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Business Oracle

Top Tips for Selling Print & Finding Customers

Nick Devine, founder of The Print Coach, shares his top tips for selling print and finding customers following the meteoric growth of the internet

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The rise of the internet has caused global print sales to fall dramatically

Print selling age of the internet

The meteoric rise of the internet and online digital marketing has caused global print sales to fall off a cliff.  Since 1992, printing shipments have declined nearly 50 percent and profit margins have slumped even further.  You are now in a market where supply exceeds demand.  Printers who know no better simply respond by cutting prices in a race to the bottom.

The modern print salesperson operates differently. Their goal is to add business value as opposed to discounting their pricing. In pursuit of that objective they use a completely different sales process.

They start the conversation with their prospect by focusing on the business objectives the client is trying to achieve.

This is my 40th year in sales. And in all that time I have never come across a potential prospect who wanted to buy what I was selling.

Peter Drucker understood this well when he said: “the customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling them.”

The customer is interested in resolving issues and producing results. They look at our products and services through that specific lens.

The customer is interested in resolving issues and producing results


If they think we are the best choice for resolving their issues, they are more likely to do business with us.

In other words, we need to put the problem before the product.

Unfortunately, most salespeople sell the other way around. They put the product before the problem. They try to sell the benefits of their product and service as opposed to understanding the problem the client is trying to resolve with their products and services.

Imagine for a minute walking into a doctor’s surgery. The doctor greets you warmly, hands you a prescription and then sets about explaining why the drugs she is recommending are some of the best drugs known to man. You would feel somewhat confused. The process would feel like it was back to front.You would wonder how the doctor could prescribe first and diagnose later.

In the world of medicine, prescription before diagnosis equals malpractice.

The first thing the doctor needs to do is diagnose your situation and find out what is going on with you.

It would feel extremely weird if she started telling you about the merits of her medical practice and the strengths of the various drugs she has available.

Unfortunately, many salespeople sell by putting the prescription before the diagnosis. They extol the benefits of their company and their products and services.

They hope to persuade the client that they are the best choice available.

And they believe that if they do a good enough job, the client will give them an opportunity to quote for some work.

Unfortunately, this process ends up commoditising what you do.

And even if you do win business, you will get beaten up on pricing. The sad reality is that many salespeople do not fully understand the issues that their clients are trying to solve, in the context of the products/services they sell.

The sad reality is that many salespeople do not fully understand the issues that their clients are trying to solve, in the context of the products/services they sell


According to Forrester research, 64 percent of senior executives believe that the salesperson does not know enough about their buyer’s business to bring any value to a meeting.

According to Forrester research, 64 percent of senior executives believe that the salesperson does not know enough about their buyer’s business to bring any value to a meeting


In fact, only 25 percent of them are prepared to take a second meeting.

Think about this for a minute; three out of every four prospect meetings are a waste of time and money – both for the seller and for the buyer.

If you want to master the art of consultative selling, you must learn to put the problem before the product. Diagnose first – prescribe second!

These are three of my favourite diagnostic questions for identifying the client’s business objectives.

What do you hope to accomplish in this area? In which specific areas of this project are you hoping to get a better result? Where would success show up first in a project like this?

EXAMPLE: You are talking to a prospect about a print marketing campaign that they are looking at running with your business. The goal is to improve their results over previous campaigns.

YOU: In the context of your marketing campaign, what are you trying to accomplish?

CLIENT: We need to increase the number of clients in our loyalty/ membership program.

YOU: In which specific areas of your membership program are you looking to get a better result?

CLIENT: We are looking for a net  increase in members, which means we need to try and re-engage with lapsed members and we need to acquire brand new members.

YOU: And where would success show up first?

CLIENT: Our first priority is to re-engage with lapsed members.

YOU: Great, shall we focus on that first?

CLIENT: Sounds good!

When you finally get around to talking about your printed products and services, you can now present them in the context of the client’s business objective.

What to do next

If you would like a copy of the 21 Proven Sales Questions for selling print, simply send an email to Nick@theprintcoach.com and put the words ‘Print Selling Questions’ in the subject line. In addition to providing you with the 21 Proven Sales Questions, you will also get examples of how to use them in a print selling conversation.  These are the exact same questions my private clients use to create sales and margin growth.


Nick Devine is the founder of www.ThePrintCoach.com.  We Help Print & Packaging Companies Win New High Margin Accounts... GUARANTEED RESULTS

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