The Second Myth of Print Sales: Relationship Selling Brings in the Business

The following is an excerpt from Matthew Parker’s Seven Myths of Print Sales series:
Salesperson shaking customer's hand
Have you ever seen a print sales person imitate a goldfish?
This happens to me a few years ago. He wasn’t expecting the answer that I gave him. His mouth opened, then closed but nothing came out. He went all goggle eyed.
The reason for this fishy behaviour was because I said a single word to him:  “No”.
The print sales person had just changed companies. He had made a big deal to his new manager about all the loyal customers that he had. But I had just told him that I was staying with his original company. And by the way he reacted, I’m guessing that I wasn’t the only one to stay.
This story illustrates a fact that many print sales people prefer to ignore.
Relationship selling doesn’t make money
Sales people that avoid relationship selling actually build better business partnerships with their customers. Their customers remain loyal because there is a good business reason. Their custom is not just based on whether they like someone or not. That means that the sales people have better control over their future orders. They find it easier to achieve the targets that they have been set.
Sales people that continue to use relationship selling will find that they get poorer results in return for a lot of hard work. Often, their prospect will be delighted at all the help, friendship and free consultancy that they get from these sales people. But they will often go elsewhere to place orders. So relationship sellers will struggle to control a solid sales pipeline. They may find it very hard to achieve the targets that they have been set.
There is some solid research behind these conclusions
In my last article, I highlighted a study from a book called The Challenger Sale. This research profiled over 6,000 sales people from a variety of market sectors. They found five groups of sales people. Last week I talked about the hard worker. This week I am going to focus on the relationship builder.
When the study looked at the results of relationship builders it was found that these were the lowest performing of all sales people. For a commodity sale only 11% of the high performing sales people were relationship builders. When it came to more complex sales the figure dropped to 4%.
The chances of a relationship builder being a high performing sales person are very low. Let’s look at some more research to find out why.
Relationship builders fail to perform because of the 60% rule
Another study, carried out by Siebel Research, tracked the buyer journey. They found that 60% of the buyer journey could not be influenced by a sales person.
By its very nature, the success of relationship selling depends on interaction with the prospect or customer. However, if the sales person can only influence 40% of the buyer’s decision-making process then relationship selling faces a problem. It’s going to struggle to influence the buyer enough.
So how does this work in reality?
To continue reading this post from Matthew Parker, click here.

Matthew Parker's Photo
Matthew Parker has been buying print for over 20 years. He’s had over 1,400 sales pitches from printers. Now he’s using that experience to help printing companies engage with their customers and sell print more profitably.Find out more about Matthew on his site.

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  1. Christopher August 22, 2013 -

    Very useful info and facts. Thanks a mil for the print related topic.

  2. Joe Riickard August 27, 2013 -

    I am sure this blog is meant to be provocative to capture the reader’s attention. I agree with the basic premise that the author is conveying. But it is only part of the story.

    We really need to define relationship selling to really have a discussion

    The “challenger” book does not define relationship selling as a selling process. It defines it as an approach or personality type within a sales process. Most customers don’t need or want personal friends. They want someone who can solve and support their communication and printing requirements. That is really the point.

    Great printing salespeople use a “challenger approach” based on a deep knowledge of the customer as well as printing within a relationship selling process model.

    That means that printing customers want not only want a trusted and knowledgeable adviser, but someone who will get it right and take’s continued accountability for a printing project, program or campaign from start to finish.

    Relying on being a sales “challenger” alone will not drive long term printing sales for most salespeople and their organizations. This may be causing the confusion over what relationship selling really is.

  3. Matthew Parker August 28, 2013 -

    Christopher, thank you for your kind comments.

    Joe, thank you for your detailed comments. I agree that the relationship seller is a personality type. However, I do think that if printing companies are going to sell printed at higher margins they need to do more than just support a customer’s communication and reporting requirements. Otherwise, we stay in the commodity price cycle. Relationships are vital as part of the selling process (as I stated in my full article). An understanding of a specific customer’s challenges and how your company can help the customer, perhaps in a way that they hadn’t previously thought of, is also vital. The customer may not even realise the challenges they face.

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