Today’s guest post is from Rachel Loftis of Theo Davis Printing.
Prepare, Bring Ideas, Follow Up!
You’ve been doggedly pursuing [bugging, really, if we’re being honest] the marketing director of a large technology firm for weeks now with letters, phone calls and emails to get a meeting with them. They finally release you from your burden of disappointment day after day by agreeing to a thirty-minute chat face-to-face. Now what? You’ve been trying so hard for so long to get in front of them but now that it’s happened, you realize you hadn’t really thought much about what you would do once you got there.
There are three main ‘rules’ that you need to follow in order to make the most of this opportunity. Warning—this will take hard work. No one thinks sales is easy but we do tend to think that the hardest part of sales is getting in front of people. That is wrong. The hardest part of sales is convincing the customer the value to them of working with you, and continually showing it to them through a relationship. These are suggestions from my experience and research attempting to accomplish this at the beginning:
1. Before the meeting, prepare yourself! [This is necessary/important for any type of sales but print sales is no different.]
- Do research on the company and the individual. Make sure you know the basics of what the company does, i.e. how they make their money, and what the individual does. Social media can also help you find more specifics on the individual so you find common interests. [I am not suggesting or condoning stalking. But research for the benefit of knowing how to help them better is encouraged.]
- Write down a few thoughtful, emotion-based questions to ask them, like “What wakes you up in the morning?” This will bring out positive emotions and help you learn more about what makes them tick. Be sure to write them down before-hand. You will be nervous, so don’t try to depend on your wit and charm to conjure brilliant questions out of thin air in front of them. You might be good, but you’re not that good. Jeffrey Gitomer writes quite a lot about the value of asking good open-ended, emotion-based questions in his book 21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling. He says,
“Power in preparation, power in the question itself, and power in your ability to ask the question in a way that the customer is impressed with your knowledge, impressed with your preparation, and forced to answer in a way that benefits you. Superior questions create superior engagement. Emotional questions create emotional engagement. Both of these elements create winning scenarios that result both in sales and relationships. When the customer is impressed by the quality of your questions, they will be more willing and more forthcoming to provide truthful information.”
2. Bring ideas and samples.
- As a young rep, I’ve regretted so many times walking in to meetings empty-handed. Having nothing to leave behind or show the customer, so they can start envisioning what’s possible, is the best way to get them to forget about you.
- Especially for printing companies, the tactile nature of what we printers do lends itself to awesome samples that do the convincing for us. How many times have you bought something that someone just described to you with words? No pictures, no examples, no samples. That’s right—never. Why should this be different?
- If you’re not sure what kinds of samples to bring, just grab things your company has produced for other clients in the same or similar industry. I’m telling you—something is better than nothing.
- Then take it one step further and bring ideas that improve on what’s already been done. You need to show them your value in helping them stand out from their competitors. Not everyone will want to do something different but most will appreciate and remember your initiative in thinking creatively to benefit them.
- This is arguably even more important than the meeting itself. Even if the only next step you can take after a meeting is a hand-written thank-you card in the mail the next day—do it.
- There does need to always be a next step after a meeting to continue the relationship leading towards a potential sale, typically:
o More specific samples that they’ve asked you to send.
o A quote for a potential project.
o Information on a production schedule or other production details.
- But if there’s truly nothing they want or need from you, the follow-up should be: “I’ll check in to see what’s new next month.” And then do just that. It’s about developing relationships—that’s what makes sales so fun and challenging at the same time. And you can’t have a relationship without dialogue, so keep up with them.
The bottom line is this—our goal is for them to see the value in working with you instead of someone else on a project. So help yourself stay in the forefront of their mind as valuable, reliable, and a creative thinker with solid meeting preparation, great ideas, and awesome follow-up. I do realize what an intense challenge accomplishing all this is and am right there alongside you in the dirt, fighting for these things. But it’s worth it. So keep fighting.
I hope this was encouraging and at the very least, gives you some things to think through! I know that I’m still trying to get it right. Every day is a new opportunity to get better at accomplishing our goals and intentionally working harder and smarter will get us there.
Thanks for reading!
Bio of the Guest Writer: Rachel Loftis
Rachel Loftis is an NC State graduate currently working as an Account Executive (sales rep) for Theo Davis Printing, a commercial printer located near Raleigh, NC. She is passionate about printing and using it to help solve problems for her customers, who view her as their Print Champion. She is also an avid reader and fan of InkOnDaPaper and is excited to contribute a little from the world of print sales.