Collaborative Print Sales
When sales become more complicated, involving more people on both sides of the equation, you need a team player to facilitate collaboration. A winning sales team is a combination of subject matter expertise and relationship building.
If your print company is selling above what I call the “job level,” then the sales process probably involves more than one person. As soon as you start selling print programs or print that requires technology or print that requires data-management, your sale gets more complex.
If your sales team is older, this can be a new reality for them. For most of their career as a print sales person, they could basically do all the communication with the customer themselves. They made the initial contact, they collected the requirements, they facilitated the file transfers, and they worked with estimating to provide pricing. They were a one- (usually a) man show. When you’re the only one involved in a sale, you don’t have to document everything. You don’t have to worry about keeping people in alignment.
Now move these same people into a collaborative sale. This sale looks much different, primarily because it involves more than print manufacturing. Any print program of any size today involves technology, data, logistics, or a combination of all three. Now we have an older sales representative that needs to bring others into the sale. This sales representative also needs to understand the other elements of the sale. There are more people involved on the customer side as well. Procurement or the print-buyer isn’t making this decision on their own: they often have a technical person in the room, and they could have a marketing person in the room.
The sale is more complicated. The decision maker might still be a single person, but there a lot of influencers who can kill your chances if you don’t meet their specific needs. Now your one-man sales representative is forced to be a team player and a communicator. This can be challenging for someone who has been successful in their career working their way—in isolation—for a long time.
A collaborative sale (meaning one that involves a team) requires leadership. Many printers assume the sales representative who has had the long-term relationship with the customer should lead—but this can be a disaster. When you have worked as a one-man show your whole career, making all the decisions without any supervision, it’s uncomfortable to now be in the presence of others who may question your choices or doubt your expertise. The collaborative sale requires a leader who is a good team player. A lot of sales people get into sales because they want to be their own boss, unencumbered by the typical constraints of working in the office.
Here’s your challenge: you have a great opportunity for a large, long-term print program which involves technology, data-management, and print fulfillment. In order to win it, you need to pull together your internal resources to put your company in the best light in front of the customer. This means the sales person needs to leverage their relationship skills, the technical folks need to demonstrate their technical expertise, and the team needs to look well-coordinated.
Nobody wants to buy from a company that doesn’t seem to have a good team energy. Nothing kills a deal faster than internal tension shown during the sales process. When the deal is very large the sales cycle can be lengthy with a lot of internal coordination as well as communication with the customer. Who on your team is best at herding cats? Can you deploy them to large opportunities to help provide the needed coordinated efforts? I’ve been part of many sales efforts where there was no leader and it’s no fun and rarely successful. Don’t assume sales can lead the collaborative effort—they may need some support from a more team-oriented resource in your company.