9 Proven Strategies Powering Wide-Format Sales
Sales is the lifeblood of all businesses. Because of its importance, defining and following key actions that will grow and protect sales is critical to all wide-format print providers. According to NAPCO Research’s study, “Strategies and Tactics Powering Wide-Format Sales,” firms that invest time and resources in their sales efforts and processes experience strong growth.
Like any core business function, there are many facets that contribute to sales success. Both management and sales reps have roles to play in delivering desired sales results.
Here are nine recommendations for improving your wide-format sales results.
- Write a sales plan.
A written sales plan lays the actions a company will take to improve sales results. It typically includes:
- Specific revenue and performance goals for a given period
- Strategies and timelines for achieving goals
- Resources and activities required to carry out strategies
A documented sales plan makes it possible for everyone on the sales team — from the top down — to understand the overall objectives and work together in achieving them.
A written sales plan typically yields results. NAPCO Research’s wide-format sales study found that wide-format providers experiencing double-digit sales growth have written sales plans, compared to 19% for firms reporting flat or declining sales (Figure 1).
But every sales plan is not equal. Key components of a written sales plan, according to survey respondents, include: revenue targets (89%), action plans (85%), customer targets (78%), strategies and tactics (70%), prospecting strategy (56%), and pricing strategy (56%).
- Qualify sales prospects.
Prospecting is the process of searching for and qualifying potential customers. A continual effort to find new customers is essential to any organization. While qualifying sales leads can be time-consuming, it is a worthwhile endeavor because it improves the chance of closing sales.
Not all sales leads are good prospects. Finding those prospects that are the best fit for an organization requires qualifying and prioritizing leads. When evaluating sales leads, here are key attributes to consider:
Who are your ideal customers and how well does this lead match your ideal customer profile? (What is the company’s total revenue, number of employees, and customer base?)
How long has the prospect been in business? Are they a stable company?
What does the potential prospect spend annually on wide-format applications?
Is the organization a good fit for your product and service offering?
- Can you fulfill what they need? Does your organization have unique capabilities you can offer that your competitors don’t have?
Ongoing prospecting is essential for filling the sales pipeline with candidates likely to be converted into paying customers. It takes time and resources, but it can yield substantial success in closing sales.
- Invest in sales staff training.
According to NAPCO Research’s “Strategies and Tactics Powering Wide-Format Sales,” survey respondents reporting double-digit sales growth invest in their sales reps, and offer them training to develop a wider skill set encompassing technology education and sales skills enhancement (Figure 2). Firms reporting double-digit sales growth focused their training on:
- Understanding printing processes and technology
- Selling value-added services
- Using sales technology tools
Because sales reps are key information resources for keeping marketers and brand owners up to date on emerging trends and technologies, it is essential to invest in their knowledge base.
Buyers of wide-format print applications rely on salespeople to offer them insights and ideas they can’t find on their own. Before the internet, buyers relied on their sales reps to educate them on pricing, features, trends, and capabilities. Because customers can do their own purchasing research, they look to print sales reps to show them ways to improve productivity and investment results.
Another survey finding is that sales reps working at firms reporting high sales growth have documented professional development plans (21%). In addition, these organizations have structured programs (18%) to develop employees into sales reps.
Offering staff training and professional development is attractive to potential hires. Finding and hiring staff is an ongoing industry challenge, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified it.
- Focus sales reps on building new business.
While keeping current customers is essential to a sustainable business, sales reps at companies reporting sales growth of 10% or more are focused on establishing new business and accounts (Figure 3). Developing new business is essential for continued sales growth.
- Be a virtual sales meetings expert.
Online collaboration tools have become part of the fabric of the business world. Video conferencing platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, and Zoom — which is so ubiquitous it is frequently used as a verb — became business communication and social lifelines when in-person interactions came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the masses have become comfortable with virtual meetings, they are likely here to stay.
Virtual sales calls offer many benefits, including savings in time and travel expenses. They typically take less time compared to face-to-face meetings, which is attractive to customers and prospects. In addition, the virtual option can result in faster follow-up meetings, potentially shrinking the sales cycle.
Given the opportunity that virtual selling presents, improving staff’s digital sales skills and investing in the right technology and software is essential. Using live video to hold sales calls is different than in-person selling. Keeping customers engaged requires understanding the collaboration tool being used. For example, sales staff need to know how to seamlessly screen share, show videos, or use highlighting features within these video conferencing platforms.
Training sales rep on mastering the nuances of this newer selling environment and ways to make meetings engaging can maximize virtual selling success.
- Multi-channel communication strategy.
Buyers of sign and display graphics participating in a 2021 NAPCO Research survey indicate their top resources for learning about trends and printing technology are websites, wide-format providers, e-mail newsletters, and social media (Figure 4). Given this survey, wide-format providers should be sure to keep websites and social media pages up to date, advertise or provide content to e-newsletters that clients read, and host customer education events.
- Be social (media) savvy.
Because social media is high on the list of channels print buyers use to learn about products and services, sale reps need to be versed in those tools. Social media is one of the first places prospects go to learn about your company, as well as a sales rep’s skills and reputation.
For sales reps, social media is an additional channel for networking and prospecting. LinkedIn offers the following recommendations on what a good salesperson’s profile should include:
- Professional-looking headshot
- Clear and engaging profile headline
- Well-crafted summary and list of professional experience
- Educational background
- Endorsements and recommendations from customers, peers, and colleagues
- Completed projects
- Written or published works
- Memberships in LinkedIn groups
- Develop sales scripts.
Having a prescribed set of talking points to guide conversations can make sales calls more productive. A good script helps reps overcome objections, defines the value a wide-format print application will deliver, and enhances credibility. It helps reps consistently and efficiently deliver a sales message that yields results.
When creating the script, use simple words. Words that are easier to pronounce tend to be viewed as more trustworthy and valuable, explains a Psychological Science research article aptly titled “If it is Difficult to Pronounce, It Must be Risky.”
Overall, a good rule to follow is to keep language simple and to the point during sales conversation and in sales proposals. Avoid jargon and the temptation to use words to appear smart, as they may reduce buyers’ trust. Rather, try to mirror the words and phrases the buyer uses. This can build trust and create a subconscious connection.
- Measure sales process results.
Management guru Peter Drucker often said that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” This sage advice applies to sales. Key metrics to consider tracking include:
- Sales cycle length: How much time does it take each salesperson to take a lead through the sales cycle? The less time, the higher the productivity.
New leads per week: The sales funnel begins with identifying new leads. The more qualified leads captured in a given period of time, the more opportunity to move the process forward.
Opportunity win rate: Just as a company needs to track how many leads become prospects, it must also track the number of leads who become customers. Sales managers must make sure their salespeople are closing successfully and not wasting valuable sales opportunities.
Developing these sales strategies enables business owners — and sales reps — to prioritize and engage with potential customers. It also allows reps to develop different selling models to reach each potential customer. By following these strategies, wide-format print providers should be able to effectively interact with and relate to potential customers — and continue to grow sales.
Lisa Cross is the principal analyst of NAPCO Research (a unit of NAPCO Media) where she conducts market research and analysis on emerging trends and changing dynamics in the commercial, in-plant and packaging industries, and the market forces that are driving those changes. With decades of experience covering the graphic arts and marketing industries, Cross has authored thousands of articles on a variety of topics, including technology trends, business strategy, sales, marketing and legislation.