If you ask print salespeople about the most important things they should bring to a meeting with prospective clients, they might mention items such as print samples, company brochures, or sales pitch slide decks.
Gimbel & Associates interviewed print buyers about their experiences with printing company sales representatives and discovered that many print service providers were using sales approaches anchored in objects like these. Unfortunately, the things that matter the most to the print buyers were often missing from conversations with print service providers courting them for their business.
In our eBook “From the Other Side of the Desk” we provide printing company executives and their sales teams a rare look at the how customers perceive interactions with the sales people who came calling.
The book includes observations from real print buyers as they compare failed sales meetings to successful ones. In doing this research we found large gaps between what the clients were seeking and the experience most print salespeople typically deliver.
The print sales process has changed and client expectations have risen. It is clear print service providers need to re-think their sales strategies and processes. Unless they analyze their approaches, sales team results will wane. We suggest tackling the issue from three perspectives: preparation, presentation, and follow-up.
In the past, print salespeople didn’t need to prepare extensively before dropping in on a client. The process was simple–show customers what print products you can produce and convince them to buy. Today, the consultative approach to selling requires salespeople be in tune with their clients’ business challenges. What are their goals? Who is their competition? What are the obstacles keeping them from achieving their objectives?
Gathering this information requires pre-call research. Much of the data is publicly available via the internet. Exact answers to all the questions aren’t always available, but salespeople should at least have a good idea about trends in the industries in which their clients operate. Professional and social media sites like LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter can also provide clues about the culture and mission of an organization salespeople are preparing to visit.
Preparation also includes being ready for the unexpected. Print buyers we interviewed mentioned cases where salesperson technology failed, salespeople neglected to bring critical samples, or sales representatives could not provide important information the buyers needed to decide about which printers would be good partners for them.
As consumers we’ve all become accustomed to interactions with companies that use information they know about us to filter their offerings and lead with products and services most relevant to our profiles. Print buyers are no different, yet customers reported many instances where print salespeople seemed to have a standard approach for everyone. If they became clients, the buyers felt, the print provider would treat their company just like any other, with no effort put towards interacting with them as unique entities.
Salespeople fall into this trap by doing too much talking and not enough listening. Take the time to ask questions and lead clients to your solution rather than leading with your solution and trying to make it fit the client’s situation.
The print buyers also noted a lack of professionalism as a negative influence on their decisions about selecting print service providers. Worn, damaged, or dated print samples won’t impress them. Straying from relevant business topics wastes their time. Showing up on time with organized materials, an agenda, and a willingness to listen leaves a favorable impression.
Everyone follows a sales call with a thank-you email, but it shouldn’t stop there. Today, client buying processes are likely to be lengthy. To stay top-of-mind and reinforce the value of working together to help clients achieve their business goals over the long term, send links to pertinent articles from time to time. Comment on articles the company posts on social media. Or leverage pre-call research plus information gathered from your meeting to select relevant case studies and send them to the clients. Add clients to your CRM and marketing automation systems to avoid losing touch. Send targeted and personalized direct mail that demonstrates your company’s talents and abilities.
If sales associates made promises during sales calls, such as supplying more information or introducing clients to other resources, be sure to follow through promptly.
Understanding how your prospective clients perceive your salespeople can be a huge competitive advantage if you take measures to correct deficiencies and emphasize your strengths. Start by downloading “From the Other Side of the Desk”. Then get in touch with us for a customized evaluation of your sales approaches. If your salespeople are relying on print samples and brochures to sell your services, you’ll see a big improvement when they re-focus on the clients business needs.