If I Trained Sales Reps
Always a buyer, never a seller of print—that’s me. I have a lot of respect for print sales reps, especially these days. At times, selling print services must seem like a Sisyphean task. But I encourage you all to hold the course, be prepared to always champion the print media, and stay in tune with today’s consumers and business customers.
Presumably, print salespeople are trained to hit specific sales targets, and they’re evaluated on and rewarded for their sales growth. Oy, the pressure!
In a pretend world, if I were in charge of guiding or coaching sales reps, here’s some of what I’d stress...
1. Think like a customer. Know what buyers, designers, consumers and marketers are dealing with in 2015. Make it your job to identify what they’re looking for in their print partners.
2. Do your homework. Never do such an ice cold call that you haven’t looked up a prospect on Google and LinkedIn, checked out the company’s Website, and come up with some idea of what products and services a particular company or organization might need.
3. Know customers’ industries. You can’t have too much business knowledge. Keep up with what’s happening in the main industries you serve.
4. Just like printers, customers are all different. Some have decades of experience; some have none. Some are print buyers, full stop. Most buyers today have other responsibilities. Some are graphic designers, while others are marketers. Don’t assume anything about a prospect. Get to know the individual.
5. Shut up and listen. One of the very brightest salesmen I ever worked with in my buying days is named Duncan. He gave me lots of great advice, like this: listen more than you talk. One of the most offensive sales tactics is launching into your pitch and jabbering on without coming up for air. Don’t do it. Show some respect and listen.
6. Ask prospects and customers what they’re looking for. See #2. Everyone will be different. To some, low pricing is key. To others, fast delivery is #1, or creative input. It all depends on the individual.
7. Acknowledge print customer preconceptions. There’s a ton of misinformation about the printing industry floating around (I doubt it’ll ever go away). Spend time discussing this with your fellow sales reps.
8. Be available. Customers expect sales reps to be available by email, phone, even texts. Respond quickly.
9. Introduce your CSR personally. If your CSR will be doing most of the client work, your customers need to know this person. A strong team is a strong asset. Work it.
10. Be transparent. Customers need to trust you. Should they find out you’ve been hiding something related to their account or keeping something significant (and relevant) from them, the relationship will be over.
11. Keep in touch. Don’t disappear from their radar michael kors outlet online once a job is delivered. Keeping in touch occasionally is smart, unless you’re told otherwise. This doesn’t mean only when you’re hell-bent on selling something new. Share something relevant with your customers. Write a good blog. Send an interesting email. Do something!
12. Bring customers new ideas. Never forget you’re the manufacturing expert. Share samples of great stuff you’ve produced for other clients, or email them links about new applications or technologies that could benefit them.
13. Be social. Even if you don’t use social media for business, you need to keep up with the popular sites and tools. You don’t want to be seen as stuck in the past. Find out if and how your customers are using social media for business.
14. Offer to give a plant tour. It’s hard to get customers out of the office, but you should extend this offer. It will open up the dialogue between you and give them more education about your company.
15. Visit major portals like PIworld.com daily. Your professional education is an ongoing one. Hopefully, you have access to trade publications at your company. You can always access most of them online as well.
16. Check out your local direct marketing associations. Lots of marketers are involved with print campaigns and have decision-making responsibility for choosing print. Familiarize yourself with local trade groups. Are there events you should attend? Should you (or your company) join a group and become active?
17. Remind customers about all you offer. Even if a customer’s ordered only one product type from you in the past, you need to keep all customers informed of everything you can do.
18. Don’t let them see you sweat. Salespeople are part actors. We customers like to believe you have it all under control, even if you don’t. Exude confidence and poise. Be positive.
19. Be a person of integrity. It’s the #1 quality customers seek in a print rep. If we find you’ve been dishonest, you’re history. Plus, we’ll tell our friends.
20. Do what you say you’ll do. This is all about professionalism. You’ll gain customers’ trust and develop a business relationship that will help your career.
21. Be a resource. Customers appreciate sales reps who help them in other ways. Think about these services: graphic design, web site development, email marketing, mailing/fulfillment, copywriting and video services. If you don’t offer them, have referrals to give your customers. Be generous with your knowledge and your network; it will help you in the long run.
22. Follow up to bids you don't win. Find out why you lost a job; it may not always be obvious. If nothing else, it shows you're interested.
23. Keep an eye on the competition. Who do you lose work to, and why? What do they have that you don't? In what ways do they outperform you and vice versa?
24. Ask customers what they expect. Keep notes. Everyone will have a slightly different answer. Let them know you’re paying attention. This isn't a "once and done" conversation. It should be ongoing.
25. Create opportunities to help your customers network with one another. Customers like meeting their peers. Do it virtually, but better yet, have real events (coffee meetings luncheons, seminars, dinners) where your customers can mingle. Holy cow, you’ll shoot up to #1 on their list of favorite partners.
This list comes from over 20 years of my being a corporate print buyer or working with them, hosting events for them, and listening to them. At the end of the day, successful sales reps respect their customers and strive to deliver what each one expects.
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