Philie Group Blog

Make Your Client-Facing Team a True Competitive Advantage
By Mike Philie

Is it time to re-think the structure of your sales and client-facing teams? If you’re getting all the business you need, and your plant is consistently on full, I’m not sure I’d change anything. However, if you’re not getting what you need, are the ongoing tweaks to the process really going to make any difference? This may not mean you have bad salespeople; you just may have them doing the wrong things, or too many different things.

Customers in many industries have changed how they select new suppliers, and triggering events usually have a role to play as well. Add to the fact that your operations are now more automated, predictable, and reliable than ever. You should have a sales approach that is aligned with the rest of your company and designed for today’s environment – not for a time that once was.

We often define a good salesperson by someone who can network and is well connected, can relentlessly research and prospect, and of course someone who can gain the trust of customers and close and retain the business. For years our industry has expected the sales team to be the “full-service rep” for the accounts they work with. They sell, they write it up, they answer questions from production, and represent the company with the customer among other things. Many have excelled in this role and have become full fledged account managers. In fact, sometimes the only difference between them and a good customer service rep is that they get to leave the building when they want. Hence the term CSRs with cars.

This leads us back to my earlier thoughts. While account management and account retention are extremely important, how many new presentations did your team make last week and how much time do they spend “selling?” What are the things that stand in the way of adding more selling time to the week? Your sales structure should keep up with the sophistication of your automated print facility. Is this something you are looking into or is it just too hard to change?

While I don’t think that there is a one-size-fits-all sales structure for every company in the printing industry, I am convinced that in some cases, the traditional methods may have outlasted their usefulness. The expectations for capturing market share in a disruptive economy are too high to leave new business development to chance. There are companies outside the printing industry that have redesigned their sales structure, not overnight but over time. They have divided the business development, account management and retention, and customer service and project management roles to make their client facing teams a true competitive advantage.

Defining the roles that you want covered is only the beginning. The heavy lifting comes with how to transition from your current state to your future state. Doing this without any fallout can be tricky. Remember, this isn’t for everybody, but for those unhappy with the unpredictable results they are getting now.

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll continue with ideas for changing your sales model. In the meantime, if you have ideas or comments on the subject, please include them below. Good luck and remember, doing nothing certainly is an option, just not a great one!

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 assessments, 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.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions.


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