A reason to respond

The art of selling yourself is crucial to your sales success
David Fellman
October 29, 2018
By David Fellman
In my last column, I started a series on The top 5 ways to talk yourself out of a sale. As you may remember, they are:

1. Too much talk, too little listen
2. Too many features, too little benefits
3. Pitching vs. storytelling
4. Making it all about price
5. Blind persistence

I promised to write about all five of those selling sins over the next few months. Last month it was too much talk, too little listen. This month, it is too many features, too little benefits. I am hoping to turn you away from one of the most common mistakes I see printing salespeople make.

It has been said a printing salesperson has to make three sales. First, you have to sell yourself. Then, you have to sell your company, and then you have to sell the printed product. But if you do not sell yourself, is any of the rest likely to happen?

Selling yourself
As you surely know, it is difficult to get prospects to even return your calls and/or emails. Why is that? I think it is mostly because you do not give them very good reasons to respond.

One of my clients had a more-or-less standard introductory email. In three to four paragraphs, she would highlight her company’s capabilities, note how long they have been in business, identify some of their past and current customers, and make liberal use of phrases like “we know how to make you look good on paper” and “we are committed to your complete satisfaction.”

Another client laboured extensively over his ‘elevator speech’ and came up with something similar. In 25 seconds, he could tell you who he is, who he represents, what they are capable of printing, and how he would love to sit down and talk to you about your printing needs. This elevator speech was also the core of his voicemail message.

I asked both of them how their strategy was working. The answer was, “Not well.” That did not surprise me, as I found nothing in either message to provide a truly compelling reason to respond. Beyond that, they put their cart before their horse, trying to sell the company before selling themselves.

I suggested adding something like this: “I am the point person for an organization made up of people who are skilled and professional in the arts of printing and customer service. My job is to see if there are ways in which we can bring value to your situation, and to improve on what you are doing or what you are getting from your current suppliers. I have XX years of experience at this, so I would like to think that I represent a good investment of your time. Can we talk further?”

Features, Advantages and Benefits
Everyone in sales should be familiar with the FAB formula. The basic idea is that every product or service offering has features, which in turn create advantages that ultimately provide benefits. It has been my experience though, that few printing salespeople use the FAB formula effectively in their selling, and many do not really understand the way it works in the first place.

The confusion seems to centre on the Advantage part of the formula, and specifically about who gets this advantage. It is not the customer! When FAB is applied properly, it is the salesperson! The key to making the FAB formula work for you is to identify Features of your offering which provide you with a competitive Advantage and provide a Benefit to your customer as well. If there is no Advantage, you are probably selling a commodity, and the only Feature that is likely to help you there is a low price.

In the examples above, both salespeople were stressing the Features of their companies. I added the specific role of the salesperson (point person), an Advantage statement (XX years of experience) and connected the Features to the Benefit (value and improvement). Remember, at the stage we are talking about, you are not trying to sell your products or services, or really even your company. Before you can do that, you have to sell them on the idea of responding to your email or calling you back, right?

You will have better success with that if you stay focused on the idea that you have to get them to engage further with you. It is not the company you have to sell at this point, it is yourself! Give them a good reason to talk further with you, and I predict more of them will.

David Fellman is the president of David Fellman & Associates, a graphic arts industry consulting firm based in Raleigh, NC, USA. He is a popular speaker who has delivered keynotes and seminars at industry events across the United States, Canada, England, Ireland and Australia. He is the author of “Sell More Printing” (2009) and “Listen To The Dinosaur” (2010). 

This column was originally published in the October 2018 issue of PrintAction, now available online.

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