Getting Print and Marketing Services Sales Reps to Fly High
I recently had a conversation with Paul McGhee, co-founder and CEO of SharperAx, who shared some thought-provoking insights about selling in the print and marketing services market. He shared a factoid from a Forrester report claiming that 89 percent of people who buy technology services feel that sales reps waste their time.
He then mentioned the old adage about how 20 percent of most print and marketing services sales teams tend to bring in 80 percent of the business. Now, I don’t know if those numbers are accurate, but they roughly align with my experiences. It’s what he said next about what to do the 80 percent or so who aren’t meeting expectations that got me to sit up and pay attention.
He said that there are two typical misperceptions about sales reps, particularly those who sell technological solutions:
- That they’re lazy and/or stupid
- That good sales reps are born, not made
Both of these are, of course, utter rubbish and the real reason, according to Paul, is training. It’s not that reps need more of it; it’s that the training they receive is typically as useless as flight training was in the 1920s and 1930s. That might seem like a strange analogy, but let me explain.
In the 1920s, pilots were trained by first explaining to them what they should do, then having them ride along on flights to observe a successful pilot flying, and then to try it themselves. As you can imagine, a lot of pilots crashed and burned on their first chance to try it themselves. In fact, 31 of the first 41 mail pilots supposedly crashed and died.
Now think about typical sales training. First, reps are told what to do (ask about problems, talk about the benefits, etc.), then they ride along to observe a seasoned sales rep, and then they try it themselves. Is it any surprise that so many reps crash and burn? Now, this isn’t quite as fatal as flying, so that over time most reps do get better at it but it is, to say the least, a struggle.
So what changed with the aviation industry? Well, in the late 1920s Edwin Link created a flight simulator and revolutionized pilot training. Wannabe pilots could safely learn, practice, and refine their techniques in a realistic-but-safe environment so that they would be much better prepared for the real thing. Paul’s approach is to apply the same lesson to sales training:
- Teach reps what to do—just like today
- Also teach reps what to say—not covered in typical training
- And have reps practice and refine what they say before getting in front of prospects
It seems so simple, doesn’t it? And, it’s a concept you can use the next time you need to train a new sales rep or to train your sales teams on a new solution. If you’d like to see how Paul does it, you can sign up for a PODi Institute course Paul is leading four-week PODi Institute course titled "The Right Questions—and Answers—to Win More Business," which starts Oct. 1. In it, he applies this approach to several challenges faced every day by print and marketing services salespeople:
- How to ask questions to uncover prospect problems and implications
- How to respond to objections in ways that address, reframe and adds insights to them
- And how to increase credibility with clients to better sell value
Visit www.podi.org/PODi-Institute to learn more about this and other PODi Institute courses.
Greg Cholmondeley is president of Cholmonco Inc. Cholmonco is a technology marketing consulting company that researches, analyzes and documents best practices and innovative solutions. Cholmondeley is especially interested in how industry leaders efficiently get work through digital printing and marketing services operations. He has also written two fictional novels. The first is titled “Nakiwulo and the Circle of Shiva” and the second is called “Princess.” You can learn more about his consulting practice and read more of his blogs at www.cholmonco.com. You can discover his books at http://books.cholmonco.com.