Selling strategies for a changed world
Joanne Gore is a storyteller. And when the veteran marketer, speaker, writer and mentor pans out over what has happened in today’s selling and marketing landscape, the stories seem to write themselves. What that means depends on who you are, what you do and how your story shakes out amid the wreckage.
From a sales and marketing perspective, the stories are everywhere. For starters, finding new business and leads is more difficult than ever. There are no physical trade shows. No new leads. Offices are shut down, so cold-calling or drop-ins are out. And with so many people working from home, contacting them presents a whole new set of challenges (hello virtual calls with kids and animals part of the scenescape).
“The problem today is the lack of work, although it is slowly coming back in certain areas,” says Gore, whose company, Joanne Gore Communications, works with the new generation of print and business buyers. “Companies are trying to stay in touch and stay close to their clients so that when things start to move, they will be ready. Right now companies are concerned about getting paid for past work, new work when it comes, and what the landscape will look like in the future.”
“Printers will need the ability to understand how they help the changing business needs of their prospects and customers.
Those who rely on selling just commodity print or blasting out endless standard sales emails will struggle.”
— Matthew Parker, Founder, Profitable Print Relationships
To be fair, it is not all bad. Gore says that servicing existing clients is not as difficult, with many companies pivoting or updating their software capabilities and offerings. The recognition of the need for W2P and more automated solutions has addressed customer experience expectations for self-service and anywhere/anytime ordering capabilities, enabling companies to offer 24/7 service without adding staff. It also has enabled printers to dip their toes into the automation realm.
“As companies began laying off people, they found ways to become more efficient through automation and workflow scrutiny,” Gore says. “They are finding new ways to be more productive with fewer people. When the print industry was deemed an essential service, a perception shift started.”
Gore says the print industry embraced valuable PPE solutions, adjusted to working remotely, and embraced new and more efficient solutions. “People became more human—reaching out and asking, “How are you?” changed relationships. Video calls quickly became the norm and a new way to have one-on-one and face-to-face (virtual) conversations. Implementing work-from-home solutions was one of the biggest mindset shifts. Decades of that “you must be in the office” thinking was proven wrong.
The key in today’s new landscape is to establish your “quickest time to money” approach. Examine your CRM. Which customers in the past converted the quickest? How did that happen? Which are the most profitable? Find more like them and target them with the solutions and products that have worked before.
“It’s no longer about you or what you do—it’s all about how you help,” Gore says. “It’s all about making connections, engaging and establishing your voice as a trusted source.”
Another strategy involves creating “quick start” campaigns that enable you to test new messages, calls to action and offers. Once you figure out what works, replicate it, and then repeat the process with another offer. Doing so allows you to launch, measure and pivot much quicker than if you tried to overhaul everything all at once.
“Nobody has the time or energy to do any of that right now,” Gore says. “You need quick, repeatable programs that generate awareness, engagement and growth.”
Sharing is the new selling
If anyone knows the power of selling print, it is Matthew Parker, founder of Profitable Print Relationships. A global sales guru and author of “How to Stop Print Buyers Choosing on Price,” Parker trains and mentors printing companies.
In a time of great disruption, Parker was impressed with how some printers pivoted into the PPE equipment strategy. As the marketplace moves forward in fits and starts, Parker says the level of success printers will have varies hugely depending on the type of printing company they are and what they are selling.
“Honestly, it’s too early to tell what will play out moving forward,” Parker says. “For 2021, planning can really only be carried out in three-month chunks. The big challenge is getting ahold of people when they are working from home. Salespeople are going to have to be a lot more creative and a lot more persistent.”
One of the ways to push forward lies in what Parker believes some printing companies are strongest at—having empathy. That means not only attaining a full grasp of what is happening in the marketplace, but how it impacts each and every one of your customers.
“There will need to be more online communication,” Parker says. “Printers will need the ability to understand how they help the changing business needs of their prospects and customers. Those who rely on selling just commodity print or blasting out endless standard sales emails will struggle.”
Gore says that the ones struggling the most right now are sales reps, many of whom are also owners. The goal, first and foremost, is to generate revenue to keep the doors open. And with cold calling as we know it dead, the future rests in social selling platforms like LinkedIn.
“Sharing is the new selling. As more buyers turn to the web to research and collaborate, they are now well into the second
half of the buying journey before they’re even ready to have a conversation with a sales rep.”
— Joanne Gore, Founder, Joanne Gore Communications
“Sharing is the new selling,” Gore says. “As more buyers turn to the web to research and collaborate, they are now well into the second half of the buying journey before they’re even ready to have a conversation with a sales rep. They don’t want to be sold to. They don’t want demos. They don’t want samples. And they don’t care what equipment you have. The best way to tackle these challenges is to really understand who you help, how you help and why it matters to them. Share relevant content and explain why it’s relevant.”
In the end, the success printers forge in today’s unprecedented selling landscape will come from having a clear understanding of your ideal target, what engages them and what drives their buying behaviors. “The importance of branding will see a resurgence,” Gore says. “Those who never neglected it will capture wallet share. The unboxing experience will continue to explode.”
7 pre-COVID selling tips that still work
Sales reps today can easily adapt pre-COVID prospecting strategies to online social selling ones with just a few tweaks. Joanne Gore, founder of Joanne Gore Communications, offers seven strategies you still need to know:
- Who are your top 10 prospects? (That hasn’t changed.)
- Learn all you can about them. Look them up on social media (LinkedIn). They’ll see that you looked them up. (That’s good.)
- Introduce yourself. Comment on one of their posts. Next, ask them an open-ended question. They’ll get notified about that, too. (This has replaced cold calling.)
- Send a connection request. By now they’ve seen your name pop up twice, and that you’ve taken the time to comment on their post. (This helps get past the gatekeeper.)
- Nurture the relationship. Engage, don’t sell. Learn about each other and what matters.
- Move to a new channel—either email, phone or video call.
- The rest is up to you—the rep.