Original Sins of Order-Taking
Since the Beginning, two types of salespeople have roamed the earth—those who take orders and those who make them. The serpent that sold Adam the apple was not a commodities trader, nor was Ezekiel with his wheel, Noah with the Ark or Jacob with his ladder. These characters were professionals in conveying unique propositions and closing the deal. Why then, countless generations later, do so many schlep instead of sell? Most everything, including apples, wheels, arks and ladders, are priced down-to-earth cheap instead of to-heavenly-heights value.
Print, in this common era of insidious reverse auctions and at-the-margin price propositioning on the Web, is in danger of falling from grace. This is not a commodity business, and should never, ever be handled directly or indirectly by order takers. To play quote-to-close numbers games with our sacred, custom-made medium is sinful self-deprecation, and ultimately carries the seeds of self-destruction. Conversion of our ways back to making sales over taking orders, can bring divine congregations of high-value relationships based solidly on predictive, quantifiable and verifiable results.
Let’s begin with the revelation that no one buys printing per se. Everyone, instead, directs their faith (and their orders) toward defined informational or transactional redemptions: Positive learning, increased product movement, destination traffic-building, etc. Salvation, therefore, requires adherence to the following “Thou shall’s:”
• Not worship false gods—Idolatry to presses, factory buildings and other machinery is a pagan distraction. “See our new 10-color sheet-fed with a coater!” exclaimed an advertisement in a magazine. No wise man would follow this star because no one cares about equipment or, worse, equipment lists. Obtain real-name testimonials, case histories and other relevant customer-focused, inspirational content into article placements, brochures, ads and websites.
• Not covet quotes—A basic commandment in selling is to use closed probes (those that require a “yes” or “no” answer) ONLY after a series of open probes qualifies the disposition of the prospect. The sales task is to convert the non-believer from an attitude of rejection, indifference or avoidance to one of acceptance, whereupon the cleverly phrased closed probes elicit acceptance through forced “yes” answers. The impartation here is that people don’t want a quote before they have qualified you, so don’t ask to do one. Worse, get those quotation icons off the website. Replace them with funny, engaging—but brief—qualification surveys that offer rewards.
• Not bear false witness or take names in vain—Bad-mouthing the competition is unethical and also counterintuitive. Offer, instead, side-by-side qualitative and quantitative comparisons of features-to-benefits, even if some appear to favor one or more adversaries. Speed of response, depth of experience and assurance of 100 percent satisfaction are among the many differentiations one may position to prospects. Use worthy competitors to your advantage.
• Not Steal—“We can beat everyone else’s price.” Buying work through concession pricing not only steals business from others but, more importantly, denies profitability for your own company. Walk away when a sale turns into an impending slaughter.
Vincent Mallardi, CMC, is the founder and former chairman of the PB/BA International (pbba.org), a global membership network of print intermediaries and their trade-only and specialty suppliers. He is also an adjunct professor in economics and a consummate, lifelong printing salesman.
Vincent Mallardi, C.M.C., is a the chairman of the Printing Brokerage/Buyers Association International (PBBA) and is a Certified Management Consultant in the paper, printing and converting industries. He is also an adjunct professor in economics. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org