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Business

What are new customers looking for?

If you ask a typical print salespeople what are the most important things they should bring to a meeting with a prospective customer, they might mention items such as print samples, company brochures, sales presentations or price guides, but are these the most important? Tony Kenton, consultant for the BAPC, investigates.

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Print-service-providers now need to rethink their strategies

Gimbel & Associates, one of the leading print industry consultancy groups in the US interviewed print buyers about their experiences with printing company sales representatives and although U.S. based, the lessons learned are as relevant over here as they are there.  What they discovered was the things that buyers considered the most important were often missing from conversations with the print service providers coming to them for their business.

The fact is that although the print sales process has not changed much over the past decade, customer expectations have.   Not only changed but has risen in their need for a different type of input. It is clear that in order to land ‘new business’ print service providers now need to re-think their sales strategies and processes because unless they do and go through the process of reviewing and analysing their approach, there is little doubt they will see their sales efforts become ever less effective.

Taking a lesson from other industries that still manage to generate significant sales from their sale people I suggest tackling the issue from these three perspectives: preparation, presentation, and follow-up.

Preparation

In the past, print salespeople didn’t need to over prepare before seeing a potential customer. The process was much more straight forward. Chances are the prospect wanted print, they knew what it was and considered it a vital ingredient of their marketing and communications. So, the salesperson just had to show them what print products they could produce and convince them to buy.

But that was then, and it’s different now. Today, to be successful a consultative approach needs to be employed, that is of course if you want to avoid being in the commodity market which experience tells us, is just a race to the bottom.  Effective selling now requires salespeople be in tune with their customers’ business challenges. Understand what are their goals? Who is their competition? What are the obstacles keeping them from achieving their objectives?

The point being, just visiting a prospective customer and expecting them to ‘come clean’ on all this information comes under the heading ‘wishful thinking’. The fact is that most of this information requires up front research. Much of the data and information is generally available via the internet. Before the appointment the salesperson should at least have a good idea about trends in the customers industry. Professional and social media sites like LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter can also provide great clues about the culture and mission of an organisation.

Sure, the exact answers to all the questions may not always be available, but by doing the research, filling in the gaps at a meeting is a lot easier than having to start from scratch, and what’s more by showing some knowledge it demonstrates a respect for the customer and encourages them to explain how to sell to them.

Presentation

As consumers we’ve all become accustomed to interactions with companies that use information, they know about us to filter their offerings and lead with products and services most relevant to our profiles. Print buyers are no different, yet customers reported many instances where print salespeople seemed to have a standard approach for everyone. This often put them off as they felt that if they became customers, the print provider would treat them just like any other, with no effort put towards interacting with them as unique entities.

Salespeople often fall into this trap by talking too much and not listening enough. The adage about listening twice as much as you talk is a good one. Take the time to ask questions and lead clients to your solution rather than leading with your solution and trying to make it fit the client’s situation.

Print buyers also felt that printers lacked modern-day professionalism, and this had a negative influence on their decisions about selecting which print service providers to use. Examples given were of worn, damaged, or dated print samples. Straying from relevant business topics, a disregard for other media and communications technology or not ‘eating their own medicine’ by only having pdf’s for their services, rather than believing in ornate themselves and using it smartly.

Showing up on time with organised and relevant (and some printed) materials, an agenda, and a willingness to listen creates for a favourable impression.

Follow-Up

Most salespeople follow a call or a meeting with a thank-you email, but it shouldn’t stop there. Today, the buying processes tends to be lengthier. To make sure you stay top-of-mind and reinforce the value of working with you in order to help customers achieve their business goals a longer-term campaign is necessary. One that includes staying in touch and making sure it’s relevant and not annoying.  So, for example sending links to pertinent articles from time to time. Commenting on articles the company posts on social media, leveraging the knowledge you have on them through research plus any information gathered from your meetings. All the time making sure that you add this information onto your CRM and marketing automation systems. The point being anything that shows your professionalism and ensures you avoid losing touch. Here’s another thought, try sending targeted and personalised direct mail that demonstrates your company’s talents and abilities.

Finally

Make sure any promises that were made during the sales calls, such as supplying more information or introducing customer to other resources are met promptly. Do what you say you will is key to gaining and keeping business. Understanding how your prospective customer perceives you is a huge competitive advantage if you take measures to correct deficiencies and emphasise your strengths. Should you wish to discuss this issue, or any other business matter contact the BAPC or any of the other trade associations, they all exist to provide help and support. 


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