Why you need to stop selling print

There has always been a propensity to sell print based on price. Yet we recognize that we also need to sell quality. And service. And value. A quick Google search on the term ‘how to sell print’ showed 136 million results. There is clearly no lack of information available on the topic.

But we’re still selling. To the tune of 136 million results. Printers are still being referred to as vendors; while we all know that the preference is to be referred to as print providers.

So why is that? I started thinking about how many times I’ve been pitched based on price. Or heard the phrase “Give us a chance to quote.”  “What was the winning bid? Let’s sharpen our pencils.”

The way I see it, a print vendor is someone who sells print.

But what if we stopped selling? What if we focused on knowledge-sharing instead?  By sharing knowledge, we develop relationships. And with those relationships come business. Now I know some of you may be rolling your eyes thinking, “Relationship selling has been around forever. This is nothing new.”

I recently took a survey, and one of the questions focused on what qualities you look for when choosing a print provider. You had to rank, from 1 to 5, what criteria you value most (like price, customer service, etc.). The problem is, you weren’t allowed to repeat a rank. That means I had to really think about what was most important to me when it comes to selecting a print vendor. And it made me realize that as much as I will always compare costs, it’s value FOR my dollar that matters most to me. Not just the pure dollar.

So I started to think about all the printers I’ve either worked for or purchased from. I thought about the types of jobs I’d award to each. What character traits do I believe give me the most value for my dollar? Now imagine, as I said, how truly difficult it was for me to rank each unique trait. And choosing the least important was just as difficult as choosing the most.

As printers, how in the world are you supposed to know how to sell, if you don’t understand your customer’s needs, since THEY have difficulty pinpointing their own needs?

I don’t mean the printing needs. I mean the selection criteria needs. How can we go charging in on price, or service, or turnaround time, or whatever other characteristic we’re selling, if we simply don’t know what the buyer is buying? Of course if you are entering an RFP and know the decision comes down to price, then you know for a fact that price is what you are selling.

There are so many ways to share knowledge and develop professional relationships these days. One way that I learn about the people I work with is through social media. Not just their professional LinkedIn profiles, but from the groups and communities they engage in. #printchat is an excellent example of how the personality of the community shines. Relationships have developed outside the tweetup to more personal platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. From there…well I think you get the point.

Not a fan of social media? Nothing beats the one-to-one face time you get at tradeshows, conferences and workshops. Whether you are attending as a delegate or sponsor, or running your own event, use the opportunity to listen. Listen for ways that you, as a print provider, can add insights and expertise to ultimately drive new revenue streams for your business.

Do you have an online/web-to-print portal? How do you follow up after orders are placed? For example, someone places an order for business cards and banners for an open house. In addition to selling them what they (think they) need, how else can you add value? Can you help with the advertising and promotion of the event? How can you better tailor the experience to their market? How can you improve their share of wallet…and yours?

For the last several years, I have mentored a group of young professionals starting summer businesses as part of the Ontario government’s Summer Company program (https://www.ontario.ca/page/summer-company-program-guidelines). Every year I see a fresh group of eager faces, proud of their first-time business cards and brochures. A quick Google search of “millennials and print” serves up over 1.1 million results. Study after study indicates that millennials LOVE print!

Print providers have an opportunity to get in front of these folks just starting out and share the value that print provides to a business, from business cards to logo’d merchandise to signage and everything in between.

The digital landscape has definitely changed the way print is purchased and consumed. New technologies, papers, inks, finishes and more have opened up infinite print potential for both seasoned and new print buyers. By identifying what is motivating the purchase, you can develop a solution that will help them achieve their goals.

Sell when you know for a fact you are selling on price. The rest of the time? Be a Print Provider. Sell print. Without selling print.

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Joanne Gore

Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the last three decades helping companies maximize their marketing and communications efforts. Founder of Joanne Gore Communications, she helps companies tell their story to a new generation of print and business buyers. Email: joanne@joannegorecommunications.com Follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121