Top Secrets to Sales Success for High-Growth Printers Revealed
As printing companies have evolved from selling high-volume print work to offering short-run, personalized, on-demand print jobs supported with a diverse portfolio of value-added services, selling practices in many organizations have not kept pace. The rules of sales success have changed, and many organizations are redefining what it takes to deliver sales results in a new competitive environment. Today’s multi-channel, data-driven and programmatic marketing campaigns require print sales reps to possess new skill sets, such as consultative selling ability.
To identify the new formula for sales success, NAPCO Research surveyed Printing Impressions’ readers in September 2018 to identify key sales challenges that companies face and the best strategies and tactics for improving sales results. More than 200 print providers responded to the “Defining Sales Success Factors in Today’s Print Shop” survey. This article highlights the preliminary, high-level research findings of a more comprehensive research report. The study was sponsored by SGIA.
Key Challenge Is Hiring Good Salespeople
A critical finding is respondents reported that key business challenges influencing their organization were related to sales. When asked to rank the level of challenge presented by various industry trends, respondents considered hiring sales reps capable of selling in today’s environment as a top challenge. Figure 1 shows how respondents classified the level of challenge for factors that influenced selling.
The key takeaway from this question is that printing companies’ businesses are challenged in finding and hiring sales reps capable of selling in today’s price-competitive environment where customers expect products and services that go beyond print. Transitioning salespeople to sell on value, not just on price, continues to be an ongoing challenge.
Addressing the Hiring Challenge
Looking to solve the hiring challenge, respondents reported focusing the criteria for sales candidate selection more on communication and business skills rather than on printing industry experience. Respondents reported valuing sales job candidates with strong communication skills, a willingness to make cold calls, and that possess the confidence to call on new accounts and senior leaders (see Figure 2).
Plausible explanations for the sales skill set respondents identified, based on survey responses, include:
- Top responsibilities of sales reps are new business development (85%) and account management of existing clients (85%). Survey respondents’ top hiring criteria are important qualities for successful business development.
- Customer demand trends also play a role in required sales rep skills. Respondents reported that demand is increasing for personalization/versioning (51%), integrated marketing (42%) and linking print to digital media channels (40%). Selling these services requires more sophisticated skill sets.
- 57% of total survey respondents and 67% of firms reporting double-digit sales growth reported targeting specific vertical industries. Successfully targeting and selling to select industries require reps to confidently communicate the unique value their organizations’ products and services will provide.
The first step in hiring stellar sales reps is recruiting. Finding the right job candidates for sales positions is a common lament of industry executives. Respondents reported the most effective resources for recruiting staff were personal networks and referrals (69%), as well as online tools such as Indeed, Monster and Career Builder (47%).
While this question wasn’t specific to hiring sales reps, those respondents reporting double-digital sales growth also give these hiring resources top marks for effectiveness, with 74% indicating that personal networks/referrals and 52% reporting online hiring sites were effective.
When asked to rank key specific sales challenges, survey respondents indicated top obstacles to reaching sales goals focused on the skill of sales reps. While respondents reported competing against low-cost competitors was the top challenge in meeting sales goals, other highly ranked sales obstacles included reps’ abilities to close deals, win appointments and qualify prospects (Figure 3).
Key Mistakes Made by Print Sales Reps
Respondents reported the top three mistakes they’ve observed sales reps make are: 1). Not asking customers and prospects the right questions: 48%. 2). Selling based solely on offering a low price: 43%. 3). Not setting proper expectations with customers: 33%.
These are mistakes that often can be corrected with sales training and coaching but, overall, respondents reported focusing little on those areas. While 55% of respondents reported frequently holding meetings with reps to plan account strategy, only a little more than one-third of respondents offered sales training on an ongoing basis and less than that had managers accompany reps on sales calls.
Comparing the responses of all survey participants with those reporting double-digit sales growth revealed the value that investing in sales staff can deliver (Figure 4). Respondents that reported double-digit sales growth were more likely to invest in ongoing sales training and have managers attend more sales calls with reps.
Sales Force Management Structures
In many printing companies, sales reps report directly to the owner and 46% of respondents indicated that was the case in their organizations. This management structure may work in smaller companies but, in larger organizations, having a dedicated sales manager to direct the sales team may be the best route versus an owner charged with multiple management tasks.
According to the survey, 34% of total respondents reported a sales manager was primarily responsible for managing the sales force. Of those respondents reporting double-digit company sales growth, 40% indicated a sales manager led the sales team.
While many print providers are masters at measuring their operational efficiency, the same cannot be said for sales processes. Continually tracking and measuring sales activities are key to achieving sales objectives and goals. This requires having a comprehensive understanding of what is occurring at various points in the sales pipeline.
Common metrices measured typically include: customer retention and recurring revenue; number of opportunities in the pipeline; win rates; deal sizes; and sales cycle for closing new business.
One way to measure and monitor performance against these targets is through a customer relationship management (CRM) system. The survey found that a little more than one-third (37%) reported having a CRM system in place, while over half (63%) did not.
An overall key finding of the research is that the selling environment has changed, and print services providers must evolve their sales strategies, practices and processes. The key focus of the study was to identify what actions print providers are taking to improve sales processes and drive sales growth.
The final report offers a deeper dive on the critical tactics and strategies yielding greatest sales success in today’s highly competitive market.
About the Author
Lisa Cross serves as a principal analyst for NAPCO Research.
Lisa Cross is the principal analyst of NAPCO Research (a unit of NAPCO Media) where she conducts market research and analysis on emerging trends and changing dynamics in the commercial, in-plant and packaging industries, and the market forces that are driving those changes. With decades of experience covering the graphic arts and marketing industries, Cross has authored thousands of articles on a variety of topics, including technology trends, business strategy, sales, marketing and legislation.