Commentary & Analysis
From the Old School to the New School Part 2: Dealing with the New Style of Print Buyer
By Terry Nagi Bidding is the last thing a print sales representative wants to do.
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: July 14, 2005
By Terry Nagi Bidding is the last thing a print sales representative wants to do. July 14, 2005 -- There are a number of specific reactions that the new print sales representative can take to build a long-term career of success with prospects and clients. These are based upon overcoming the buyer characteristics noted yesterday which especially impact those new to print sales. Here are some specific techniques to pursue to overcome new buyer resistance to seeing a new sales representative. Get into their creative earlier. The initial activity of a new sales representative normally involves an intense effort just to see a new prospect or client. This effort normally revolves around the conversation such as "I'd really like to meet you (print buyer) and describe some of the features of our company!" With the new style of print buyer, this type of presentation will have less and less positive effect. After the initial meeting, the primary objective of most sales representative is to get an opportunity to bid. "Is there something coming up in your print needs in the near future that I can work on?" Most buyers realize this is merely an attempt to gain access to specifications and have an opportunity to bid. Bidding is the last thing a print sales representative wants to do. With the new style of print buyer normally relying upon price versus any other attribute to select a printer, bidding plays into their game. The successful new print sales representative realizes the best place to begin in developing a relationship with a new prospect or current client is by providing knowledgeable input (from themselves or from ideas generated from their sales manager or other internal employee) to enhance the creative development of any print project currently or soon to be under development. The earlier the print sales representative can get involved in the creative, the more likely they can add improvements that will be respected by the print buyer. The earlier the print sales representative can get involved in the creative, the more likely they can add improvements that will be respected by the print buyer. An important question for all new print sales representatives to ask new accounts and current customers is: "How can I make your print products more valuable and productive?" This is normally followed up by "who is developing the creative for this (these) print product(s), when will they start, and can I work with them to make sure you receive the greatest value for the dollars you invest?" This at least temporarily removes the sales representative from being just a "bidder". Even if this only works with one out of ten new prospects and current clients, it will significantly increase the opportunity for the sales representative to obtain more business from 10 percent of the client base. It also reduces the necessity of even having to bid the project. Most print projects are always behind schedule during the creative process. More and more buyers are finding their company wants to have the latest products, services, prices, etc., and therefore, creative is complete sometimes only hours before the project must be printed. Print sales representatives involved with the creative process will find many print buyers simply say, "just go ahead and print it and get me a price later". They simply can't wait for the bidding process and will often turn to the printer who has helped in the creative process. . Get into the buyer's head and see it from their perspective. Successful print sales representatives ask lots of questions. Listen 75 percent of the time; talk 25 percent. One of the best ways to gain respect from the new breed of print buyer is to find out what they're thinking and where they're going. Not necessarily about their print product purchases, but their career, ambitions, their position in the company, etc. In other words, get to know them. Key questions to ask during the course of several in-person visits could include: How long have you been with the company and where do you see your future with this company? What part does print buying take of your entire responsibilities? What do you like about print buying and what don't you like? How much time do you really have to devote to your print buying activities? What type of relationship do you seek with your print sales representative as well as their customer service representative back-up? How is the company changing? How is the company changing its use of print versus other forms of communication? How does this impact your responsibilities? How do you see your budget for printing changing in the future and how will this affect what you buy? What do you really want from the individual print pieces you purchase? What is your buying procedure? One of the best ways to gain respect from the new breed of print buyer is to find out what they're thinking and where they're going. Asking these questions in one interview would be impossible. Asking them over a period of time and databasing key responses will help the new print sales representative develop a style that fits individual print buyer needs. Study their business. Knowledge is power. Knowledge of the buyer has already been discussed. Now is the time to develop knowledge of the buyer's company business. The more the new print sales representative understands where he company is going, the more likely he or she can provide important advice on how to enhance the value and productivity of the company's printing. Important processes could include: Regularly visiting the customer's Internet site to see what's new. This could lead to recommendations on how print can advance the company's objectives for the future. Review all important printed and non-printed literature of the company. Ask for the literature from the print buyer and ask to be put on mailing lists for new literature. Surf the Internet for articles on the company, especially its future objectives. Tour the company's facilities. If a public company, obtain its annual report as well as visit www.sec.gov for monthly, quarterly, and annual reports required by the government of the company. Read trade magazine articles regarding the use of print in the company's main industry. Determine which associations the company or the print buyer is a member of, and visit their Web site for information on enhanced use of communications. This process, due to time limitations, most likely cannot be completed for all prospects and current customers. It can be completed for high value, potential high volume, prospects and all key clients. In new account prospecting, visiting the prospect's web site and obtaining company literature before even making a sales call is essential. This will be covered more later in this workbook. Constantly perform "needs" assessments . The Internet, e-commerce, and the rapid pace of change in marketing are significantly impacting all print customers. The pace is accelerating. It is important the new print sales representative never take any prospect or client for granted. Every in-person visit should have the sales representative asking a series of questions to better understand the current and future requirements of the client. Diagnose the larger problem. This extends "needs" assessment into not just asking about print production needs, but the entire communications process of the company. Questions include: How does the company communicate in all forms with its customers, share holders, stake holders, employees, and public? Where is this working effectively and where is it not? What new strategies are being developed to enhance communications effectiveness? Where does print fit into this entire process and how is that changing? What new directions or ventures will the company pursue in the future that will change how it uses communications? Again, where does print fit into this? How is the company's communication budget changing between print, Internet, radio, TV, etc.? Is the company going for an enhanced e-commerce effort with its customers, and with its suppliers? Understanding the larger challenge for the customer, understanding their business, seeing it from their perspective all help a new print sales representative to image themselves as a help-mate, versus just a bidder.