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Bill Farquharson

The Sales Challenge

By Bill Farquharson

About Bill

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."

 

Four Things to Do if Your Sales Suck

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Your teacher promised it. Your parents guaranteed it. Your boss predicted it. But the formula just isn’t working. Apparently, will and desire alone aren’t enough to grow your sales. What now?

What do you do if/when your sales tank, no one returns your phone calls and the boss is looking at you with those “budget cut” eyes? You could do more of the same, only harder, but before you do, I’d suggest you look up the definition of “insanity.” Instead, try these four things:
 
1. Question your work ethic.

What time do you arrive in the morning and what time do you leave? More importantly, how much selling time do you put in during the hours in between? Attendance is important, but efficiency is king. Everyone believes they are busy. EVERYONE! “Spare time” is a myth, as is a “free moment.” But there is a big difference between being busy and being productive. Which are you?

I shouldn’t have to tell you this but I will: You are a sales representative. As such, your primary focus should be on selling. So, let’s say it’s 10:30am and you are reading this piece. You’d better be on quota, Sparky. Otherwise, delay your satisfaction until later and pick up the phone. Don’t make me come out there!

Let me try to make this point one other way—anecdotally. Once, 10 or 11 years ago, I was facing a personal financial crisis. You know the routine...no money, no sales, bad attitude as a result. I remember standing on my back deck on a crisp and cold winter’s night, staring at the stars and making a promise to the universe—I will not fail because of a lack of effort.

If you flunk out of school but you’ve tried your absolute hardest, where’s the shame? There isn’t any. You’ve done your best. That thinking works the same in sales. Go ahead and fail, but do so only after you have out-hustled and out-worked every other sales rep in the office, the territory, the city and the planet.

2. Question whom you are calling on.

You’ve heard the phrase “target market,” but does it mean anything to you? Calling on the right kinds of customers seems like “Duh!” advice, but it is worth a look if you are trying to determine why your sales suck.

Which industries are you choosing to call on? Are they, in general, doing well in this economy? Have you even thought to ask? And within those companies, which departments do you approach? Are you locked in to Purchasing or have you sought out the requistioner of the document?

Regardless of your selling style and sales personality, you have a sweet spot. If you are calling on “the person who buys the printing at your company” and not having any luck, doesn’t it make sense to question whom else you might try?
 
3. Question what you are saying.

Great, so you are indeed putting in the effort and, OK, let’s assume that you have the sales guns pointed at the right target. The third place to look is within the words that you are using to gain an appointment. “Do you need any printing?” works just fine...if you are in possession of a time machine and can zip back to the days of the Reagan administration when business was booming. Today, it takes something a bit more substantial and valuable.

I received a phone call a couple of weeks ago from Joe, a Maryland printer. He’s been in business for several decades and thus has the perspective that qualifies him to be quoted.

On the call, Joe made an interesting observation: “I haven’t been out selling for 18 years. Business has been good enough that I haven’t had to. Now, we are hurting like everyone else and I find myself dusting off my business cards and heading back out on the road. There difference between now and then is that customers expect me to know and understand THEIR business. That was never the case before.”

You need to raise your game. If you want to sell more printing, stop selling printing. Solve the problem, earn the order. If you can’t finish the sentence, “The purpose of my call is...” without talking about printing, don’t pick up the phone.
 
4. Question the approach.

I am a fan of the introductory letter. I’ve preached it for years and include it in my training. It’s different. It’s unique (since no one else does it). It’s Old School. It works for me...and that’s the problem—It works for ME. Sure, I like to be sold that way, but what if I don’t represent everyone (and, if you are scoring at home, I don’t!). What then?

You need to have a systematic approach to sales. There are a number of ways to get an appointment and a lot of different options: letter, phone calls, drop off samples, e-mails, etc. What’s your combination? You might want to think about a different approach, especially if what you are doing now isn’t yielding the results you want. Try something new for 60 days and see what happens. Then, mix it up again. And again. Never stop tweaking.

You are a sales rep and you are standing in your own private snow globe. All around you lay those little flakes. If you aren’t getting the results you desire, you need to do something to shake up your surroundings and get those flakes flying.

Simply doing more of the same isn’t going to do it. You need to shake up your snow globe until you find the right combination. Question everything you do, how you do it, who you do it with, and how hard you work at it. There is no finish line to this exercise. It’s not a process for everyone, but neither is sales. If you don’t like it, I hear Wal-Mart is looking for greeters.
 
How are YOUR sales? For the month of November, Bill Farquharson is offering FREE sales training. Go to www.AspireFor.com for more information or call Bill at 781-934-7036.

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COMMENTS

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Most Recent Comments:
Kelly - Posted on November 03, 2010
Well, I guess I'll just say that great minds think alike. My last weeks' blog post was all of your number 1! Great post here, Bill... Hope a lot of people use it to make the tweaks that will ready them for greatness!
Mark H - Posted on November 03, 2010
It's four simple steps really: 1. Research your customer 2. Mail a custom introductory letter (this is a one-off, no template junk here) that speaks to their market and challenges 3. Follow-up with a phone call and ask for a meeting 4. Introduce yourself at the meeting, then SHUT UP and listen. Works for me every time.
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Archived Comments:
Kelly - Posted on November 03, 2010
Well, I guess I'll just say that great minds think alike. My last weeks' blog post was all of your number 1! Great post here, Bill... Hope a lot of people use it to make the tweaks that will ready them for greatness!
Mark H - Posted on November 03, 2010
It's four simple steps really: 1. Research your customer 2. Mail a custom introductory letter (this is a one-off, no template junk here) that speaks to their market and challenges 3. Follow-up with a phone call and ask for a meeting 4. Introduce yourself at the meeting, then SHUT UP and listen. Works for me every time.