Two Steps Forward
To put it simply, last year was rough for a lot of businesses in the printing industry. Operations halted, doors closed and layoffs were enforced. However, there were survivors. And a lucky few managed to break even, while some even made a buck or two.
Despite the topsy-turvy moments of 2009, the new year brings a glimmer of hope for companies. Troubles aren't over yet, but with some positive thinking and perseverance, the strong will survive.
To get our readers motivated, Print Professional turned to some heavy hitters in the industry for advice. Here is a collection of valuable sales tips to help distributors reclaim what was lost.
"Print brokers are losing more and more business to online print retailers. We have identified this problem and its huge downward effect on the performance of print shops and print resellers.
For the past two years we have put all of our programming efforts in creating an online order capture and distribution program called RED TAG. We believe Red Tag will change the print industry by channeling more business than ever to our loyal print brokers and distributors nationwide. The Red Tag program will provide our customers with endless benefits including referrals for new regional print buyers and the opportunity to make additional profits.
We saw most of our customers suffer in 2009, so we are putting measures in place to make 2010 a better year. Our focus in 2010 will be on marketing for our customers and generating more business opportunities for them because their success is our success."
Zarik Megerdichian, CEO
"Evaluate your customer base to determine their strengths and weaknesses and their growth potential for 2010. Look for markets that have come out of 2009 with strength."
Dale Jacoby, vice president/general manager
Badger Tag & Label Corp.
Random Lake, Wis.
"All salespeople, particularly in B2B, need to recognize the substantive changes that have occurred in the mindset of the buying community. With unlimited access to information, and unlimited choices at their fingertips, buyers no longer need to rely on sellers for information the way they used to.
Salespeople need to continue practicing the 'basics' of good selling, but they need to incorporate activities like direct mail and e-mail broadcasting to help increase the possibility that these newly empowered buyers will find them when a need arises outside their current vendor base's capabilities."
Bill Doehler, executive vice president, business development
Prodigital Printing, A Consortium Company, Edison, N.J.
"In 2010 a 'back to the basics' sales approach is the best way to weather these challenging economic times.
• Steal with your eyes. This can help engage your buyer in conversation. Be observant and look at the pictures or awards the person has in their office. It can help start up conversation. Its basic human nature that people [enjoy] doing business with people they like.
• Engage your CSR's. Listen and engage your company's customer service representatives to help identify opportunities. Many times the customer interacts with customer service reps more often than they do with the sales rep. Often customers will convey valuable information to CSR's. Make sure you have a process to help gather and act on this information."
Bill Reid, director of marketing— document & envelope brands
Custom Resale Group of Companies (consisting of Printegra, PrintXcel, Wisco Envelope, National Imprint Corporation, Discount Labels, Lancer Label, DealerLabel and Synergy Label), Peachtree City, Ga.
"This year is the best year to expand your sales 'organically;' expand your share of the spend with your top tier of accounts. This may be as easy as seeing other print buyers inside the company or using your good relationship to get you referred to another division or location. An example is any hospital; here, you have print buyers in marketing, communications, operations/purchasing and often in development (foundations or fundraising). We all know it is so much easier to grow existing relationships than to build new ones.
Now more than ever the distributor can bring huge value to the buyer who is new or not well-versed in the process of print. More and more of these buyers assume every printer has the same capabilities.
Of course new business is always important. Today, I believe more folks are open to talking to new suppliers. This is often true when they are working with local printers who have raised prices, added fuel surcharges and are 'nickel & diming' them. All too often many commercial printers get caught 'speeding' with inconsistent prices or invoices that do not match the bids. A sharp distributor can bring consistent programs and remove the pain of buying print."
Gene Toepfer, director of sales
Foster Printing Service
Michigan City, Ind.
"Printing professionals who embrace the additional profit center of promotional products will see new doors opened to them for both specialties and printing. They will also sell deeper into their existing accounts. Most printing is 'transactional' meaning that a unit of printing (a form, envelope, etc.) is used on each transaction. With sales (transactions) lagging, the consumption of printing is also way behind recent strong years. Promotional products are not transactional. They are used to promote and encourage more transactions. So the value of orders can actually be as strong in a soft economy as in a robust one. Kaeser & Blair has helped many printing professionals add promotional products to their sales tool box without any investment or risk."
Gregg A. Emmer, vice president, chief marketing officer
Kaeser & Blair
"Start this new year off with a positive attitude incorporated with some energetic prospecting. Get out and make as many "old fashion cold calls" as you can each month. Do not quit selling or give up. Even the smallest order will make you feel better each month. Be yourself while you are out selling; do not be artificial. Take each day as it comes and believe in yourself. This is the key to being successful in this business."
Danielle J. Kay-Kuhns, customer service manager/sales & marketing
Kay Toledo Tag
"2009 was a huge challenge for all industries with printing being no exception. Those who will be most successful in 2010 will have made positive changes in their selling efforts in '09 that will set the stage for greater success. Above all, distributors and manufacturers need to remain confident in themselves to present the right image and strength to both existing and potential new clients. Staying close to your customers and 'going beyond the expected' will earn new business opportunities. Understanding what customers really need and exceeding those expectations on a consistent basis will set the tone for success. Bring value in what you do everyday and have fun doing it."
Mike Durbiano, vice president sales & marketing
"Customers have new demands. Find out what they are, what the market forces are that drive sales for them ... and then provide them with a solution.
1. Sell proven sellers.
2. Use your vendor's expertise and find out who among them is promoting new products for you to sell.
3. Market to your current customers.
Jim Magdaleno, product manager
TFP Data Systems, Oxnard, Calif.
"It isn't enough anymore to just know your products. Customers expect it since product information is just a few clicks away. It isn't enough to know your customers and to listen to them when they speak, either. It's knowing the value of outstanding customer service. That's the key differentiator today."
Doug Apple, director, general manager
Wilmer, Dayton, Ohio
"Stay active with solutions selling via e-commerce. Distributors who are capable of showing value by reducing transactional costs associated with forms procurement will be in a position to gain market share in 2010. Order platforms such as EnnisOnline & MicrLink reduce the number of touches required to place orders."
Steve Clarke, midwest area sales manager
"Manufacturers, distributors and end-users must align themselves with supply chain partners that are financially secure. As our industry continues to consolidate and evolve, quality partners and customers are vanishing. Don't jeopardize your entire business or your accounts by collaborating with weak partners who won't be here when you need them. Work with and sell to those you trust."
Steven Osterloh, director of marketing
"Preparation is most important on a first sales call. Do the research necessary to understand the customer's business and what areas of concern they might be facing. Have a prepared list of specific questions related to those concerns. Take notes while listening to the customer's answers. The goal of that first call should be to get a second appointment. Build credibility by taking the time to tailor your solutions to the customer's specific needs. Talking about specific products at this early stage can be counter-productive to winning trust and building a long-term relationship."
Steve Brocker, vice president sales and marketing
Western States Envelope & Label