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Selling Print is Never Going Back to Normal

Sales is never going back to normal. The pandemic didn’t create anything new—it simply accelerated what was already happening. Evolve your sales team now; donuts and face to face meetings aren’t coming back.

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About Jennifer Matt

Jennifer Matt is the managing editor of WhatTheyThink’s Print Software section as well as President of Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions.

Discussion

By Robert Godwin on Oct 21, 2020

Jen,
While I do feel that Face-to-Face (F2F) is not going to go away, it will be more focused on the types of sales discussions that require more than a 6o-minute time-set web-based meeting. Complex sales will require a level of participation where the rules of engagement are laid out and Q&A takes place, brainstorming if you will, to build the relationship. For large company relationships too much is on the line for career corporate players to let it be an avatar that consumes the multi-million-dollar budget. While retail is a state of significant change, going to the store is not dead, or even on life support. Nobody is picking my red peppers and peaches for me. That is my job. So it is with major accounts. Doughnuts? Yeah, the transactional $5K-$25K print jobs probably can be done online without much of an issue. And so Doughnuts, Bagels and Gallon jugs of Starbucks may no longer 'grease the skids' of a sale in those ranges. Focused communication is the driver, the level of the work being produced will determine if F2F is necessary to best serve the desired results.
Buggy whips gave way to gas pedal and the gas pedal gave way to the INSANE button in a Tesla. Things change, but none of the aforementioned items really go away, they find their place, in line with the market demand.

 

By Robert Lindgren on Oct 21, 2020

Robert Godwin's discussion is right on point. Printers are customer manufacturers who provide value by addressing customer problems and providing solutions. It's doubtful that this process can be effective unless, at least initially, personal contact where learning and interaction can occur. Once this has been accomplished, much can be done through an interactive website focused on the individual customer's needs. The website should be able to respond to requests for pricing which are specific to information about the relationship with the customer as well as order entry.

 

By Wayne Lynn on Oct 21, 2020

Come on guys! For years now savvy buyers could get 70% of the buying process completed without needing a sales rep. How important are relationships really? Let's not let the limitations of our imaginations be the reason we hang onto old mindsets. The level of the work being done will not determine the need for face-to-face encounters. The technology available already is good enough for those more complex meetings if you are willing to learn to use it and the technology will get much better going forward. Jen's point is that things have changed rapidly since the beginning of Covid-19 and we're not going back. The economics are too compelling. Quit looking for reasons to deny that!

 

By Jennifer Matt on Oct 21, 2020

It's always the same argument; yes change is happening; but not completely b/c of "X" conditions. I find it funny to think about the fact that Google, Twitter, and Apple are all working 100% remote right now (and possibly as a new norm) - you think there aren't some complex things getting done virtually inside those companies/including complex sales?

I've been in sales for a long time too; I'm no millennial. I do believe that people make sales decisions on emotions vs. data but the virtual medium is going to have to deliver on that emotion b/c the economics just aren't going to support the inefficiency of face-to-face sales interactions moving forward.

Imagine competing against a printer who has become experts at the medium (online meetings, video conferencing, demonstrations, collaboration). The optimization of this medium gives you a lot of options when it comes to team selling. You can use the experts inside your organization in the sales process like you've never done before. I always thought it was incredibly frustrating for the prospect to ask sales people questions and then wait for the rely between them and the experts back at the plant. The virtual sales process could make the buying experience much more pleasant for the customer b/c they could get a chance to engage with the experts doing the work vs. just the sales person. There are all kinds of other advantages of the virtual sale that companies are already optimizing for.

When we only half believe in the change that is already underway; we hedge, we stall, we don't get proactive about it. I want printers to move now. I don't want print businesses to "wait and see" or hope that their specific market segment won't change. Sitting still might feel "safe" when it fact it might be the riskiest move of all.

Again - COVID-19 didn't start any of these trends, it has just been the jet fuel to accelerate them.

 

By Dave Hultin on Oct 23, 2020

Change is scary. Staying the same is scarier.

 

By Robert Lindgren on Oct 23, 2020

Jennifer says: "Imagine competing against a printer who has become experts at the medium (online meetings, video conferencing, demonstrations, collaboration). The optimization of this medium gives you a lot of options when it comes to team selling."

Isn't this simply an expanded version of a one-to-one sales call? Doesn't the customer have to get to the point where are willing to participate in this kind of process? Also, doesn't it imply a world where the printer has a team who productively engage in this sort of interchange and a buyer who has the time and expertise to learn from it?

 

By Robert Godwin on Oct 24, 2020

Jen, Much of what you describe in regard to sales skills speaks to the culture of the company. If the shop has customers that communicate through online interactions then the shop has the skills you are discussing.
If they don't have that customer base, then the skills are less relevant. Face-to-Face will continue where it is needed to gain the customer (as opposed to getting the order). This is essential for the small printer servicing the local community. Unless they are expanding their reach into more connected (re:online) customers, the shop won't need Zoom to be relevant. Transactional sales is not going away, and is not mandated to use online conferencing to succeed.
That stated, to grow, it is likely these shops will need to restructure their sales force or accept static growth, if any at all.

 

Discussion

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