30 Tips To Supercharge Your Print Sales

Sales trainer Peter Ebner provides some crisp advice to sales executives

Peter Ebner ,

We have heard the expression that he or she is a born salesperson. It is often used to describe a person who has the natural ability to land jobs. Sometimes these born sales people always seem to be at the right place at the right time. They seem to have a knack of getting into large accounts. They continually land the job even when theirs is the highest quote and although they are high income earners, they seem to work less than the rest of us.

Over the past twenty two years I have had the pleasure of working with thousands of North America’s top income earners. And the fact is that I have not met even one who attributed his or her success to natural abilities because these will not land you the job when your quote is 20 percent higher than your competitor’s. No one will get you the order when your prospect says ‘Let me think about you and I will get back to you,’ because success in print sales is strictly a matter of skill. In other words, there is no such thing as a born sales person. The only difference between a sales person who is earning 30,000 dollars a year and someone who is earning 130,000 dollars is that all successful sales people are using the proven and tested techniques that make closing the sale easy.

Time tested techniques that anyone can use if they take the time to learn them. But there is another reason that top sales people are so successful and that is because that they have no competition. That is not to say that aren’t lot of printers out there, on the contrary there are thousands and many are willing to offer less discounts to land the job. But there are very few professionals who know how to sell. Look at it this way. Imagine two people are delivering their arguments in court. One of them is a lawyer. Is there any question as to who will win 99 of the 100 cases?

Now imagine two sales people fighting over accounts in the same territory, but only one of them is a professional. He is using proven and tested techniques that make prospecting easy that get him past secretaries who would screen calls. He knows how to outsell the competition on every quote even when his’ is the highest price. He has learnt the powerful responses that easily overcome all objections and he has learnt how to close the sale and land the job without asking for the order. Is there any doubt as to who will capture most of the jobs in this territory? The trained professional will always come out ahead.

Well the fact is, there are more than a 1000 salespeople selling printing, less than 20 percent have taken the time to develop their selling skills. The rest are just winging at and writing quotes. In other words, you can reduce the competition by 80 percent and increase your earnings accordingly and all you need to do is to take the same selling techniques that have already made thousands of sales people rich and incorporate them into your presentation. So here are thirty proven and tested selling tips that will supercharge your print sales.

1- Make prospecting a habit

Not to undermine the importance of developing powerful selling skills that overcome objections and make closing easy but in the overall scheme of things, nothing is more important than prospecting. After all, if you don’t have an appointment, you can’t land a new client. Furthermore there is a direct co-relation between the calls that you make today and the income that you earn tomorrow. So you must make prospecting a habit. You must prospect every day.

2- Call on the boss 

When prospecting for new accounts, top income earners always start at the top of the corporate ladder and work their way down. Not only is upper management often easier to reach than the lower subordinate, but more importantly a note from a low level employee may block you from contacting the real decision maker. Remember, many have the authority to say no but few can say yes. So if you are not sure who the decision maker is go up the corporate ladder as high as you can. Ask for the boss.

3- Call on volume accounts

Your income is affected more by the size of your accounts than the number of accounts that you have. Just take a close look at your client base and you will see that 80 percent of your income is now being generated by just 20 percent of your clients. Yet 80 percent of your effort is most likely being spent on servicing low margin accounts. When you consider that it takes no more time, effort or skill to call on a volume account than it does to contact a marginal account, your prospecting time will be better spent pursuing high volume accounts. As a rule of thumb, only call an account that will spend 25,000 dollars a year or more on printing.

4- Never tell the receptionist what you are selling 

Imagine for a moment that you are calling on a new account. You reach the receptionist and here is what you say, “Good morning. It is Peter from Northern Graphics, how are you today?” how will she most likely react to your call? Chances are she will say “Thank you for calling. But we are not interested right now. We are happy with our printer.” Because the moment that you said ‘Graphics’ your chances of landing the account were over. When you consider that part of the receptionist’s job description often includes clear instructions to block sales people, it is crucial that your telephone presentation denies her this initial screening opportunity. So when prospecting for a new account, never tell the receptionist what you are selling. Instead if your company name includes give away words like ‘printing’, ‘copy’, ‘litho’, ‘advertising’, ‘graphics’, or even ‘communications’, drop these words or use an acronym. This small change will dramatically improve your chances of landing a qualified appointment.

