Why are things still the same?
A few years ago I wrote a blog called “Why Selling Print Will Be The Death Of Printing Companies”. It is still one of the most popular articles that I have ever written. I recently posted a link to the article again. I received a note from a reader that they remembered this from four years’ previously and what a shame it was that nothing had changed.
It is still easy to find many, many printing companies that operate in the same way that they have been doing for a long time. Their technology and the printing processes that they use may have evolved. However, the company culture and the sales and marketing strategies remain the same.
It’s time for traditional printing companies to develop
Today’s buyers are changing the way they do business. The traditional, comfortable way of building a long-lasting relationship is no longer relevant. Companies have to justify why customers should use them. This applies to the products and services and the choice of supplier as much as price.
This can be a difficult change of culture for many companies. So here are three strategies to help with this process. The first way is to get your clients involved.
Interview a client
Few people talk to their clients outside a sales or a social environment. However, this can be an extremely useful exercise. Ask one or two of your best clients for 20-30 minutes of their time for a research conversation. Tell them that they are a valued customer and that you’d like to win more clients like them. Reassure them that this is not a sales conversation. Most people will be happy to help you out on this basis.
During the conversation, here are some of the things that you should talk to them about:
- How they see their business evolving
- The key business challenges that they face
- Why they need your services and how they help them improve their business
- Why they have chosen you as a company
- What would their ideal supplier look like
- Are there any other services they would like you to provide
You will find it very useful to record the conversation if the customer is happy with this. There’s another conversation you should have with customers as well.
Ask customers about potential new services and investments
Many printers make investments and then talk to their customers about them. It is far better to reverse this process. Involve your clients in your planning process.
What are your customers looking for from you? Ask them what they would like you to invest in. Naturally, they may not know what is available. But it is also worth testing out sales messages for potential new products and services with them as well. Are they excited by your new opportunities? Or are they simply not interested? A good customer will put you off investing in the wrong equipment or services.
Your customers are not the only people you should talk to.
Employ a new set of eyes
We are used to looking at things from our own point of view. Sometimes it is good to get input from people outside of your company, and even outside of the industry. There are two ways to achieve this.
Firstly, consider hiring someone from outside the industry. Sales people from other sectors often succeed because they do not understand print. Therefore they have to approach their customers in a creative way. They stand out from other print sales people. One printing company found that their best performing sales person by far was someone who used to present the local news. They were naturally skilled about finding out more from their customers and building good relationships. It was an advantage that they lacked print knowledge. This meant they were more likely to present things in a way that their prospects understood.
The other way is to employ a mentor or business coach. This is someone who should ask searching questions about a company. They can challenge how things are done. It is much easier for someone outside of a company to do this.
There’s a common thread in this advice
It is all about listening to people from outside our industry. Whether it is customers or people from different industry sectors, they all help us see things from a different perspective. That is vital if we are to start doing things differently. It will stop you from selling print in traditional ways and seeing your business die.
PS If you’d like more practical ideas on how to engage with today’s buyers, download my free e-book “Ten Common Print Selling Errors and What To Do About Them” right now at http://profitableprintrelationships.com/e-book/ You’ll also receive my regular “Views from the print buyer” bulletin, full of ideas on how to sell print effectively.