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The Online Print Coach - The Importance of Sales in your Print Business

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Salespeople are typically categorized as pushy, dishonest, and in some cases sleazy. It's unfair, isn't it?

I've come across this type over my career in the printing industry. I'm sure we all have. The first printing company I worked with having left college had a range of different characters within is Sales Team. It took me a while to realize which one I wanted to be but I remember one afternoon speaking to one of the guys in the company car park and asking him how he helped his customers and why he was more successful than most of the other people in the team. He told me that selling should always be about helping your customers. As a good salesperson you must listen to your client's needs, then demonstrate how you can help service their requirements. That really stuck with me and over 20 years on, I'm still very good friends with that person. Likewise, I am also very good friends with a number of customers I've dealt with over the years. In my early days in sales, I recall one customer actually saying that she found it funny because we'd been talking for almost 40 mins and not once had we even discussed anything about print work. It's because I was taking the time to find common ground and getting to know them. I stand by this ethos still today and it's certainly never done me any harm. It's important that customers get to know, like, and trust you before they will work with you. You need to build that bond 1st on most occasions.

Someone once described the sales process to me like a tightrope. There are several steps in the process from opening up an opportunity to closing and having the customer place the order with you.

Here are 9 steps I use that will keep you from falling off the Sales Tightrope as many others do:

  1. Preparation is key - Always do your research prior to visiting your prospective client for the 1st time. Check out their LinkedIn profile, company social media activity, and their website. It shows you care about finding out more about their business and should give you some good conversational points.

  2. Always be on time - Turning up late for your first appointment is a sure way of hacking off your client and getting you off to a bad start. Regardless of how early it means getting there to avoid traffic etc, even if it means sitting in the car for 30 mins doing more research on the client, DO IT!

  3. Ensure the customer likes you - Steps 1 and 2 will go a long way to supporting you here. Showing that you care about their business and attempting to find common ground to discuss will give you the edge.

  4. Discover what their needs are - This is where so many Sales People go wrong, automatically going in for the hard sell. You've heard the old saying having 2 ears and 1 mouth and using them proportionally? This applies here. Listen to what the client needs from you first and foremost, don't worry you'll get your time to speak.

  5. Show them the benefits of working with you - Now you get the chance to tell them all the wonderful reasons why they should be placing their business with you. Give them the solution you now know they are looking for and show them you care about fulfilling their needs. If you can, give them examples of similar cases you have experienced and the positive impact it had on that particular client.

  6. Establish any objections - Be prepared for this and this is why doing your homework before can come in handy. There may be a legitimate reason why the client has reservations about placing their work with you. Try to pre-empt this as much as possible and be ready to overcome anything that comes your way.

  7. Aim to close the sale - This is the whole reason you are here in the first place. Don't be afraid to go for the close, ask for the opportunity to show them what you can do. Far too many Sales People miss out on this vital key in the chain and just hope the client will be in touch in the near future. It won't work! Now is the time to seek that commitment. You have to strike whilst the iron is hot.

  8. Always follow up when you say you will - You would be amazed by the amount of Sales People who come away from a meeting with a list of things to action for the client and never actually deliver. They get back to the office, get too busy prospecting again and before they know it, it's embarrassingly too late to contact that client they put all the effort into.

  9. BE ORGANISED! Make it a priority to follow up on everything you promised. Communication is key and will round off building confidence in the relationship to are trying to build. Sales are built on relationships and you need to prove to your client you are someone they can rely on.

Print Sales has changed a fair bit since I came into the industry back in the late ’90s. I’d served my time as an estimator before moving into production and assisting the production manager. It was a great basis for understanding the full process from start to finish but I was always drawn into the lifestyle the reps had back then. Driving fancy cars, lunchtime dining with clients, sports hospitality at the weekends. It was a dream job.

Things have however changed a lot in the past 20 years and the old school sales approach back then never really appealed to me. I was never one for lifting up a phone book and calling around prospects trying to get a meeting and I was never in my comfort zone driving around industrial estates, chapping on doors, and looking to speak to the print buyer.

One thing that really stuck out for me back then was some of the more experienced sales reps I worked with, they had a core of clients where they didn’t actually need to do a great deal of work with. They’d pop in once a week or once a fortnight with a packet of biscuits and catch up for a natter. They very seldom spoke about print unless there was a really intricate job to discuss. They just had a good relationship with that customer and when they had an order to place, it simply just

came in. It’s all about building relationships and that’s where I suggest you put all your focus.

As you will see from the image, you used to start the process by making that initial contact, qualifying them to ensure you were dealing with the best person, make your pitch, and then spend most of the time trying to close with the potential customer.

Nowadays, the best results come from building that relationship first. Back in 2009, I got involved in running networking events. At the time, the networking group that was all the rage was called 4Networking. Their strapline was Meet, Like, Know, Trust and I stand by that ethos when onboarding new customers to this day. If you put the time in getting to know your prospect, build up that trust, and most importantly if they like you, the rest of the process becomes so much easier.

They will be more likely and willing to tell you exactly what they need in order for you to come up with the solutions and the orders should take care of themselves.

If you've found this useful and would like to know more about myself, The Online Print Coach, you can visit my website FESPA UK members also receive a 20% discount to The Print Growth Academy. You can access this special discount at


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