One of the challenges of the print industry is that printers often need to invest in new technology to remain competitive – even when they are not operating at full capacity on existing equipment. IBISWorld Market Research estimates that the average firm in the Printing industry spends $0.16 on capital investment for every dollar spent on labor. The majority of capital expenditures center on purchasing printing presses and other machinery but may also include Web2Print solutions, personalization tools, workflow or composition software.
Many companies are expanding their services to include e-presentment, multi-channel marketing and response analytics and must invest in the infrastructure to support those new capabilities. They invest because they believe that new technology will help them to make money – either by doing more for the customers they have or by attracting new customers.
For any major new investment, management will generally do a fairly thorough analysis and build a business case. In addition to operational and expense factors, the business case needs to include a sales forecast that delves into the expectations about existing customers and new customers and where the business is going to come from to justify investment.
Typically plans are drawn up over a period of months and then investments are made. But what happens when the sales people won’t sell to the plan?
I hear about reps at commercial printers who won’t sell digital, digital printer sales people who won’t put clients on inkjet and transaction print reps who don’t want to sell e-presentment among the many problems that stymie management. Sales reps who give away strategy, design and development services instead of selling them is a chronic problem across the industry.
Sometimes you can chalk the sales lag up as a basic change management issue. The new stuff is just not in their comfort zone. The fact is that sales people walk a careful line between being client advocates and delivering profitable deals for their employer. They need to be very protective of their personal reputation and their relationship with clients, so unknowns about new offers make them very nervous. New technology coupled with requirements for new ways of selling make them doubly nervous.
When you make a strategic change in your product mix you need to look at making strategic changes in your sales processes as well. Chances are good that some of your sales people won’t like that very much. Most printers have a mix of long- and short-tenured sales reps; those with many years, or even decades of experience with a solid book of business may see themselves as being above the change and immune to new standards. An effective change management approach will ensure that sales people have the necessary tools, resources, incentives, and support to succeed with the new model. It must also reinforce that they work for the company – not for themselves and that the company has the right to place emphasis on selling the services that support their long-term success.
So, as you polish off your technology implementation plan, pay careful attention to your sales plan and change management needs. Stay tuned as we look at how your past history can hurt your future sales.
Elizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes, presents and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.