Consolidated Graphics — Fusing Power. . .and People
THE KNOCK against national printing platforms for years has been multifaceted. The so-called big guys are not as responsive as their smaller, more nimble competitors who can respond to challenges in an hour, not a week later following a conference call that spanned six time zones.
OK, perhaps a bit heavy handed in the analysis, but the perception is out there that some major national players are not as scalable as the smaller printer. “Scalable how?” you ask.
Cross-selling, and knowing what you have to sell.
It is an acquired art to be able to cross-sell the national platform for a large printing company. It’s also a neglected art for some.
It’s one thing for a company to be able to provide, on a national basis, tantamount to a turnkey solution. But is that information available in Sheboygan as well as Chicago? Corporate has a fair idea of what’s going on, but it needs to be the central nervous system for its satellite sales facilities. Your nationwide salespeople are the nerve impulses. They must be reached.
Consolidated Graphics (CGX) has done a masterful job in ensuring the health of its overall network by virtue of its annual national sales meetings. The 2007 edition, held this past summer, took place in three major cities—Washington, DC, St. Louis and Denver—bringing together roughly 1,000 company presidents, executives and sales representatives from CGX’s 68 locales. The cities were chosen one per geographic region for a more manageable distribution of attendees, about 300 for each stop on the sales tour.
Selling the Network
A smarter, well-informed CGX representative can better sell the entire network, not just the capabilities of his or her local shop, according to Aaron Grohs, executive vice president of sales and marketing.
“For us to go to market and sell the value proposition of Consolidated Graphics, we need to bring everyone together once a year to share with them everything that’s going on in the network,” Grohs says. “That way, they can be more familiar with the network, educate themselves and feel more comfortable, in turn, going to their customers and explaining the value of CGX. It’s purely a best practices, success story, educational kind of experience.”
The company relies on its CGXSolutions to manage the entire process, from direct mail invitations to online registration, customized agendas and meeting collateral (name badges, place cards). Registrants select their nine breakout sessions and are mailed personalized agendas in advance of the meeting.
The event kicks off with a Friday night reception and chairman awards dinner led by Joe Davis, chairman and CEO. The dinner includes CGX’s national sales award, with the top 10 performers in each of four categories (top revenue, cross-selling, sales growth and new business development) recognized for their excellence. The top three in each category nationwide are then invited to CGX’s Associates Meeting and shareholder’s meeting in Houston for a special ceremony.
The meeting shifts into high gear on Saturday, beginning with a kickoff presentation by Grohs and an overview of CGXSolutions by Ryan Farris, CGXSolutions president. It is followed by a baker’s dozen of breakout sessions covering Web-to-print, digital printing, sales and, of course, cross-selling.
Breakouts were also held by executives from the company’s latest acquisitions—Annan and Bird, Hennegan and Nies/Artcraft.
“These breakouts give the presidents and salespeople from these companies an opportunity to introduce their services to the other sales reps,” Grohs notes.
Other breakouts—“Kick Your Own Butt” and “Antennas Up”—were based on the theme of a book Grohs sent to attendees that was designed as “homework” to be read prior to attending. The 2007 selection was “The Little Red Book of Selling” by Jeffrey Gitomer, which features 12.5 points of sales greatness (CGX takes it a step further with the breakout “Little Red Book of Direct Mail”). Grohs also focused on the theme of “You,” inspired by the era of personalization.
Grohs purchased 1,000 copies of Gitomer’s work and sent them to all attendees in advance. Last year, he selected “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin.
Sales and marketing presentations bookend the lunch period, and the 45-minute pause for food is another opportunity for attendees to get to know their CGX colleagues a little better. Dinner is carefully coordinated, with attendees grouped into teams of five or six members who are given a specific sales challenge to solve during the meal.
“People really get a lot out of the small group exercises,” Grohs adds. “They open up more, talk freely. The last thing they want to do is sit in a big conference room with 300 other people and be lectured to all day. They love the dinner groups; the teams solve the challenges, then present their solutions in front of the group. It allows them to get creative and creates camaraderie among all the sales reps.”
Taking the team building concept a step further, the evening’s activities included casino and karaoke night. All the while, CGX expands the knowledge base and shrinks the corporate community.
“We needed to start selling this company as a national player that can work together, sell together and leverage all of the capabilities that we have,” Grohs says. “We’ve spent four years doing that, and I believe the sales meetings have had a major impact on creating that culture. We’ve hired sales reps from other large companies, and they walk out of their first national sales meetings shaking their heads. I’ve heard them say, ‘I had no idea this company was as powerful and dynamic as it is. The people are unbelievable and they work so well together...this stuff doesn’t happen at other companies.’ We get a lot of great feedback.”
Learn and Expand Sales
For Alan Flint, vice president of Automated Graphic Systems in White Plains, MD, the meetings represent an ideal opportunity to learn about potential markets for expanding sales. “As companies push for sales growth, a great avenue for success is to expand your sales efforts into additional vertical markets that can utilize the services you provide,” he points out.
“A great way to learn about potential markets to focus on is by taking part in the CGX sales meetings, where you have the opportunity to learn from your colleagues who have had success growing their businesses. That knowledge can then be applied in your own sales and marketing plan.”
The meetings concluded with Sunday morning breakout sessions and other presentations, including the dinner discussion reviews. And it doesn’t take long for attendees to see an ROI on the weekend well spent: One CGX president e-mailed Grohs shortly after the last meeting to say he’d sold a $2 million account with the aid of the information he picked up that weekend.
“The meeting gives us a great opportunity to share our CGX-Solutions, strategic sales initiatives, and shows people how to sell bigger opportunities to bigger clients,” he notes. “It’s also a great recruiting tool we can take to the marketplace.
“If you’re an individual sales rep...to know you have all of these resources—free of charge—that’s pretty powerful stuff.” PI