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The importance of titles

Deepen your sales network by identifying all potential buyers


April 10, 2019
By David Fellman

Topics

I had an interesting exchange of emails recently with a new sales hire at a commercial printing company. “What title should I have on my business card?” he asked. “My boss wants it to be sales representative, but that’s not how I want to be seen. What do you think about print satisfaction specialist?”

“I’m not sure what that means. What exactly are you trying to convey?” I wrote back.

He answered, “I don’t want to be seen as someone who is trying to sell something. I want them to know I’m committed to their satisfaction.”

My response: “What’s wrong with being seen as someone who is trying to sell something? You have to sell the idea that you’re committed to their satisfaction! No one will automatically accept that just because you say it. You have to convince them and that, by my definition, is selling.”

False stigma
It’s true there is a stigma attached to selling, but that mostly relates to the overly-aggressive salesperson who will say or do anything to make a sale. That kind of salesperson is a lot more common in transactional selling situations, such as a commodity product or a one-time sale. The printing sale is much more of a relationship sale, and as I have written before, the strongest relationships are based on trust — it takes a leap of faith to place an order with a printing salesperson and a printing company. We sell a custom-manufactured product, and a lot can go wrong between the order and the delivery.

Here’s the challenge in a nutshell. The first time around, you have to convince them to take that leap of faith. It gets easier after that, as long as everything goes well the first time, and the next time, and the next time. Please understand you will not make it easier by disguising the fact that your job is to be a convincer. I would be completely open about that: “I’m a sales representative, and what that means to me is I have to convince you to give me a chance, then I have to do everything that will lead to your long-term satisfaction. Let me apologize in advance if I push too hard while I’m trying to convince you, because I think I’m doing it with your best interests in mind.”

Think about this. If you don’t think your customers are better off because they buy from you – and that your prospects will be better off if they do – you’re in the wrong line of work!

Buyer titles
Ultimately, I don’t think the title of the seller is all that important. I know people who are very successful with titles including junior salesperson, senior sales representative, sales executive, account executive, etc. I could even live with print satisfaction specialist — as long as you accept that you will need to explain exactly what that means.

On the other side of the coin, I think it is very important you know the exact title of every one of your customers and prospects — and I hope you will remember my definition of customer and prospect refers not to companies, but to the individuals within those companies who buy or could be buying from you.

It’s those could-be’s that make this so important. I think you have two main categories of prospects; first are people who buy printing at companies you have never sold to, and second are other people who buy printing at companies you’re already selling to. If you’re getting business from one buyer or even multiple buyers, you still want to get business from all of the buyers, right?

The process of identifying all the buyers can often be reduced to a process of elimination. Let’s say your current customer list includes marketing titles, purchasing titles, human resources titles, business owners and managing directors. If you’re selling to the human resources manager at a company, should you not also be talking to the marketing manager or vice versa? And if you don’t have a passing relationship with the business owner or managing director, should you not try to build one?

In my experience, most printing salespeople don’t work hard enough at account penetration. They work at deepening their relationship with individual buyers — adding a ‘like factor’ to the ‘trust factor’ which still has to be at the heart of the relationship. That ‘like factor’ is important, especially if you need them to give you another chance after an incident strains the trust.

The real winners penetrate their accounts and often use the people they are selling to as their conduit to the others…but that’s a topic for another day!

Dave Fellman is the president of David Fellman & Associates, a graphic arts industry consulting firm based in Raleigh, N.C. 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” and “Listen To The Dinosaur.” Visit his website at www.davefellman.com.

This column was originally published in the April 2019 issue of PrintAction, now available online.