The Print Blog

Process Thinking and Sales (Part II)

Posted by on Jan 27, 2015 in Print Marketing | 2 comments

Process Thinking Masthead

Just over a week ago, we started a conversation about a slight shift in perspective that can produce positive benefits for your printing business. It’s a not so profound change in mindset that moves from project thinking to process thinking. In Part One of this short series, Process Thinking and Marketing, we talked about how the shift from a checklist approach to an understanding of marketing as a continual process can improve the effectiveness of your efforts. Today, the focus shifts from marketing to sales, and we’ll see how a similar perceptual shift can let you apply lessons learned from your own sales and marketing processes as you interact with people who want to do business with your company.

Clients, Not Customers

Let’s argue about semantics again. You might say that the definition of client and customer are the same – the two words are synonyms. I think there’s a subtle difference, directly related to the project/process contrast we talked about in the last article. Customers will bring you projects to complete. Clients depend on you to suggest and create new possibilities that they can use. The customer relationship is encapsulated – it revolves around the job and the transaction. The client relationship is ongoing – you are part of their process. This is a critical concept for printers and print salespeople, especially those who are adding marketing services to their portfolio.

Basically, process selling means getting away from presenting products and moving towards discussion of ideas. For a salesperson, this means that calls become planning meetings. If you’re able to listen and suggest, you’ll become a valuable asset to your client. You can help them with the process. You may also be able to help them stay organized and on track. This strategy can produce a stream of work, not just a project to complete.

Show and Tell

There is some work involved. Your clients will come to depend on you for new ideas, but it takes focus and effort on your part to develop them. You may have to demonstrate some creativity. Here’s a great example:

Just a few days ago, my friend John Prothero had a sharp idea. John sells print in Southern California and had come across a promising prospect, a manufacturer of high end mountain and racing bikes. He needed a way to get in the door for a discovery meeting and thought creatively. What John came up with was a bicycle bell, certainly not something that would come standard on a racing bicycle, but a useful illustration of how far the manufacturer’s industry had come from the days of fenders and training wheels. John used the gift to make the comparison between the industry leadership of his target company and his own company’s innovation in the print world. More on this story later . . . it’s still “in process.”

Add experimentation to creativity and your company can become a test laboratory for your clients. Keeping up with new trends, developing new capabilities,and trying new things are an important part of your marketing and sales processes. process3They can also provide a method for developing new ideas and possibilities for clients. What you learn from your own process becomes valuable experience. The best way to demonstrate a new concept to a client is to show them. In practice, this means that you should incorporate new tactics in your own efforts and be able to demonstrate and talk about the results.

There is a potential for exponential growth when you employ this strategy, but it takes some time. Start with your own efforts then share the successes of your clients. Tell the stories and show the results. Get testimonials, write case studies, and expand the business with referrals. Developing new capabilities with this kind of  intentional process takes some time, but it can produce some real benefits for your business.

Here are a few advantages of process selling:

  • New product and service discoveries
  • Less bidding and quoting, more ongoing work
  • Steady clients and ongoing business
  • New clients from referrals

Maybe this idea is a little more than semantics. I can’t think of a single printer that I’ve talked with in the past year who didn’t want these kinds of developments in their business. The shift from project thinking to process thinking isn’t really complicated. Why not try it? If you need to escape project mentality, you can start today with your own marketing plan and your marketing and sales processes.

I’d love to get your take on this. Chime in with a comment or a strategy that you’ve tried. Also, please get in touch if you’d like to talk marketing. There’s never a charge for the first conversations, and it’s fun to generate new ideas.