On February 9, I invited you blog readers to get a head start on my National Scavenger Hunt for Graphic Arts Company Growth (easily remembered with the acronym (“NSHGACG”).
All readers had to do was e-mail me and ask for my March column manuscript. That column contains the rules for the Scavenger Hunt.
Mark Smith, who is Printing Impressions’ Supreme Blogger Boss (“PISBB”), posted my blog in the daily Printing Impressions newsletter on the Internet around 4 p.m. and the e-mails requesting the manuscript began arriving at 4:03 p.m. It’s now 12:32 a.m., and I have just finished answering all the requests.
One of the responses came from a famous person, Charles Edwards, who is one of the world’s greatest color experts. He is a printer of the highest order. Charles has consulted on countless important color projects for many Rembrandt color catalogs. Charles wanted to add a question to a list of buyer questions in my blog. His response went like this: “Harris, Love your column. In case you missed a vital question, here it is. ‘Are you color blind? And have you ever been tested?’”
I had forgotten that question, Charles, and I know how many times that question went unasked in your head as you were doing color OKs with folks who lacked your skilled eyes. Charles is an artist who knows his dots.
***This ongoing blog series is derived from a book Harris DeWese wrote several years ago—“A Year of Selling Profitably.” The book was written for printers to use as a guide in training their sales teams through a series of two-hour sessions over 48 weeks.***
In this blog, you will practice your listening and questioning skills. Some of the exercises may appear mechanical, but I have found that this is the best way to drive home good listening habits. I urge you to follow the guide and make the sessions rigorous.
First, you will concentrate on learning to ask indirect questions that generate informative responses. In the second session, you will compile a list of indirect questions to ask your prospects. Finally, you will review ways to become an active listener. Throughout this session, concentrate on making eye contact, leaning slightly forward and acknowledging the customer’s statements with nods, smiles and gestures.
First decide what you need to know.
In a study of 70 large U.S. companies, the Ron Volper Group (a White Plains, NY-based consulting firm‚ concluded that the biggest difference between the solid salesperson and the so-so rep was an ability to listen. The study found that top performers allow buyers to do about 70 percent of the talking in a typical sales call.
The first step is to develop a list of the most important criteria for qualifying a prospect and develop indirect questions designed to obtain that information. You could begin by asking about the prospect’s products and/or services, number of employees, methods of distribution and print buying behavior, including annual billings and specialized graphic arts needs.
Develop a list of information that will determine if a prospect has a significant need for your company’s services. The list should include insights such as:
• The type and amount of print materials the prospect buys and plans to buy.
• Who currently provides their printing. Do they use one, two or 10 printers? How does the work break out among web, sheetfed and digital printing?
• Who is responsible for buying print.
• The company’s products, markets and competitors.
• The nature of its industry (i.e., Does it have many or few competitors and who are they?).
• Graphics orientation in its industry (In the buyer’s view, is the approach to print primitive or sophisticated; successful or unsuccessful?). You can learn a lot about your buyer with this line of questioning.
What is the prospect company’s marketing plan in summary (i.e., use of television, radio, direct mail, Internet, space advertising)?
• What are the annual sales and profit trends in the industry and how does the prospect company compare? Is it a market leader, follower, etc.
• Number of employees and locations.
• Names of other suppliers, including ad agencies, graphic designers, packagers, label printers, specialty printers.
• Strengths and weaknesses of current suppliers.
• Annual budget for printing.
These are just some potential questions and they may not all seem that relevant, but you are engaging your prospects in conversation for the purposes of getting to know them and demonstrate your genuine (sincere) interest in them personally and professionally.
Now, your exercise for today is to write the questions on a growing list. You are filling a big bag of sales conversational tools—your indirect questions for getting to know them. Hey, that could be song. Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you,
Getting to know you,
Getting to hope you know me.
The more you work on developing these customer questions, the more adept you’ll become and the more likely you are to develop a business friendship. Always remember that he or she who controls the information, controls!
Now get out there and sell something!
A Year of Selling Profitably By Harris M. DeWese with Jerry Bray
Employ techniques and tools that turn weekly sales meetings into energetic learning experiences, resulting in a more enthusiastic, more motivated, and more effective sales force. Understand how these techniques and tools required to build successful marketing, sales and, ultimately, profits, will help you achieve “A Year of Selling Profitably.” Click to order a copy.