New Boss, Same As the Old Boss –Farquharson/Tedesco
"My business is terrible. The buying environment is worse now than at any time I can ever remember. I leave messages, but no one is returning my calls. Clients are killing me on price and customer loyalty is a contradiction in terms. If things continue as they are, I will not be able to compete."
Sound familiar? Would it surprise you to know that this was uttered by a printing sales rep? Probably not. But, would it surprise you if you knew that the quote was from 1982? That was, gulp, 30 years ago! The more things change...
So, you think it's tough to sell print today, huh? Business is down, frustration is up and you have more excuses than orders. It's difficult to step up to bat time after time and muster enough confidence to believe that today will be any different than yesterday.
Well, you don't have to step into Mr. Peabody's WABAC machine (Under 50? Google it.) to see the obvious: The issues, challenges and objections we are facing today are not new or unique to today. Not only have they been heard in the past, but they have been overcome, too. Is this the first time in our nation's history that recovery has taken its time? No. Then why is the key to rising above these economic conditions and finding profitable printing sales any different now than in the past? Have you forgotten what it took to grow your business?
The fundamentals of sales growth are true, regardless of the economy. Stop. Read that sentence again. See, they are called “fundamentals” and not “temporary-mentals” because they work all of the time. So, hop into our Delorean and we’ll take it up to 88 mph and remind you of some sales basics as we go back to the future. The year? 1982…
Here we are in your father’s print shop. Notice how busy people seem, and why shouldn’t they be? The business climate, in general, is strong and walk-ins are walking in, money in one hand, print needs in the other.
Over there we see the sales rep getting ready to head out and make some calls. He has brochures to drop off, business cards to hand out and is having a quick word with the owner. Let's listen in...
Owner: “Do you have your sales pitch down?”
Owner: “Let’s hear it!”
Rep: “Do you need anything printed?”
Owner: “Perfect! And if that doesn’t work?”
Rep: “Do you have anything I can quote on?”
Owner: “Attaboy! Go get ’em, Tiger!”
And with that, off goes the rep for a day of door-to-door canvassing. He's looking forward to schmoozing with the receptionists, but worries about the price of gasoline. It's rumored to go over $1.50 a gallon soon. But, he hits the road just the same, optimistic and clean-shaven.
Stopping at the first industrial park he finds, the rep pulls into the Visitor Parking and walks through an unlocked door (can you imagine?). He asks for the person who buys print, and is soon ushered in to the buyer's office:
Rep: “Is there any printing that I can do for you?”
Buyer: “Well, here is a piece that you can quote on. But, we get three bids on everything, so sharpen your pencil.”
Rep: “Got it. Thanks for your time. I’ll get back to you.”
Sadly, though predictably, this scenario will end badly. Apparently, selling print back then was every bit as much a function of solving problems as it is today.
See, the “price” customer has always been there and likely always will. Growing your sales, then, has to come as a result of a prospecting process with four components:
Diligence—The single most important factor in growing your business is simply making a consistent (read: D-A-I-L-Y) sales effort. That means either picking up the phone every day and calling on prospects and customers, or getting in your car every day and calling on prospects and customers. Oh, and call the same contact multiple times. That matters, too.
Call Quality—What you say when the client picks up the phone and says “Hello” is critical to your success. “Need any printing?” is not going to cut it. You need to do your homework prior to making the calls and have something of value to say. Ninety percent of the call’s chance of success or failure is determined before you pick up the phone. If you can’t finish the sentence that starts, “The purpose of my call is…” with something of value, don’t pick up the phone!
Creativity—Just making prospecting phone calls is like columnists who write the same sentence over and over again. To break things up, get creative and try different avenues in an effort to get in the door: Intro letter, handwritten postcard, e-mail, drive-by, etc.
Differentiation—What is your competitive advantage? What is your brand? You need to define yourself in ways that say, “I’m not just another printer.” Getting back to point #1, given the fact that nine out of 10 first-time voice mails go without a follow-up call from the sales rep, making a second attempt to the same number will differentiate in and of itself.
The secret in sales is the same as it was 30 years ago: Solve the problem. Earn the order.
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. (Under 50? Google it.) PI
About the Authors
Bill Farquharson is the president of Aspire For (www.AspireFor.com). His Sales Challenge can help drive your sales momentum. Contact him at (781) 934-7036 or e-mail email@example.com. T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales, a 15-year-old marketing and PR services company. He is author of "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry" and six other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.