Too many print companies still rely on traditional methods for interacting with their clients. Instead of suggesting creative ways they can help their clients achieve business goals, print companies keep focusing sales conversations on quotes and printed products they can provide. It may seem contrary and uncomfortable, but the best way to sell print may not be initiating a sales call with product pitches. This approach makes print a commodity that any competitor offering a lower price can easily reproduce.
A Print Buyer Perspective on Typical Sales Calls
How would you like to learn how your sales force is doing – directly from prospective customers? Wouldn’t you like to find out what is going through buyers minds as they sit through the presentations tendered by your sales force?
We all know the print marketplace is changing, so print sales people must adapt. How is that working out? Are your salespeople giving customers what they need to encourage them to do business with you? Are you failing to sign business you ought to get?
In a new eBook from Gimbel & Associates, printing companies get a rare look into the minds of customers. We asked print buyers to tell us how they perceived the print service representatives that called on them. We wanted to find out what salespeople are doing right and where they need to improve.
How To Turn Your Staff Into Consultative Sellers
In a previous post I pointed out the need to transition to consultative selling from traditional approaches used by most print service providers. This isn’t an easy task. Retraining a sales team to use a different set of skills is a hard thing to do. It doesn’t involve just the salespeople; it is an enterprise-wide effort. Top management must support consultative selling as part of their company culture to change the mindset from focusing on print jobs to enabling customers’ business goals. It’s about why they print, not what.
One of the most important concepts to ingrain in your salespeople is that relationships come first and selling comes second. Building relationships with customers includes developing trust and credibility. To earn that trust salespeople must take a true interest in understanding client needs, demonstrating empathy, and always maintaining integrity.
Why You Should Care About Consultative Selling
Over the last several years journalists and experts have advised printing companies they must change to be competitive in a multi-channel communications world. Many print providers have responded by updating hardware, software, and technology. We think the key to successfully generating revenue from those investments, and the way to expand your business, is by adopting a consultative approach to working with your customers. We’ve already helped many clients make that transition.
Consultative selling is different from the method used for decades in the print business, best described as “commodity” or “transactional” selling. In a typical print services sales presentation, the salesperson spends most of their time describing what their company has to offer. The conversation is dominated with details such as printing specifications, papers, finishing capabilities, mail preparation, and volume price breaks.
Today - “Here is what we have – want to buy it?”
In a print focused, commodity-type relationship, the print services discussed are generally available from many providers and the buyer has many vendors to choose from. The most important distinguishing factor is price. Customer loyalty is tenuous at best. If you are selling print in a price based relationship, the value of continuing to do business with your company can be easily diminished or eliminated by lower prices touted by the competition.
Transactional customer relationships are a bit stronger than commodity selling in that a print service provider may have developed a niche or specialization within a certain market or service. Their record of performance and limited competition allows them to charge more, but leaves little room for expanding customer relationships beyond that particular area of expertise. Customers may keep coming back because there are no viable options. Once they find an alternative though, accounts become vulnerable.
Print providers are in an excellent position to help their customers understand the unique benefits of print communications, how to get the greatest return from their investments in printed material, and how to integrate print and digital media to raise the effectiveness of all the channels. Focusing on how customers benefit from their services is the way to get customers thinking of a print service provider as a strategic partner rather than a vendor.
This requires shifting sales conversations away from production-related specifications such as print volumes, finishing, and paper stocks. Value-added discussions should be about business goals such as conversion rates, customer retention, upselling, lifetime customer value, and customer experience.