Prospecting for Print Sales Professionals

(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.)


This weekly blog writing is hard.

I played football, and the practice was real hard.

I lifted weights, and that was hard and painful.

I ran track, and lap after lap after lap was mean and our coach was a sadist.

I earned an MBA, and it was all hard. Calculus was the hardest, and contrary to what the professors tell you, you never use it again once you get that diploma.

My wife, Attila the Nun, is a professor and she’s gonna punish me for that line.

I have lived with Attila the Nun for 48-1/2 years, and that has been superhard.

But maybe PROSPECTING FOR NEW ACCOUNTS is the absolute hardest thing I have ever done.

So I began to study prospecting and found ways to make it easier. Eventually I got good at it.

Many graphic arts salespeople operate in small company environments that do not provide ideal conditions for developing new business. In many cases, ownership, production management and sales management are vested in one or two individuals who are forced to divide their time among production problems, financial concerns, government regulations and other time-consuming details. As a result, sales support often goes begging.

The absence of sales coaching and training is a disadvantage even to veteran salespeople. Many salespeople develop feelings of organizational loneliness. Managers and production people are preoccupied with manufacturing, and often us-vs.-them relationships develop between the small sales force and other employees. When this occurs, a salesperson’s energy is diverted, and the motivation to prospect for new business is dissipated.

Harris DeWese is the author of "Now Get Out There and Sell Something." He is chairman/CEO at Compass Capital Partners and an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of info regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed 100-plus printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the industry. He specializes in investment banking, M&A, sales, marketing and management services to printers.

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  • http://TomJoyce Tom Joyce

    This sounds like it comes from an organization with a cultural problem – Operational Mistakes and a lack of urgency in serving the customer.

    Improve your service to sales, take their excuses away, don’t go into this psycho babble, disregarding real issues, that prohibit a sales person from getting the job done.

  • http://marksmith mark smith


    I know you and you know me….hell, I have all of the viruses you list above….but the one thing that overrides them all is my personal fear of failure and/or finishing second! (Read: losing!)

    Sales is nothing more than a game. Sometimes it is simple game (my price beats your price) but often times it is a sophisticated hand to hand battle to try to outsell the rest of the pack….lots of ways to do this but if you let ANY of the ills you speak of above affect you….you LOSE and that ain’t good for anybody!

    I have seen guys that couldn’t sell a single sheet of print to anybody BUT put them on a golf course hustling their buddies or in a bar chatting up some ladies and they would NOT be denied. When you are out selling and feel any of the fears above coming on….try to put your customer in a place that you can succeed. You don’t have to talk about specs….when you can talk about his golf game. You don’t have to talk delivery dates when you can talk about her kids….do what makes everybody relax…yourself included.

    The only thing that MUST happen is that your company (and you) deliver on whatever it is your selling….sales is the easy part, SERVICE is the trick!

    Mark Smith
    Direct Impressions
    Mars Direct

  • http://SusanFerraro Susan Ferraro

    I disagree with most of the above. Now I’m not saying that all sales people don’t have an occasion here or there that any one or all of the above touches them in some way, but the reality is that sales people choose one of the hardest professions there is because they are NOT like any of the above on a consistent basis.

    Sales people are driven to be who they are, they are social, they make things happen inspite of a company’s problems, they are competitive by nature and they are self-motivators, self-starters and with the rare exception DON’T need babysitting or counsel. If any one of the above issues was truly a block to selling ON A CONSISTENT basis they would not be a sales person for very long, and they sure as heck would not be successful.

    Again, any one of these things can happen to any good sales person here or there, but to state that Image Sensitivity, Desurgency or Social Differential stops a sales person from moving forward, getting leads, making contacts, doing the deal, sellling anything is hogwash, or probably just a great way to sell a book or a theory to a boss who thinks if he buys into your “theory” he will motivate his sales people and generate new business and increased revenues — now that is a theory I buy into and congrats to you as I have no doubt you sold a lot of books based on that concept.