Sat, Jun

Rules of engagement

Do some serious flirting with your customers and make them feel special to build a long-term relationship based on more than money. Consultant Matthew Parker explains the detail in these top tips.

Price, price, price! The majority of print companies that I talk to believe this is a buyer’s only focus; that they play printers off against each other to see how low they can push the price. But many print companies actually encourage the buyer to choose on price because they send out very similar sales messages and provide very few points of difference. And few printers properly engage with prospects and their business problems. So the choice of supplier naturally comes down to price.



But there are simple ways to dramatically improve the response from your company’s sales pitches and here I outline strategies that have encouraged me to talk to print companies when they approach me as a print buyer. Use them and you will create better relationships with your prospects because they will see you as more than a commodity supplier.

On the other hand, ignore these strategies and your company will find it much harder work to achieve its sales targets. It will still be viewed as a commodity supplier and it will still be all about price.

Avoid using the words price, service and quality

Nearly all the sales pitches that I have received from print companies have contained these words. They no longer make a supplier stand out to a prospect. They no longer mean anything special. Buyers simply expect good price, service and quality from all printers as a given. Talking about price, service and quality makes for a bland, generic sales message. 

Focus on the specific prospect

It’s not all about you. I have lost count of the number of times I have received a sales pitch that didn’t focus on me. The print sales person had done hardly any research on me or my business. Instead I received a generic ‘one size fits all’ type sales message. As a result I didn’t feel that the printer was really interested in working with me - but  just wanted more volume to put through their machines. So why should I work with them?

Even printers who understood my business often failed to engage with me specifically. Here’s what they should do...

Talk about pain relief

Most printers who showed me that they were interested in me and my business then went on to try and sell me print products. Or they went on to tell me all about their company. Again I started to lose interest - because they were not focussing on what motivates me to buy print or on what my requirements might be.

The reason that I decide to place print work is because I see a compelling need. There has to be a driver to make that order. That driver is usually caused by a business pain.  Printers who talk to their prospects about pain are far more likely to get an order because they have proved they understand their business needs. To achieve this they need to focus on more than print.

Don’t focus on print

To engage a buyer - unless they are only interested in commodities - you need to show them other services. Many buyers are looking for solutions to their challenges rather than ink on paper. However, you also need to show prospects that your services and solutions work.  That’s why you need the next strategy...

Use case studies

Case studies are a very effective way to demonstrate a number of things to your prospects.  You demonstrate: that you understand their market; that your solution works; that they can expect a return on their investment; that you are selling a business solution, not a commodity.

It’s difficult to argue with the hard numbers that a well-presented case study provides so delivering good ones can make your sales pitch much easier. What’s more, very few companies currently use them, so do so and you immediately stand apart from the competition. 

Highlight your differences

You can do a great job of selling a print solution, but that doesn’t mean I should choose your company to provide that solution. If I am to do so I need to understand why I should. I need to understand why your company will do a better job than others.

It is vital therefore that you think about what you do or offer that is unique to you and valuable to me. If I don’t understand what you company can deliver me over the others then I’m back to choosing on price. 

Don’t ask the money question

If you talk to me about spend you are immediately making the conversation all about price.  And I’m assuming that you want to wow me with your low, low pricing. So, if you pass my other tests, I’ll give you a job to quote on. And I’ll judge you by the price you offer.

But make the prospect ask for a quote and psychologically the prospect is making a step towards dealing with your company. They have demonstrated to themselves that they are interested in your company enough to find out about your pricing. And you are demonstrating that you are not desperate for work at any price.

However, some print companies think that this is the only strategy that works, that buyers aren’t interested in forming relationships with print companies because they are only interested in price. Well, price is always an important part of a buying decision.  But if a prospect is only interested in price then a print company has not done a good enough job of engaging with them. It has focussed on commodity print and not selling on value.

If you have carried out the seven strategies outlined here, it is unlikely that you will be having a commodity discussion with your prospect. However, that doesn’t mean that it will all be plain sailing. One issue that sales people often come across is that they are selling at the wrong time. The buyer may be interested, but they are not ready to buy yet. So it is important to remember one last thing…

Stay in touch

I am always surprised at how few sales people follow up on their initial contact. I have often told sales people the correct time to contact me, but never hear from them again!

I always agree a follow-up date with a prospect and make sure that it is in my diary. There are some other things you should be doing too to better engage clients.

- Work out the ideal type of prospect that you want to focus on

- Review your current sales message (particularly for the words price, service and quality)

- Create a case study with one of your existing clients

And remember that it’s not all about price, price, price. Do so and you’ll have a very different style of conversation with your prospects.


Matthew Parker runs www.profitableprintrelationships.com. He trains the sales and customer service staff of many of the UK’s leading printers and speaks at many print industry events.

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