5- Ask for five minutes of their time         

Managers have very busy schedules. And often the busiest are our best prospects. One of the main reasons that they are hesitant to see sales people is that they fear that they will be wasting their valuable time. They are concerned that by agreeing to an appointment, they may be committing themselves to listening to a lengthy presentation only to discover within the first few minutes that they are not interested. And they don’t want to be stuck for an hour without an easy escape route. So when asking for an appointment, always remove their fear by telling the prospect that you will take only five minutes of their time. Even though both you and the prospect know that this meeting will likely take longer. By making the statement, you have given the prospect permission to excuse himself, if he doesn’t find your presentation of value. Under this condition, he will be more willing to grant you an appointment.          

6- Pre-plan your telephone script

Telemarketing gives you an incredible advantage but only if you pre-plan your presentation. On one sheet of paper, write down your telephone presentation and on another sheet, write down the best responses to five of the most common objections. With these two papers in hand, you can sit back and relax because you are now prepared for anything that your prospect may say.

7- Don’t confirm your appointments

Unless your appointment is well out of the way, don’t phone to confirm. Confirming your appointment only gives your prospect an opportunity to cancel.

8- Don’t handout literature

Literature doesn’t sell. If it did, there will be no need for sales people. We simply mail a few thousand brochures and we will end up with all the business that you could handle. In fact, handing out literature could reduce your chances of landing the account. If your brochure is extremely informative, the prospect will believe that he has all the information he needs and he won’t need to talk to you. On the other hand, if your brochure is vague, he will feel that your services are of no value and again he wouldn’t want to talk to you. With few exceptions, the only time to hand out literature is after you have made a complete presentation.

9- Ask before you present

Different clients may want the same job for entirely different reasons. While one client may primarily be interested in reducing his cost per thousand, another client may well be focused on developing a strong corporate image. The fact is unless you ask probing questions, you have no way of knowing what your clients want and need. So always ask probing questions before making a presentation.

10- Tell your prospect what you can do for him     

All too often our presentation gets caught up in telling the prospects about the wonderful jobs that we have printed for other clients and about the state-of-the-art equipment that we have purchased, when in fact our clients are interested in one thing only – what you can do for them.

11- Don’t drown your prospect in samples

How would do you like to spend an hour with a client who shows you all the wonderful things that she has done over the past five years? You would probably lose interest very quickly. Well you can be sure that your prospects feels exactly the same way when you start showing and telling them about your portfolio. The only samples that your prospects want to see are those that are directly related to their job.

12- Always make a complete presentation 

Are you losing jobs to lower prices? Are you losing sales to prospects that say “I am happy with my supplier.” Are you finding closing difficult? Are you finding that clients often procrastinate? Are you hearing the same objections from different clients? If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, chances are that you are not making a complete presentation. In fact, the number one reason for lost sales is a lack of presentation.

13- Never mention price until you are ready to close

In today’s marketplace, would you consider 100,000 dollars a reasonable price for a house?  Would you consider 10,000 dollars a fair price for a car? The fact is that you cannot answer these questions until you know exactly what you are getting. Is the house in Timmins or in Torado – is it 900sq.ft or 5000? ; is the car a seven year old Lada or a brand new Cadillac? Well, the same holds true for your clients unless they know exactly what they are getting for their investment, the price will always be too high.

14- Show your prospects that you know more about the job than they do

If the only reason that the prospect needs you is to get a quote, they don’t need you at all. There are hundreds of printers who can quote their jobs and many will do it for less. But the moment that the prospect begins to see that you know more about the job than they do, your services become invaluable and price becomes secondary.

15- Always create a sense of urgency

If you don’t give your prospect the reason to order today, they won’t and time quickly kills desire. Your presentation should always create a sense of urgency.

16- Don’t quote your prospect’s specs   

Without doubt this is the best kept secret of top income earners. If you are quoting your prospect’s specs, you are forcing the prospect to compare apples with apples. Because the only distinguishing feature between you and the competition will be the price. But the moment that you change the specs, the prospect can no longer compare your quote and price becomes secondary. Whenever possible, change your prospect’s specs. But keep in mind that any changes that you make must benefit the prospect.     

17- Establish buying authority

There is nothing more disheartening than making a complete presentation, submitting a competitive quote, addressing the client’s questions and concerns only to have him say “I need to talk about that with Jack. He makes the final decision.” So don’t waste your valuable time by making a sales presentation to prospects that can’t be sold. Always ensure that your prospect has buying authority before commencing your presentation.

18- Learn to expect objections

They always occur. Irrespective of how great your presentation, eight out of ten times, your prospect will raise an objection. Not only must you learn to expect them because objections are part of the selling process, you should learn to welcome them because objections are an indication that your prospect is ready to buy.

19- Don’t pause after answering to an objection  

Keep in mind that answering an objection is not a debate nor is it a test of wits. But when you pause after answering an objection, you are indirectly asking your prospect, “What do you think of my answer?” And you can bet that your prospect will not say, “Well, obviously you were right and I am wrong.” Instead he will raise another objection to prove his point. So never pause after answering an objection, instead immediately proceed with your presentation or ask a closing question.

