Cleaning Out the Sales Closet
A dozen Printing Impressions columns. Fifty-one Short Attention Span Sales Tips. Fifty-one blogs. That is the amount of content I generate on an annual basis. Add to that the occasional white paper, training course, and the various material generated for The Sales Vault, and it makes for a busy and hungry literary machine.
Scattered around my desk, you’ll find pieces of paper with phrases on them. Each one is an idea for a column, tip, or blog that came to me during a conversation or coaching call. Likewise on my cell phone and desktop. But not every random thought makes it to the big leagues. Like a spring cleaning, I recently cleared everything from my desk and found 10 ideas worthy of mention, but not robust enough for the usual outlets. Here they are:
- What to send a prospect — You are in pursuit of an account. Phone calls and emails have generated no response. While you could give up, the company is either an excellent fit for you or a Big Fish, and you choose instead to check in from time to time in order to stay top-of-mind and demonstrate your pleasant persistence.
The question is, what do you send? While there is no one answer (I believe it’s personal), I would follow the example of John and Priscilla Farquharson. Mom and dad used to read the paper with scissors in hand, cutting out articles and ads, and sending them to friends and family. At my dad’s funeral, I asked, “Who here has received something in the mail from him?” Every hand went up.
Show this future client you are interested by sharing a link to a Wall Street Journal article about their industry. Send a birthday card. You can even “cross the line” and share a favorite recipe (like I said, it’s personal). Here’s a good barometer: What would YOU want to receive?
- How to raise prices — If you have yet to notice the increased cost of absolutely everything, you really should get out more. Supermarkets can get away with passing on increased cost of goods without explanation or warning, but we can’t. There is no way to sugarcoat the price increase. You need to go right down Main Street and be direct.
However, the step that comes before that could help pave the road: Send a thank-you note. Try this: “We want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a customer. We greatly appreciate the work you have given us and trust you are pleased with the value provided in return.” If you have done something extraordinary, like a new design or rush order, point it out. In short, remind them just how amazing you are so that when the price increase comes, the impact of the bad news is offset by the feeling of goodwill you’ve created.
- Make your ideas proprietary — You bring a great new idea to a customer, one that either lowers the usage cost of a document or increases its value. The buyer shops your idea around, finds a better price, and places the order elsewhere.
You cannot be in sales and not experience this betrayal. Everyone believes, “My clients would never do that,” until they do. While you cannot avoid this unprofessional act, it would be wise of you to be upfront about the fact that you expect good ideas and better solutions to be rewarded and not shopped around. Try saying this: “Put the reorder out for bid, but keep my good ideas coming by placing the first order with me.”
- Expect and manage greatness — In a study, teachers were told certain children in their class were “intellectual bloomers” (in other words, gifted). Years later, when these kids were tested against their peers, they consistently and significantly tested higher. Researchers believed teachers’ higher expectations resulted in more and better attention.
Bringing this so-called Pygmalion effect to our world: if a sales manager believes his or her reps to be bound for greatness, they will be. Hey, sales managers: Believe!
- Think ahead — As you read this column, think, “Where do I want to be the day after Labor Day, and what do I need to do in order to get there?” Imagine every aspect of your sales job in great detail when you wake up on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. Picture your success. How many new accounts will you have secured during the summer? Next, come up with a plan to fulfill this prophecy. You can do the same for Dec. 31, 2021.
- Stick to the basics — The fundamentals of sales never change. They are impervious to inflation and recession. Even a pandemic. If you solve a customer’s problem, you will earn the order. If you make a high-value sales call to the right target market, applying a prospecting process with diligence, you will succeed 100% of the time.
- Alter your mindset — “In a nutshell, what do you do?” That’s the question I asked a young sales rep named Sean Fitzgerald many years ago. Sean was, as I recall, a former press operator who got into sales and started working with me soon thereafter. Sean and I have not spoken in a while, but I bet if you called him up and asked him what he’s been doing with himself all these years his answer would not be, “Selling print.”
Instead, he would tell you now what he told me then: “I help my customers find their customers.” If you see yourself as a print salesperson, you will constantly find yourself in a price-based conversation. If you apply Sean’s brilliant approach, you will find yourself in a much higher level conversation, with a much higher level decision-maker.
- Don’t read books on sales — Looking for a good read? Skip the, “Sales for Dummies” collection and headed instead to the self-improvement aisle. You will get more out of “The Four Agreements,” “The Five Love Languages,” “The Five Elements of Effective Thinking” and, of course, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” than you ever will from the latest regurgitation of Sales 101. Note: See my recommended reading list on BillFarquharson.com
- Apply those lessons — The fourth of “The Four Agreements” is this: Always do your best. Whenever you are struggling, refer to this statement: So long as you are doing your best, you can never be a failure. Even if you fail.
- Are you having fun yet? — A quote from a movie appears at the bottom of my email signature. When I first heard Tom Hanks utter the line to Geena Davis, it gave me goosebumps. I will leave you with his words. Yes, these are hard times. Yes, it is hard to get someone on the phone. Yes, it is hard to sell and perhaps harder than ever, but, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.