Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2016 and has since been updated.
The market for managed print solutions is very competitive, making it more important than ever for those selling managed print to revisit and update their sales strategies. What was tried and true ten years ago might not necessarily be effective today. In that time, technology has fundamentally changed how we communicate and how we find information, two essential aspects of the purchasing process. To close MPS deals and win bids in today’s market, sales professionals must respond to these changes. We put together a list of seven tips to help close deals with these changes in mind.
1. Make it personal.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in marketing is that personalization is key in a world of automation, and this is true for both salespeople and marketers. We are all looking for better, faster, easier ways of doing things, but this is not the approach you should take when trying to win new customers. Whether it’s your first interaction or your twentieth, always approach prospects and customers as though you’re a trusted partner as opposed to just another service provider. You want to help prospects solve their immediate problems as well as develop a plan for future growth.
2. Know your competition.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say, “know your enemy,” but there is a reason why this quote from Sun Tzu has endured for centuries. Though the world of sales and service is more amicable than a battlefield, the sentiment is essentially the same: to be successful, you need to know your competition.
You should know your competitors as a business – geography, demographics, target customers – as well as the products they offer – how does it compare with yours in terms of features, functionality and cost? Having this information will inform your conversations with prospects and change how you frame your presentation. If you know your business values customer support more than your competitor, for example, you would be sure to emphasize the support services you offer.
3. Ensure your mission, vision and values are clearly articulated.
Perhaps more important than knowing what other solutions are available on the market is knowing who your company is as a business. Corporate culture is hot topic in business with giants like Facebook and Google institutionalizing their values in their day-to-day operations, from small acts like hanging motivational posters throughout the office to flattening the traditional top-down approach to management with a horizontal organizational structure. One small part of communicating your corporate culture is creating a mission for your company and identifying your values as a business.
Beyond cultivating internal attitudes and practices, having mission and vision statements that are visible to prospects and customers helps foster a sense of trust and transparency. Prospects know who your organization is and what they can expect from your business. Consistency is key when it comes to communicating your mission and values. Regardless of whether you’re communicating via email or phone or social media, your company’s identity should guide every exchange with your audience. Salespeople are on the front lines, so to speak, and it’s their responsibility to realize and embody these ideas.
4. Go where your buyers are.
Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO of HubSpot, made a bold claim at INBOUND 2016, HubSpot’s annual sales and marketing conference. In a keynote in front of 19,000 sales and marketing professionals he said cold calling is dead. This is a divisive statement that many content and inbound marketers I know would agree with, but many salespeople I know would not.
While the death of cold calling remains to be seen, the kernel of truth in his statement is that there are different methods of communication that are more effective when dealing with today’s informed, resourceful and hyperaware buyers. As marketers and salespeople, we need to go where are buyers are and increasingly, that place is online.
Millennials, those born between the early 1980s and 200, are now the largest demographic in the global workforce, which means they are also the largest target audience for B2B businesses. They are digital natives who live on social media and prefer AI-powered chatbots to phone calls, so turn your prospecting efforts to LinkedIn and incorporate social selling into your strategy or consider building a chatbot to qualify website visitors and prioritize leads.
5. Associate value with cost.
The first thing prospects want to know is how your solutions works. What are the features? Does it meet their needs? The second is pricing. Can they afford this product? Alternatively, is there a similar product available for less?
There are pros and cons to having your pricing available on your website, but if your company chooses to keep this information gated, it’s incumbent upon the salesperson to make the connection between the cost of your product and the value it offers. To do this effectively, you need a thorough understanding of your prospect’s problems – why obstacles or pain points are they trying to address with your product? Don’t just reiterate the list of features on your collateral; develop a plan or a proposal to show them how your product can resolve their issues.
6. Show, don’t tell.
Another way to effectively communicate value is to stay away from abstract concepts, analogies and vague value statements. Instead, stick to what you know best and what your prospects want to know more about: the product.
Let’s say you were shopping for a pair of running shoes. You work long shifts on your feet and need something supportive. You’ve narrowed it down to two pairs sold by two different companies, and this is their sales pitch:
Company A: The shoes are comfortable so if you’re on your feet all day, you won’t have to worry about your feet hurting.
Company B: The shoes have cushioned insoles for arch support and tread for stability, ensuring your knees and back are properly supported while you’re on your feet during your shift.
If I had to choose, I would go with Company B. The pitch is personal and more accurately looks to address my concerns. Telling a prospect what your product can do is not as impactful as showing them how it works and allowing them to ask questions. It goes without saying that selling footwear is completely different than selling software, but the principles are the same. Every sales pitch you do should include a demo so your prospect can see the product as opposed to guessing what it looks like or how it works.
7. You’ve got to give a little to get a little.
The demo is a staple in any salesperson’s toolkit, but what about the free trial? If seeing is believing, then doing is surely actualizing. When it comes time to close, there are no hard-and-fast rules or silver bullet. Each prospect is unique and depending on their specific needs, their buying cycle and your engagement with them up to this point, they may be poised to purchase or may still have questions or concerns that you need to address. What better way to show them how your solution can help than with a free trial?
This can get tricky if you’re selling software solutions because there’s a process to implement that likely involves more than the salesperson themselves. Consider setting up a trial site that prospects can get access to for a specific period of time (e.g. 30 days before their access times out). Armed with the knowledge you have provided them about the product, they will be able to test the solution and determine how it can help them address their problems which, in turn, will help you close the deal.
You have what you need to close deals, but are you actively searching for prospects? Download our Prospecting Tip Sheet for best practices and suggestions to improve your qualifying process, fill your pipeline and prioritize leads.