Print Reps Are Also Marketers
Since marketing is everything you do to influence and persuade prospects to choose your company, sales reps can be seen as marketers. Even though their primary role is to prospect for new business, close sales and service customers, reps are (quite literally) the beating heart of a company’s marketing efforts.
Think about it. Your reps have one-to-one relationships with clients. Unless customers have a CSR and/or insist on working directly with press and prepress, it’s just them and their rep. And we know that print customers often follow reps from printer to printer. Business relationships don’t get tighter than this.
This means that the impression made by a printing salesperson is crucial, more so for prospects than customers. The dance that sales reps do with potential customers may take days, weeks, months or even years. It’s the initial contact that matters—an email, a cold call, a letter or a meeting.
The Cold Email
Imagine a potential customer getting an email from one of your reps. Screw this up and you’re done. Do sales managers evaluate a new rep’s communication skills? They should. I get cold emails from print reps that are an affront to the English language. It’s not just because I’m a writer (though I can’t say it doesn’t cloud my opinion).
Everything about an email to a prospect matters, from the subject line to the body of the email to the signature. Obviously, there should be no typos or grammatical errors, but I constantly see them.
Consider the subject line, which is key for any email. Never sink to using click-bait. To me, it’s tantamount to a lie, a trick, a ruse to get me to read the email. Your prospect will see through it and hit delete—but not before recording your name and company to memory.
A strong subject line should be short and provide a hint about what’s to come. If someone’s referred you to a prospect, put that person’s name in your email (Subject: Margie Dana Suggested I Contact You). Avoid hype and trite phrases.
The body of a rep’s email will be judged on a few things. Aside from perfect spelling and grammar, it must be well written. For the love of all things holy, read your emails carefully before sending them. If necessary, have someone who’s a better writer do you the honors.
The one hiring mistake I made occurred when I didn’t evaluate a new assistant’s writing skills. We exchanged several phone calls before I hired her, and I did check references. But I found out too late that her emails were horrendous. She loved contractions, but hated apostrophes. There was no way I could have her communicate on my behalf. It was a mistake I’ll never repeat.
The Cold Call
Print reps make cold calls. If the prospect hasn’t so much as checked out your site, everything a sales rep shares in that call will reflect on your company as much as the rep.
Homework must be done first. Go to LinkedIn. Presuming the person has a decent profile, there are a ton of insights to gain here: employment history, current job status and description, shared connections, educational background, LinkedIn group membership, published posts and possibly videos or presentations.
The single most important piece of information a rep can glean from a LinkedIn profile is how much print experience a person has. It will help guide the conversation more than anything else.
Learn something about a prospect’s company and industry before calling, because you’ll be judged by your knowledge, and you can avoid wasting anyone’s time. You’ll have just a minute or two to make an impression. Plan your thoughts carefully. Don’t make empty small talk, like “Enjoying this great weather?”
Announce your company affiliation right away and why you’re calling. Better yet, name the person who referred you to this prospect. I always listen when someone drops a name of a friend or colleague. Have a point to your call. Know what makes your company different. Be professional yet friendly. Respect the person’s time. Offer to meet and/or send materials. Direct prospects to your website by telling them what they’ll learn there. All of this has to be accomplished in a couple of minutes.
The Sales Letter
If you still send sales letters—and I hope you do—follow the basic guidelines I shared above regarding emails. The letterhead and envelope must be well printed. When possible, hand address the envelope to increase the likelihood it gets opened quickly.
Make sure the person’s name, company and address are 100 percent correct. Throw out every trite phrase you’ve ever heard about commercial printers and write from your heart. A genuine voice is a memorable voice. What’s your personal story in this business that would make a reader take notice and want to follow up? Write it. Spell-check it like nobody’s business. Include your call to action.
Have a full and complete signature. I recently got a nice, personal letter from a commercial printer, and it didn’t show his title. He didn’t include a business card. His name wasn’t typed below his signature, and his handwriting was as bad as mine. (So Mike or Marvin or Merle, please take note.)
The First Meeting
It’s a momentous day when a rep meets a new prospect. I’m assuming this takes place after phone calls or emails, and after you’ve done your homework.
You’re still the face of your company at this meeting, so mind your demeanor and conversation. Know the full range of products and services your company offers. Have materials to leave behind. Ask questions but listen more than you speak. Exude professionalism and competence.
We customers judge a printing company by many things: print quality, prices, service capabilities and, to a large extent, by the reps. If we are to commit to a long-term relationship (which is our preference) with our print partners, we need to feel comfortable with the reps. They’ll be our direct channel to your company. They’ll make us aware of new capabilities. They’ll share your important news.
And that is why, like it or not, they act as your marketing agents. Make sure they’re equipped for this job. PI
About the Author
Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched a new business as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. She’s as comfortable working in social media as she is in traditional media, and now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content. Dana was the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference. Although she’s exited the event business, she is still publishing her Print Tips newsletter each week. For more details and to sign up for her newsletter and marketing blog, visit www.margiedana.com
Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched a new business as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. She is as comfortable working in social media as she is in traditional media, and now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content. Dana was the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference.
Although she has exited the event business, Dana is still publishing her Print Tips newsletter each week. For more details and to sign up for her newsletter and marketing blog, visit www.margiedana.com