The Little Red Book of Selling By Barbara Pellow May 2, 2006 -- Once upon a time selling printing was pretty simple. A sales rep competed primarily with other sales reps in his or her area. The application set included brochures, postcards, direct mail, annual reports, and technical and service documentation. Some printing establishments offered high-end specialized work, while others were commodity driven. Some printers were more expensive and others were lower priced. Some customers were indifferent on turnaround time and for others it was essential to securing the work. The key contact in the client company was the print buyer. The clock has struck twelve and the world of selling printing has changed dramatically. For better or worse, the clock has struck twelve and the world of selling printing has changed dramatically. Today's customers are looking for a whole new range of services, including variable data, content management, very short turnaround, Internet-driven applications and single sourcing. If the print rep has digital printing in his "tool bag," it requires a different sales contact--the appropriate individual in the creative agency or corporation that will understand the value proposition. This is typically not the person whose title is print buyer. Jeffrey Gitomer's best selling book, The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness, is probably the best tool I have seen for anyone that is interested in transitioning their selling approach from commodity-driven to value-added. Sales success depends on how deeply you believe in your product, your company and yourself. Gitomer's book starts with an explanation of why it is "red." Red is the color of passion, focus, enthusiasm and fire. If you do not love what you do and do not have passion and drive to be successful, you can't win. Your competition will. Sales success depends on how deeply you believe in your product, your company and yourself. As I reflected on the individuals that I talked with over the past week, I realized I had interfaced with a number of people in the "red" zone. Craig Black, partner at Toronto-based 247 Integrated, is starting a new business as a graphic communications services provider. As he described his new business venture, it was clear that he was" on fire." Frank McPherson, president and founder of Toronto-based Custom Data Imaging Corp. (CDIC), asked me to participate in a customer seminar on variable data printing for agencies and marketers in the Toronto area. As he presented to a large group of customers and prospects, it was clear that he had mastered passion and the concept of driving "results" for his customers through variable data printing. And I also spoke with Great Lakes Integrated Executive Vice President of Sales, Radivoj Kostika. His love for what he does is apparent. These companies are great examples of graphic communications service providers that feel passion for their business and that hire sales people that have that same love for making a difference--helping customers communicate better, delivering improved ROI, reducing cost. They know that in today's competitive environment, the commodity order taker won't succeed. The passionate problem solver will be the winner. In today's competitive environment, the commodity order taker won't succeed. The passionate problem solver will be the winner. Once that passionate sales person is in place, Gitomer provides the following 12.5 principles for his or her success. 1. Focus on self motivation, a quest to better yourself through applied learning, and –most importantly – no whining. Hold yourself accountable. The key comment Gitomore makes is, "No one will do it for you. No one really wants to help you. Very few want to inspire you. And people care about themselves. Just like you do." He also points out that salespeople (not you, of course!) tend to whine. 2. Follow the Boy Scout model: be prepared. If you aren't prepared to win, you will lose to someone who is. Don't wing it; do your homework and anticipate the client's needs. He goes on to say, "The workday starts the night before." With so much information available about customers and prospects on the Internet, there is no excuse for not adequately understanding the client's business, current issues and the industry trends they encounter. This information can be directly linked to how your services can help prospects achieve their objectives. 3. Personal branding is sales. It's not who you know; it's who knows you. According to Gitomer, "In sales, prospects buy the salesperson first." Take the time to establish yourself in the local market and be seen as an expert. Customers don't want your products and services. They want more sales, greater productivity, more profit, better image, more customers, and no hassles. 4. It's all about value; it's all about relationship and it's not about price. Gitomer states, "Value is something done for the customer. Establish value first." Customers in today's market don't want your products and services. What they want are more sales, greater productivity, more profit, better image, more customers, and no hassles. When there is no value, the only basis for competing is price. Gitomer uses an example of a car dealer and his version of a recommended advertisement. Suppose a car dealer placed an ad that said, "Our prices are guaranteed to be $100 more than anybody else's price, but our service is guaranteed to be 100% better than anybody else's service." Underneath the ad are pictures of five customers telling you in one form or another why they paid the extra $100 and that the service is phenomenal. In this instance, it's pretty clear who would get the business. 5. Networking is critical Get involved. Civic and trade associations offer tremendous opportunities to meet people. Networking eliminates cold calling. Gitomer says, "I consider cold calling a waste of time. Consider an annual convention or trade show. There could be 100 exhibitors with decision makers milling about." And when you get there, spend 75 percent of your time with people you don't know. When was the last time that one of your sales people attended a local chapter meeting of the American Marketing Association, Direct Marketing Association or Ad Council? There are tremendous networking opportunities in local markets. Leverage them. 6. You need to understand who the decision maker is and get the appointment. You need to sell the appointment by providing value. In some instances, the best approach is leveraging a reference account that you've done great work for. Savvy digital printers are building dynamic direct mail pieces as attention getters to demonstrate the value of what they can do for the marketing executive and to help secure the appointment. 7. Engage the prospect and ask smart questions. Stay away from "tell me about your company" or similar inane questions. Know the client's business before you get there and ask relevant questions. According to Gitomer, "Good questions get to the heart of the problem/need/ situation without the buyer feeling like he or she is being pushed." Ask smart questions, not inane ones like "tell me about your company." 8. If you can make them laugh, you can make them buy. Laughter puts people at ease. Gitomer said, "You cannot deny the power of laughter as a universal bond from human to human and from human to sales order form." 9. Use creativity to differentiate yourself. If your customer perceives all products to be the same, the only way to change that perception is the sales person's ability to create a different one. You'll need to risk failure and be willing to try different approaches if you're creative. As Gitomer says, "Fail to get a hit in baseball two out of three times for 20 years and you'll go to the hall of fame with a .333 batting average." 10. Reduce risk and you'll convert selling into buying. Identify whatever barrier a client may have and eliminate it. I have watched a number of successful graphic communications service providers overcome fears expressed by marketers relative to innovative variable data campaigns by getting them to do "test" campaigns, ultimately converting those tests to long-term contractual sales. These individuals found a way to replace "risk" with "risk removal." 11. Get good testimonials to neutralize fear. Find clients that will talk about how your value added services improved response rates, increased return on marketing investment, reduced inventory and obsolescence, and reduced overall costs. An existing satisfied customer is the most powerful member of your sales team. 12. Use your inner positive senses to block out negative senses. If your negative senses like fear and self doubt dominate your presentation, the prospect will lose confidence in you. 12.5 Resign your position as general manager of the universe. Gitomer says, "The less time you spend in other people's business, other people's problems, and other people's drama, the more time you have for your own success." The principles Gitomer articulates are more than fluff in print. They make sound business sense and are worth incorporating into the sales game for your organization. Implementing these principles starts with a leader that has passion and a team of sales people that are in the "red" zone. While change is a good thing, it is not always easy to implement. Change requires consistent hard work and a willingness to abandon one's routine. Although I have worked in sales and marketing for almost 30 years, as I finished up Gitomer's book I had a renewed sense of energy. I thought about the five or six things that I wanted to change in my business, and I realized that the "red" zone is where you have the most fun in life. Invest in this little book. It will be well worth your time!