If you are one of the many print businesses that are cruising past their 2019 revenue numbers, you can stop reading here. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing. If you are not one of those businesses, maybe you should look at the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts. Marketing support is more than delivering a great product brochure. Your marketing initiative needs to communicate your brand, tell prospects why they should work with your firm, and work with your sales team in their business development efforts.
Not to over simplify this but, I see companies working to create a clear, executable marketing plan that identifies what their best customers look like, why they buy from them, and how they can attract others that look like them. Your sales team can then jump in with the folks that raise their hand and work the sales process to help win the business.
For most buyers, it starts with information. In the past, buyers depended on the sales rep to tell them what they needed to know. Now customers do the research for themselves and get information online, from peers, and from social networks.
This can work to your advantage if you embrace the omni channel communication opportunities with customers and prospects and provide them with relevant information that differentiates your business and helps guide their decisions.
Content or informational marketing positions your company as an expert and problem solver. You are recognized as a supplier that continually shares useful information that addresses customers’ needs. When clients are ready to buy (or make a word-of-mouth referral), they will turn to the company (you) that has already provided them with helpful information.
“Personal relationships, quality, and service are important for customer retention, but they aren’t always the best differentiators when trying to attract new business.”
One option is to develop these marketing components for your sales team for each of the vertical markets you identify as viable for your business,
- Specific value propositions—why should they speak with you?
- Case studies—show how you’ve solved the same problem a prospect might be experiencing.
- Talking points—how will you differentiate your company to that group?
As an industry, there’s an opportunity to rethink the role and responsibilities of the sales force. Freelancing is not where it’s at any more. It’s too unpredictable. Tactical sales training by itself isn’t the answer either, because it’s really the process that needs to be fixed. Repeatable success is the goal of all business leaders. To execute your go-to-market sales plan, you need a process that will enable you to implement it consistently throughout your team. By the way, this is easier said than done.
Look at the systems around your facility and take note of your production departments. You have procedures and processes in place to ensure and measure success and quality every step of the way. Why not put processes in place for your sales efforts as well? The selling effort can be managed as a process. For example, the steps in a sale include, but are not limited to:
- Systematic identification of prospects.
- Consistent research, preparation and contact.
- Asking great questions that help identify the areas that you can help with.
- Using a value, or solution based selling methodology.
- Provide solutions that show why you are uniquely qualified to do the work.
- Being able to ask for the business—closing the deal.
- Transition accounts and transactions to customer service.
Use what works—over and over print firms have already built business development solutions that continue to pass the test of time, relationships, and competitive bids. Pay special attention to these as you transform your sales model. The goal is to turn them into repeatable processes. To begin:
- Explore and define the elements of successful solutions.
- Match them with appropriate new market opportunities.
- Educate the sales force on using the processes and how it can help them.
There should always be a solid business reason (beyond “they like me”) at the start of a business relationship. No matter how you transform and organize your sales function, you can’t (or should not) take people out of the mix. Create a good business reason to work together, and the personal relationship will develop and play a role in maintaining and strengthening an established client connection.
It may seem contradictory to suggest creating a process to develop personal relationships, but personal and business relationships will remain a key ingredient of any sales strategy. Defining relationship-building as a process just makes success easier to repeat. Use the elements of past relationship successes as your market differentiator. You’ll need to define, articulate, and package these successes, so they can be communicated to your team and replicated in the marketplace.
This is a process that never ends. While many of these ideas have been around for a while, the challenge is adapting them into practice. There is no excuse. There is a wealth of industry-specific ideas on how to improve your marketing and sales efforts available. The print industry is fortunate to have many excellent sales trainers and coaches who are willing to help your team, so doing nothing is not an option. Keeping and winning new business is hard. It’s even harder if you’re not sure what it is you’re after or if your efforts are scattered.
Please add your thoughts and comments below.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic advice, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Printing Impressions