20- Don’t pause after stating the price

It is an all too common scenario that the salesperson says, “Your total investment for this job is only 1,500 dollars.” And then expects the prospect to say, “I will take it,” when in fact, by pausing after price, we are indirectly asking the prospect a question, “What do you think of the price?” And you can be assured that the answer to the question is not, “It is too cheap.” Instead you will most likely be faced with a price objection. So never pause after stating the price. Instead ask a closing question or immediately continue with your presentation.

21- Make the price seem affordable and easy to accept    

What would you rather pay, 4 cents per brochure or 6,000 dollars for the job? Although the total dollar strength may be the same, 4 cents per brochure is much easier to accept and therefore much easier to sell. So whenever you present your prospect with a price, break the price down to a unit cost and you will find yourself closing more sales.

22- Always be the last to submit a quote

When you are the first to quote, you cannot close the sale. The prospect will often say, “I need three quotes before I decide.” Furthermore, the first quote in becomes a yardstick that everyone else quotes against. So always try to be the last to submit a quote.

23- Don’t use the words, ‘price’, ‘cost’ or ‘payment’

Everyone knows that the price is too high. That things cost too much and that we should always try to reduce our payments. So don’t use these negative words. Instead, use the word ‘investment’ when talking about the price. “Mr. Prospect, your total investment on this job is only 3000 dollars.”

24- Show enthusiasm, it is contagious

When you consider the fact that your prospects only hear ten percent of what you tell them, in other words, ninety percent of your presentation falls on deaf ears. There is little wonder that they are swayed more by your conviction, your enthusiasm than by the logic of your argument.

25- Always ask for the order

Here are the hard facts. If you do not ask for the order, eight of the ten prospects that are sold on your ideas will not buy. But rather they will say, “Let me think about it and I will get back to you.” But as I have already mentioned, asking your prospect to order, once, is not enough. Most orders do not occur until the third or fifth closing attempt. So always ask for the order at least five times. 

26- Close on a minor point 

Major points require major decisions. So when asking for the order, always close the sale on a minor point. For example, instead of asking the prospect for the order you could land a job by saying, “Mrs. Prospect, your brochures will be printed on Monday, would you like to come and see a press proof?” If she says, “Yes” then she has bought and if she says, “No” she has bought but doesn’t want to see a press proof.

27- Stop quoting and start selling

Our industry is notorious for writing quotes and our prospects have learnt to take full advantage of the situation. Irrespective of how competitive our price, our prospects have learnt to take full advantage of the situation. Our prospects still say, “Thanks, I will get back to you” and off they go in search of even a lower quote and why shouldn’t they?, we are all offering the same ink on paper. Keep in mind that the moment that you write a quote, you are asking your prospects to base their buying decision on price. And as you know, there is always some one else who will print the same job for a few dollars less. So stop quoting and start selling! 

28- Don’t be afraid of being the highest priced

Does the lowest price always win? Absolutely not! If people were truly as price conscious as they claim, Mercedes and Cadillac would be out of business and Lada would be the only dealership in the country. Although your prospects want a fair and competitive price, they will pay more if your presentation shows them that you have more to offer. In fact statistics have shown that price only accounts for 20 percent in the overall decision making process.

29- Never speak after asking a closing question

This simple closing rule can make a huge difference. Once you have asked a prospect a closing question, don’t say a word. In fact, the first person to speak loses.

30- Don’t take you customers for granted

The major reason why customers leave is not because they can get a better price elsewhere, but rather because of indifference. Research shows that indifference accounts for 65 percent of all lost business. Only 15 percent of your clients left because of a complaint that went unadjusted. Irrespective of how long that your clients have been with you, treat them as you would treat a new account.

Although implementing these techniques will result in a dramatic increase in sales and profits, these are only the tip of the iceberg. They are only a small fraction of the hundreds of tips and techniques that can make your job easier. So don’t stop here. Instead invest in your future by designating an hour each week to developing your selling skills.



Peter Ebner

Peter Ebner

Peter Ebner is the best selling author of books such as ‘Earn Over USD100,000 a Year Selling Printing’ and ‘How to “MARKET” Your Printing Business’. He presents over 200 talks, seminars and in-house training programs in a year. His articles on developing selling skills are published regularly in his sales management newsletter.
As a professional sales trainer and marketing consultant with over 24 years of industry experience, Peter knows the challenges selling printing presents. His programs not only reflect his personal experience, selling printing for over 10 years, but also the experience of the 60,000 salespeople he has trained.

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