The Selling Owner Challenge

The job description for today’s average print shop owner reads like a run-on sentence: Manager, bookkeeper, delivery, customer service, occasional pressman, bindery operator, janitor and, if there is any time left over, sales representative.

But it’s that last title that starts the process. Without sales coming in, those other tasks don’t exist. Why then do selling owners use only the remains of the day to do the one thing that matters most? What is holding the selling owner back from stepping into this role and building more business?

Sales and PrintingThe typical owner has more experience in operations than sales. That’s where his/her heart is. But falling in love with the equipment — be it design or actual production — is a deadly mistake, usually resulting in the biggest lie an owner can tell him/herself: “I just don’t have the time to sell.”

There is a difference between being busy and being productive. Ironically, the most successful selling owners aren’t the ones working the longest hours. They are home for dinner, at their kids’ activities, and spend their weekends on home chores, not in the office catching up.

The typical workday is an overwhelming mix of activities that seldom get done in the exact order they were laid out. The starting gun goes off well before the doors open and the momentum continues well into the night, keeping your cell phone buzzing with questions that (seemingly) need immediate answers.

Are We Having Fun Yet?
Overcoming this common sales challenge starts with commitment. “I will create time to sell” is the polar opposite of “There is not enough time in the day.” It’s a stated goal to make sales a priority, not an afterthought.

Printing Networking EventThe next step is engaging a multi-pronged sales plan consisting of three strategies:

1. Networking
Start by getting out there. Attend a networking event once every other week at minimum. Physically removing yourself from the premises is equally effective and symbolic. You are breaking your norm, stepping out of your comfort zone and having essential interactions. Go shake some hands and ask people about their business and their sales challenges. You’ll be surprised how many opportunities become apparent when you do more listening than talking.

2. Seasonal Selling
Each year — like clockwork — temporary sales opportunities pop up, exist for a while, then disappear until next year. Good selling owners have these on their calendar for running special limited-time sales promotions. Health clubs do 80% of their business after the holidays as people deal with the 10-12 pounds of cheer they’ve added to their waistlines. How about a mailing or some window clings? The promotion couldn’t be easier: A mailing that lists a few price points followed by a phone call or two.

3. Vertical Markets
Put that newly minted sales focus on a few industries (i.e. banks, hospitals or colleges). Being a subject matter expert (understanding business needs, not just print needs) moves
selling owners from the quote to the design stage of the job. “Here’s my price” is now “Here’s my idea.” Go with verticals where you feel the most comfortable. Do some research, starting with this Google search: “10 marketing mistakes <<vertical>> make.”

Make the Change Today
Ultimately, success as a selling owner requires planning, commitment and good time management. Any sales rep will tell you the activities you engage in today can take several months to turn into opportunities. Sales is hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
And your other job responsibilities won’t go away. What you don’t delegate needs to be examined on businessman and bestseller Stephen Covey’s “Urgent and Important” Time
Management Matrix to determine if it indeed has value.

Get organized. Make a list of your currently known sales possibilities. List the company name and a brief description of the opportunity. In addition to giving you a place to start, you will find this activity to be oddly motivating.

Finally, know that salespeople follow four simple rules:
1. Make a well-researched, high-value sales call
2. Attack the best target market
3. Engage a prospecting process
4. Be diligent and pleasantly persistent

It’s not rocket science. But be forewarned, solving one problem might just bring on another: What to do with all this work you’ve brought in.

Also Tagged: Sales / Marketing