Rebuilding Sales - The Great Restart (Vol. 11)
Define your value proposition.
We know our customers. We know their journey. Now we need to fit ourselves into their needs in the best way possible. This comes from defining your competitive advantage.
Your competitive advantage is what sets you apart from the competition, fully understanding, and articulating this is a crucial element of your sales plan template. Start by asking a few simple questions:
- Why do customers buy from us?
- Why do customers buy from our competitors and not us?
- Why do some potential customers not buy at all?
- What do we need to do to be successful in the future?
Remember that customers buy benefits, not features. When describing your value proposition, it's easy to get caught up in talking about you. What you've made. What you do. Instead, flip the script and talk about what your product will do for your customers. A strong competitive advantage:
- Reflects the competitive strength of your business
- Is preferably, but not necessarily, unique
- Is clear and simple
- May change over time as competitors try to steal your idea
- Must be supported by ongoing market research
Leverage current client relationships.
You're missing out on a huge opportunity if your sales plan only focuses on finding new business leads. Word-of-mouth, introductions, and current customers can be your most solid lead for growth.
Use LinkedIn to see if anyone you know can introduce you to one of your prospects. Or reach out to your most loyal customers and ask if they know anyone that would benefit from your product or service.
Now, when leveraging current client relationships in your sales plan, you'll need to make sure you do it in the right way. When asking for an intro, remember:
- A good introduction is two-sided: As the person in the middle, you're asking your client to vouch for you. If you already have a good relationship this should be a no-brainer. You provided value to them and they should want to help you in turn. Ask them how well they know your target. Would they feel comfortable introducing you to them? By phone? Over email? A good introduction shouldn't come out of the blue. Ask them to make sure it's OK to intro and then cc you in on an email with both parties.
- Stay in touch, even when they can't buy from you: Ask how you can help or support them, even if they stop being a customer. It's a small gesture that can pay off in the long run. Things don't stay the same for long.
Printing is not a commodity.
Every printing job is different—different type, colors, images, substrate and, most importantly purpose. This is perfectly obvious, so why talk about it? Simply because when the price for producing it is determined, it’s ignored. The price comes from an estimating system that carries out a detailed set of calculations to predict the cost of production using “budget hour rates” that try to include the cost of everything from the front door to the back in a single number. The system doesn’t care about the appearance or the intended use of the printed job nor does it consider the importance and value to the customer of the job to the customer who will be asked to pay for it.
This disconnect between the price and value is the source of work that produces extraordinary value for the customer (think digital personalization, eye catching finishing) being produced cheaply because the printer has made an investment in a new and faster system. At the same time, whole classes of work disappear (directories, catalogs) because the customer can do it with a website.
The pricing process should center around the value that is being conferred on the customer by the job and the printer’s partnership with them. Simply because the estimating process is almost always used by the printer’s competitors, it’s a useful stating point, but it’s not the final result. The complicated and detailed estimate can be replaced by a simplified internal price list whose result is adjusted up or down by a careful focus on the value being created by it for the buyer as they will be asked to write the check. This focus on use and value is facilitated by the reality that every printed job looks different and therefore is insulated from the commodity shopping that causes buyers to look for the cheapest gas station in the neighborhood.