DeWese--Turning a Grazer into a Hunter
A senior manager of a large printing equipment manufacturer called me back in July. He was inviting me to speak to his U.S. sales force at Graph Expo in Chicago this month.
The speech was to be only 30 minutes, and I was going to Graph Expo anyway, so I said, "sure." Now, of course, I'm known as "old rhetoric breath," and I can talk about anything for 30 minutes.
I can give you 30 minutes on the best timing, the breathtaking beauty and the proper execution of the suicide-squeeze bunt in baseball.
In a half-hour, I can easily discuss the virtues of North Carolina barbecue over, say, Texas barbecue.
Want 30 minutes on building and maintaining a water garden? I'm your man.
Lots of conferences ask me to talk about the up-to-the-minute statistics of consolidation in the printing industry. I am just a veritable potpourri of speech topics. I don't even have to prepare. I usually write the outline for my speeches on the plane or in a cab. And I'm way too dumb to be nervous in front of a crowd. Some of my ancestors were preachers, some were travelling salesmen and some were both. So, I've got this genetic impairment that makes the power of the podium very compelling.
This printing equipment executive is a powerful guy, and I didn't want to disappoint him, so I cleverly asked if there was some specific topic that he wanted me to address.
I thought I heard him choke back a little sob, and then he said, "I want you talk about prospecting for new business. We've just completed an analysis that tells us that 80 percent of our sales are coming from 20 percent of our salespeople."
My mind is like a steel trap and works at about 600MHz, and I responded, "So you mean that 80 percent of your salespeople are only selling 20 percent of your equipment? I think I get the picture!"
The executive whined on. "It's worse than that. Eighty percent of the 20 percent who sell the 80 percent are retiring during the next 36 months. My top prospectors are headed for the pasture. My competitors are going to eat my lunch!"
I told the executive to get a hold of himself. I said that printers had a similar problem a few years ago, but I wrote a column on prospecting for new business, and all the salespeople read it, and now there's no longer a problem.
In fact, recent studies show that 100 percent of the print salespeople sell 110 percent of the work. Ten percent of the work is never produced because the plants either lose the jobs or just don't deliver them. At least that's the report I'm getting from America's print salespeople.
This big-time executive was starting to go to pieces on the phone. I had to get him off the line. I told him that I'd send him a narrative outline from a brief speech that I had made to some printing salespeople. Here's what I sent.
1. Prospecting self-perceptions. Experts view salespeople as "hunters" and "grazers." Hunters are highly prized because they thrive on opening new accounts. In fact, they live for the conquest. Grazers are only prized so long as they keep the business they've got. When sales experts talk about hunters, they speak in an enthusiastic but reverent tone. When a sales recruiter finds a hunter, it's akin to the Denver Broncos finding John Elway.
Salespeople must change their self-perception about prospecting for new business. They must honestly ask themselves: "Am I a hunter or a grazer?" Actually, printing salespeople and printing equipment salespeople need to be both. First, you must find and earn the new account, and then it must be maintained and grown.
2. Prospecting must be a habit. Habits are things that recur with predictable frequency, like, say, daily. Since habits recur, they are generally things that you get better at over time.
At the request of my son, I recently gave a young bank sales specialist some tips on gaining our corporate bank accounts. I am chairman of the company and the majority shareholder, but my job is hunting. One of my partners handles the administration, so he gets to pick which bank we use. I carefully told the young banker how to approach my partner and what bank services he should emphasize. I told him that my partner was hard-nosed, but fair, and that he was on his own.
He never called. My partner never heard from him. I haven't heard from him. He simply never called. Millions of dollars pass through our bank account and he never called.
3. Prospectors must have a database of qualified suspects. There's no worse feeling than being motivated to prospect—all psyched up that you are a hunter—and you've got no one to call. Printing equipment salespeople should find it easy to get a list of every printing company in their territories. It's also easy to get the names of the equipment decision-making CEO, CFO and plant manager. It's a little tougher for printing salespeople to get the names of print buyers.
4. Suspects must be converted into prospects. Suspects are companies that you think may buy the kind of printing you produce. Prospects are companies that you know can and will buy the kind of printing that you produce. Suspects are either converted into prospects or discarded through a series of questions and information gathering. Over time, successful hunters amass huge amounts of information about their prospects. They know that he or she who controls the information controls.
My firm, Compass Capital Partners, spends about $60,000 to $100,000 annually on printing and fulfillment. Since we are investment bankers to the printing industry, our printed materials are mailed only to printing companies throughout the United States. Hundreds of the recipients of our materials can, for example, print our six-color brochure and our tombstone folder. Hundreds more can print our 300-plus-page, 81⁄2x11˝, perfect-bound "Compass Report."
You would think that occasionally some hunter would call and say, "Hey, Mañana Man, I'd like to be your printer." Of course, if someone would call, the hunter would have to talk to my hard-nosed colleague, Attila the Partner. I don't get to pick the banks or the printers.
5. When a hunter does contact a suspect, he/she must not only have qualifying questions in his head, he/she had better have some good things to say about his or her printing company. I'm talking about customer benefits vs. features.
Finally, hunters understand that they must repeatedly ask for the business in order to get it.
Prospecting for new business is self-perception, habit, information, preparation and execution.
I've got a feeling that after I've made the speech to the equipment salespeople, you are all going to have more cylinders to fill, so you better get out there and sell something!
About the Author
Harris DeWese is the author of "NowGet Out There and Sell Something!" published by Nonpareil Books. DeWese is a principal at Compass Capital Partners Ltd. DeWese specializes in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, sales, marketing, planning and management services to printing companies. He is one of the authors of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of information regarding printing industry merger and acquisition activity.