Are You a Partner or an Order-Taker?
Too many print companies still rely on traditional methods for interacting with their clients. Instead of suggesting creative ways they can help their clients achieve business goals, print companies keep focusing sales conversations on quotes and printed products they can provide. It may seem contrary and uncomfortable, but the best way to sell print may not be initiating a sales call with product pitches. This approach makes print a commodity that any competitor offering a lower price can easily reproduce.
Print providers must move from product-centric to service-centric organizations. That’s not easy to do, but trends in the industry and client demands are making it necessary to make the transition.
Clients understand the benefits of connecting with their customers, prospects, members, donors or employees on a more personal and relevant level. Exposure to features available in digital communications has raised their expectations for how printed materials should perform.
An emphasis on personalized printed materials forces print companies to change the conversations they are having with clients. To provide a desirable outcome, printers need to have more information about their clients’ customers and sales channels. Sales and client service people must extend discussions beyond project specifications for paper, quantity, colors and finishing to the clients’ business goals for a project or program. Printers can’t help their clients forge those personal customer connections without understanding the recipients of the printed communications.
Service-centric printers ask questions about what their clients hope to achieve with the printed materials. It’s called solution selling. To help their clients craft effective campaigns, printers must learn about the individuals to whom the print is directed. They need to understand how recipient differences affect details like offers, images or branding elements. Knowledge about steps in the sales process and activities planned for channels beyond print is helpful in providing strategic ideas to enable print to be more effective.
We’ve covered solution selling before in our blog. See “How to Switch to Solution Selling” and “Getting to Yes.” Training salespeople consultative selling skills or augmenting the sales staff to add individuals with prior consultative experience, even in a different field, will be necessary for many print organizations. Consultative selling involves lots of thoughtful questions and good listening skills.
The Gimbel Group teaches sales representatives about ABCR:
What is important to the client and how does that align with what you can deliver?
B: Be a resource
Offer ideas and strategies to help your clients and prospects succeed.
Be clear on the value you and your solution will deliver — monetize the value of your solution.
Focus on measuring what is important to the clients, not the cost of the solutions. Do the clients want more leads, more customers, more upgrades, more demos or more attendees? Then develop a way to track progress toward these goals.
When your organization is service-centric your salespeople lead customers to your solutions instead of leading with your solutions. We encourage you to begin the process of changing your sales approach to match the demands of the market.
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at highrockstrategies.com.