There is no doubt that the rewards for selling a web to print solution to your client can be significant and long lasting. However the reality is that the sale will often require a much longer sales cycle. A typical print job may take a few days or weeks from quotation to delivery where as an online print solution may take many months or even much longer to convert into regular orders. This can lead to frustration for both the sales person and the management team who are pushing sales people to hit monthly targets.
The first issue that needs to be recognised is the potential longevity of any online print solution sold to your client. Once a client starts using an online system barriers are created that cannot be easily breached, your competitors are going to find a major hurdle in their way if they want to offer an alternative supply. Even if they are able to demonstrate a cost saving to your client they would have to match the solution that you have provided. They would also need to convince the client that implementing their solution would be a simple and smooth transition. That is not an easy task and I would expect it to be much more difficult than the initial sale.
Another barrier to your client to moving supply is a daunting and potentially costly one. Your clients’ templates, order history, saved projects, data, reports and library of assets are all tied to your web to print system and your solution. A client would most likely need to start from scratch again if they wanted to switch supply. The reality is therefore that they would most likely rather stay with you and negotiate a new deal rather than switch supply to a competitor.
Given the potential longevity of supply we may now feel more inclined to accept the longer sales cycle. So what strategy can we employ to improve sales and ensure we have a regular flow of new enquiries and sales? The first thing we must recognise is that the client might not necessarily be ready to consider your online print solution straight away. However they most likely will be ready at some stage in the future so we must become masters of the follow up. A one-off or sporadic approach is simply not good enough for this type of solution selling. Therefore we must find a way to establish a regular dialogue with the client, the golden rule is to stay in touch and we can do this in a number of ways. We can ensure that we are disciplined in our communication with our sales contacts by using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to record contact and to plan future sales calls and tasks. We can create a regular marketing medium that will grab the clients attention. Why not consider a regular Newsletter and/or case studies, if the case studies are in some way relevant to the client (same industry sector) then all the better.
Don’t be put off by a client’s lack of interest in the first instance. It may take some time for your client to see the benefits of an online solution and therefore patience and persistence are definitely essential requirements when selling this type of service. Remember also that different people respond to different things, so make sure you have a good mix of approaches in your sales and marketing strategy. Use a combination of calls, emails, direct mail, newsletters and case studies, open days and events. Be persistent and gradually you will find your sales cycle is generating more and better opportunities. Remember if you are not filling the information void then someone else will! Stay ahead by becoming a master of follow up.