they choose you vs. another web development company? One thing that I can’t stress the importance of enough, is the fact that you have a brick and mortar location. Many web developers work from home or from the local coffee shop with free WIFI. Chasing down their office hours can be a big challenge for business owners who are looking for help with their website. 

# 2 Be Visible.

The Pareto Principle tells us that 80 percent of our customers buy 20 percent of the products we sell. A company may use you for all of their printing and not realize that you can also help them with signage, promotional products and/or their website. The onus is not on them to ask you about the other products you offer, it is your responsibility to tell them that you have added new products that may benefit them. Companies add new products all the time, yet don’t make a concerted effort to let their existing customer base know about it. This is a huge mistake. When you decide to add web services to your offering, it is a good idea to add in-store promotional material, add the services to your website, send out a newsletter (multiple times), blog about it, share it on social media and, if applicable, edit your yellow page listing to include the new services. The other thing you might want to do is make an actual sales call. Talking to your existing clients about their website likes and dislikes will give you real world insight to the problems you can solve with your new solutions.

I would be remiss if I talked about being visible and didn’t mention some kind of referral program. According to the 2013 Nielsen Global Survey of Trust In Advertising, “Recommendations from people I know” comes out on top with 84% of people completely trusting the brands that they are referred to by their friends.  With word of mouth marketing being so important, implementing a referral system could be one the most cost effective forms of customer acquisition out there. 

In order to create a great referral plan, you must first ensure that your company is referable. Make sure that it was an absolute pleasure to do business with your company and that you added value to the relationship with your customer. You also have to keep in communication with your client after the sale. Web developers are notorious for launching a site and then never talking to the client again unless forced to. Regularly communicating with your clients, even after the sale, makes asking for a referral that much easier. If the only time your client hears from you is when you are sending an invoice or asking for referrals, they are going to quickly see that this relationship is very one sided. Work on a regular communication plan, then start proactively promoting your referral plan. Your customers are not mind readers, it is your responsibility to ask for a referral.

#3 Be an Expert.

A lot of printers get hung up on the fact that they have been in printing for 30 years and know everything about it so it is easy for them to sell it. They are afraid of looking stupid in front of a client and don’t want to talk about the web until they know 100 percent of what there is to know. I overheard a conversation the other day between a printer and my partner, Bob Reynolds. The printer was lamenting that the reason he didn’t sell more was because he felt he wasn’t an expert. Bob retorted with a role play scenario. Bob said he was a small business owner and he needed some brochures. This brochure needed to be really nice and clean with soft colors. It was going to have a perforated order form on one side that needed to have a pre-paid postage indicia on the back.  On the spot, Bob asked the printer to provide him with the cost for 50,000. The printer stammered that he wouldn’t be able to provide the cost on the spot. Frist, he would need to ask a few questions about paper, color, design and content. Then he would need to go back and work the numbers before providing the client with a cost. Case closed. Bob explained to the printer that although he was an expert in the print industry, he still couldn’t know 100% of everything all the time. What he did know, however, was the right questions to ask in order to provide the client with an estimate as quickly as possible. He did know how to talk to the client about what they might need, why they were sending the brochure, make suggestions on how they could improve response rate and how to procure the list to send to. The ability to spew numbers does not make you an expert, the ability to solve a client’s problem does.

There are many ways to be seen as an expert in your client’s eyes. Press is still an important part of raising your status to expert. Sending out press releases, getting on a radio or television (even Internet TV) program and becoming a source for print journalists can all elevate your expert status. My favorite thing to do is teach a class. Put together an hour long presentation on your new services that focuses on the problems you solve (i.e. eight website mistakes you are making and how to correct them) and offer it as a benefit to local chamber or other association members. If the market’s eye, if you are teaching a class, you must be an expert.

#4 Have an Offer.

People are going to want to know how to engage with you. In every form of marketing, from sales call to postcards, you must have an offer ready. You will want to be ready and know how to answer the question “so what’s the next step?”  Your offer could be a free website evaluation, a free estimate, a whitepaper or an introductory promo. Whatever you decide it will be, be sure to communicate what it is in all forms of your marketing and make it easy for your customer to take advantage of the offer.

I rarely talk to a printer who is enthusiastic about getting out there and making a sales call. And it’s no wonder. In our society, salesmen are synonymous with liars, cheaters and thieves. Add the fear of rejection to a non-sexy sales persona and you’ll find that people will do just about anything if it means not having to make that cold call. The tips above can help ease some of the fears and pave the way towards a successful introduction of web services to your list of product offerings.

Read Tom Crouser’s article Print Owners Still Resist Sales Activities

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