At the end of 2012, Steve Martin posted his top 10 sales trends predictions for this year over at the Harvard Business Review blog. Based on my experience this year with organizations in the graphic arts community, I see similarities. Better yet, these trends scale from small businesses with a sales force of 1 to large enterprises. What are you doing to capitalize each to grow your sales? Below I have summarized Martin’s 10 trends with applications for the graphic arts industries in italics.
- Sales Force Behavior Modeling
A model, description and visual representation, to show how your best sales people operate and close deals.
Why more businesses do not take the time to evaluate a replicate their best performers is beyond me. Unlike creating a list of best practices, this model should replicate the decision tree process for account profiling, decision maker engagement, and solution selection repeatedly taken by the successful sales person.
- Win-Loss Analysis Studies
Analyze where the process went wrong with the decision makers on current wins and losses.
It is not longer good enough to know your USPs and the top strategic goals of your customers. You also have to know, or at least predict, the intricacies of the decision makers including biases, preferences, personal agendas.
- Emphasis on Language-Based Interactions
During the sales cycle prospects not only listen to what you say but how you say it.
Do you think your iPhone or iPad is “magical” or at least special? A portion of that is distilled from how Apple, most famously delivered by Steve Jobs, announces its products. What you project will be returned by your prospect.
- Sales Force Verticalization
Be a specialist, not a generalist.
This not only applies to the sales force but the entire organization. Many successful print service providers have focused on a narrow vertical such as automotive, health care, non-profits, etc. The next logical step is to deliver those same services to similar industries as a growth strategy.
- Sales Process Ineffectiveness
Understanding what happens during and at the end of sales calls is just as important a complete sales process.
While not negating the steps that got you the sales call, the prospect only knows about and remembers the delivery. Incorporating trend 2 and 3 the sales behavior model will help improve the hook.
- Organizational Buying Psychology
Knowing the interwoven web of departments, decision makers, and users of your service at larger account is critical to crafting the messaging for each.
Realizing how the people fit the puzzle will help to navigate the budget and department wars of larger companies.
- No Decision as the Main Competitor
The success at getting the sale lies at targeting the upper rungs of the ladder or the C-suite.
This is certainly true for many print service providers, especially ones with targeting marketing services, who need to move out of the procurement department and into the CMO’s office.
- “Intelligent” Territory Management
Utilizing data and analytics to predict which net-new customers should be called upon.
The challenge is not so much in having a solution to capture the data, but more so in turning that data into specific action items. For smaller businesses, this will remain a challenge.
- Technology Fatigue
The always-on nature of sales is causing the sales force to burnout.
Too much of a good thing is still too much. The solution is to craft a process so that technology works for sales instead of sales working for the technology.
- Continued Migration from Field to Phone
Many businesses have transitioned a large portion of their sales force to phone based sales.
While this may be true in many industries, this is not the norm for print sales. Although many print service providers would like to operate in a passive sales model through the phone or web-to-print storefront, most see results from active selling.
Most of these trends are having or will have an impact on the graphic arts market. As a starting point, I would focus especially hard on sales process verticalization and sales force behavior modeling.