Prepare Before Cold-Calling –Dana
Could there be a tougher job for print reps these days than cold-calling? I think not. Technology lets us screen calls and, like it or not, lots of print buyers are screening yours. This is efficient (for them) and frustrating (for you). It doesn't mean your calls won't be returned—just that you'd better leave something memorable in your voice mail.
There's no perfect recipe for the perfect printing sales pitch. Sometimes it's luck: they happen to need what you're selling now. Or they're in a good mood and have time to chat. Something tells me this is rare.
Imagine that you're a print buyer in a corporation or agency. You're working on multiple jobs, all at different stages. Some are critical; some, not. Your role keeps changing (i.e., expanding). You're pushed by marketing and management to work miracles with small budgets. You're expected to deliver printed perfection, "first time, every time." You're loyal to a small group of providers who know you well and are, literally, at your beck and call. And several times a week, random printers call you up with their pitch.
Print buyers have different motivations. They have different criteria for choosing printers and for switching to new ones (hey, good idea for another blog post). So, when you're calling prospects, don't presume a one-size phone call fits all.
Following are some tips to help you make better sales calls to prospects, no matter who they are or what they need.
Do your research first. Find out what you can about the prospect's company and industry before calling. Visit the company Website to get some idea of what they do and how your offerings relate (if it's not obvious). If it's a small firm, can you drill down on the site to see staff members? I'd check this section out.
I'd also look at the Careers section just to see what sorts of jobs are posted. What if you saw one or more print production/design positions posted? What would you make of that? What if you saw lots of openings for social media experts? Is the firm growing, or did they lose staff recently? How do you think it affects the print buyer you're about to phone?
Familiarize yourself with the industry of your prospect. Hopefully, you're keeping current with business news so that you have a good idea what a certain industry's challenges are. Think about how you can help prospects overcome their business challenges.
I heard Dr. Joe Webb speak recently, and he had a great idea (many, actually): set up Google alerts for your top customers. This works just as well for key prospects. So simple—and it's free.
Check out your prospect on LinkedIn. Chances are, he or she is there. LinkedIn profiles have tons of good information. Where else has this person worked in his/her career? Check out the company while you're there, too.
This research gives you insights that will help make your calls more specific, and by that I mean more relevant, to each prospect. When you call to sell something, being informed about that person and the company is the very first step you need to take.
Even though I don't buy print anymore—except for promoting our company, that is—printers cold-call me without ever knowing what we do. I listen politely. When I realize they don't know about Print Buyers International, I ask, "Did you look me up on the Web?" Most of the time they haven't. I invite them to call back after they've done that easy homework.
Know why your best customers stick with you. Is it really because you have two 40˝ Heidelberg Speedmasters? I doubt it. Yet some salespeople still lead with their equipment list—honest! If you know why your top customers prefer to work with you and your company, that, too, should inform you and help you sell.
I'm not suggesting you rattle off testimonials on the phone, but if your company is known as a problem-solver, or a specialist in a certain industry, or producing the best quality in the state, or "a designer's printer," those are qualities that can help you sell.
Know their names. OK, this is an obvious tip. Try and get the prospect's name correct. I have nothing against the name "Dana," but it's my last name. As soon as I hear, "Hi, Dana, how are you doing today?" I know it's someone who didn't take care before dialing.
Assume someone is very busy. When you get a "live one" on the phone, always ask if it's a good time to chat, or ask when you might call back. I always do, but rarely does a cold-caller ask me this. They launch right into a pitch. It bugs me.
Remember, it's not about you; it's about them. Try and refrain from all the "we do this and this and this" talk. Find out more about what they do, and what they might need from you. When you get a sales call, aren't you listening with "what's in it for me" ears, and "how does this relate to what I do/need?"
Don't sound "canned." Some salespeople sound like they've given the same pitch over and over again without a change in the script. They seem to be calling from a printout of names and phone numbers. Clearly, they've done no research. They have no clue about what you do and it shows, badly.
What's the ace up your sleeve? If you have a referral from a friend or colleague, you're golden—at least for the initial phone call.
Other things that would impress a print buyer? You were a buyer once. You worked in the same industry or company. You share a hometown or home state (that's where social media research comes in handy, filling in the blanks about someone before you call). You have a printing degree. You went to RIT (or Clemson, or Cal Poly, or any one of the prestigious universities that offer an education in printing).
I know a certain sales rep in greater Boston who spent years in the paper industry. She's a gold mine of knowledge about paper, with great taste to match. I hope she uses this pedigree, when appropriate.
Everyone has unique qualities and talents. Print buyers often select printing firms based on the sales rep. What is it about you that would attract new customers?
Make the offer to the client that you will follow up with an e-mail. When I reach a prospect who's too busy to chat, I offer to send an e-mail with lots of detail about why I'm calling. They always say yes.
Then I follow up with them (telling them I will be doing so) in about a week to be sure they've received it (assuming they haven't already replied by then).
I hope these tips help. Try and take the "sales" out of your sales calls. Doing research ahead of time is the most important tip I can give you. Always be professional and courteous. Practice with someone you trust, if you're new at selling.
When you're ready, take a deep breath. Exhale slowly. Feel confident. Have notes in front of you? Good. Now, dial. PI
About the Author
Margie Dana is the founder of Print Buyers International (www.printbuyersinternational.com), which offers educational and networking opportunities to those who work with the printing industry. She produces an annual print buyers conference (www.printbuyersconference.com) and has written her popular e-column, "Margie's Print Tips," since 1999. Dana speaks regularly at trade events and offers consulting services as a print buyer specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.