Are You Leaving Money on the Table? Make the Most of Your Selling Process With These 5 Tips
You’ve established a rapport with a prospective client. The pitch meeting goes well. They’ve agreed you’ll take care of their new mailer, and you’ve got another sales success in the books. By all accounts, this is a major win for your business, but what if you could expand on it further?
When you’re in the business of selling, it can be easy to fall prey to tunnel vision when there are other opportunities right in front of you. While we’re not recommending you reenact Ben Affleck’s infamous “retainer” scene from “Good Will Hunting,” there are ways to ensure you’re expanding your horizons, so that you’re never leaving money on the table. To help navigate this shift in approach, we spoke to Tony Zayas, director of sales and marketing for Proforma, Cleveland; and Maggie Mason, marketing and sales director for City Paper Company, Birmingham, Ala.
1. Ask The Right Questions
Both of our experts emphasized the importance of asking the right questions during the selling process. That way, you can open a dialogue and hone in on your clients’ other needs. Mason provided a few ideas.
“[The] first question would be to ask your clients if they would share their marketing calendar with you,” she advised. “The more you can study their yearly marketing initiatives, the more proactive you’re able to be. The second question you should ask is what the biggest pain point in [their] current buying habits [is]. If you are able to identify what makes your client’s job harder, you’ll know exactly how to make it easier. “The final, most important, question to ask is what has gone well in the past that they would like to see repeated in the future,” she continued. “The more questions you ask your clients about their yearly marketing initiatives and goals, the broader your conversations will be and the better return on investment your customers will receive on marketing campaigns.”
From there, you’ll be able to design a campaign around your clients’ biggest pain points, and chances are, it’s more than just one product or service.
2. Avoid These Major Mistakes
During the selling process, there are patterns distributors can fall into that can doom their pitch from the start. Mason pointed to self-doubt as an example.
“Rejection in sales can be daunting and seem never-ending, and it becomes easy for sales reps to think it’s something they’re doing,” she said. “[It] can stop them from putting themselves in challenging positions. Growth happens in the uncomfortable zone, and the truth is if you’re able to make yourself just a little more vulnerable, the bigger and better that new client signing deal will be.”
Mason also stressed that distributors should know their strengths, and avoid playing up their weaknesses. In other words, do not over-promise and under-deliver. If a client requests something that is not in your wheelhouse, admit to it, rather than spreading yourself too thin.
According to Zayas, the biggest mistake distributors can make is simplifying their whole story to one phone call or email.
“If you leave something intriguing to the imagination, the follow-up call or meeting becomes much easier and leaves your prospect wanting to learn more,” he said. “This mistake is certainly not limited to our industry—it’s an epidemic in the sales world. The good news is that once you figure it out, you instantly put a lot of space between yourself and your competition.”
Zayas revealed that another potential pitfall is when distributors promote products or price over their problem-solving skills during the sales pitch.
“The focus of your positioning needs to be on your client’s experience and outcome of working with you, which is much more valuable than just low cost or the product you provide,” he said. “This flawed positioning commoditizes your offering.”
3. Make The Right Elevator Pitch
Even though you’ve made your intentions clear, your work isn’t done. You have to back up your words, while continuing to keep yourself open to your clients’ varying needs. Zayas had some suggestions.
“The elements necessary to establish this positioning include having an elevator pitch that focuses on the big picture of the relationship between you and your client,” he said. “‘You know how every marketing project has a bunch of moving pieces and parts, with a strict deadline for everything to come together?’ And then you explain how you orchestrate the process, simplifying it and reducing the stress in your client’s life.”
If you’ve already boxed yourself in with an established client, Zayas revealed a tactic for that as well. “A very practical and effective way to break out of this is by doing a ‘lunch ’n learn’ with your client,” he shared. “Many of our Proforma owners have done this with great success, showcasing to their clients all they can offer. And, like clockwork, we always hear people say, ‘I didn’t know you did this!’”
4. Go Beyond Print
Along with staying open and avoiding the dreaded pigeonhole problem, our interviewees suggested moving beyond print.
“You are selling yourself short if you aren’t expanding projects beyond print,” said Mason. “The greatest avenue our industry brings is additional channels for upselling. If your customer is ordering print for an event, have you asked if trade show displays would be beneficial? It doesn’t hurt to ask more questions about what the demographics surrounding an event will be in the hopes of exploring more avenues to sell promotional products.”
Zayas agreed that if promotional and apparel offerings are outside of your comfort zone, it is time to grow.
“Think of it this way, if your competitor walks in, there’s a great chance that they’re offering print and promo,” he said. “It’s not the commodity of the printed or promotional products that are offering the value to today’s buyer—they can go anywhere to get the products—it’s the ease of use, the simplicity of a single source provider, the confidence they can have in working with a professional and the guidance you give them along the way.
“And those projects will bleed into packaging, warehousing and fulfillment, digital media, online stores, etc.,” he continued. “Those are all realms that distributors should be playing in if they truly want to maximize their sales potential and stay competitive.”
5. Follow Up Properly
Now that you’ve created a foundation with a client, and they know you’re a problem-solving powerhouse, there’s another important component you cannot forget: following up. But, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Zayas provided his breakdown.
“Ask for guidance from your prospects on the best way to follow up,” he shared. “Find out if they prefer a text message, an email or something else, and set the expectation that they’ll be hearing from you. Find out what interests them in what you offer, so you can provide them with value when you do follow up. And find out if there are milestones they’re looking to reach before being ready to talk.”
He also said distributors should end each conversation with a “clearly defined next step,” as well as a summary of the exchange to show you understand their needs and time lines.
Finally, he mentioned that distributors should always have a reason for the follow-up that extends beyond “checking in” or “touching base.”
“You have to research and stay up-to-date on your prospect and their company,” he asserted. “Social media is great for this practice of ‘social listening.’ It will allow you to be relevant when you do follow up.”
For Mason, the most important step to closing new deals comes down to character.
“You don’t have to show your customer you have the lowest price or the latest and greatest gadget if you’re displaying trustworthy consistency,” she concluded.