Author Archives: Mike Philie

About Mike Philie

Mike Philie is a Senior Vice President and Managing Director and leads the Business Advisory Group of Epicomm, a not-for-profit business management association representing progressive companies in the graphic communications industry. Mike has more than 28 years of graphic communications experience in the areas of sales, sales management, and executive leadership. He has served as a president of a commercial printing company and held senior level sales management roles. Mike’s expertise includes strategic sales growth through both organic sales and mergers and acquisitions. He leads interdisciplinary teams through the transition necessary for profitable growth within a changing, dynamic marketplace. He works with client teams on sales leadership optimization, sales plan development, sales compensation strategy, and mergers and acquisition strategy, cultural fit, and post-closing integration advisory services. His experience and judgment are highly regarded as an executive-level sounding board resource. Mike works with business owners, senior leadership, sales managers, and sales reps who are not satisfied with the status quo and are looking for guidance in altering the trajectory of their results. Using his hands-on experience, Mike can assess a situation quickly to develop and implement a plan that is tailored specifically for each client. Mike is a regular presenter at industry conferences and trade shows and has served on the faculty of Epicomm’s Management Institute. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Printing Management from Rochester Institute of Technology.

Enhance Your Team’s Performance


Working on taking your team’s performance to the next level? Do they need a manager, a coach, a leader or all three? Which one are you? There is a difference in what each one of these approaches brings to the team and it’s more important than ever to review the resources you have and your alignment in this area.

Your team is undoubtedly made up of individuals who may require any or all of these roles at different times. That can be a huge assignment for anyone but it gets even more interesting if you are wearing multiple hats within the organization. Start by making a good assessment of your own style of management. Understand whether you lead by example or perhaps prefer to work one on one with the individuals on your team. Are you more of an administrator who excels at creating processes and metrics or more of a hands off manager? It can be difficult to do it all on a consistent basis. The one constant is that your team needs your help.

Know your strengths and how they align with the needs of your team. Make sure to allocate the right amount of time to the critical areas where you can make a difference, and utilize other team members or outside resources to assist on matters that fall outside of your comfort zone.


Old Habits – New Habits


We sometimes get a bit queasy when asked to take on a new task or solve a problem that might require a new tool set. After all, we tend to know what we know and as humans, will usually defer to the tried and true methods of solving problems. Whether you are in sales, managing a sales team or own a business, the new “breed” of problems (sorry, I mean opportunities) are not easily conquered with outdated skills.

Not outdated you say, maybe not. Maybe they are current but just not the right fit for the opportunity at hand. Ask yourself if the way you sell is aligned with the way your prospects want to buy. Is your sales process sound but just not applicable to the audience you are selling to? At the end of that first meeting are you setting up the follow up meeting that takes you through your sales process and the prospects buying process or are you getting a “we’ll keep you in mind” send off.

Here’s why I ask. It’s way too hard to get new business these days; it’s even harder if you’re going about it poorly. The information is out there to help you evaluate and modify your approach – you have to take advantage of it. Talk with a peer, have your boss go on calls with you, look at yourself in the mirror and answer the question directly…do something! Don’t waste your time, your company’s money and your prospects sanity by holding on to ineffective habits. Challenge yourself; be the best at what you do and increase your effectiveness in helping people buy from you.




The wind flowing through your hair (yours, not mine) as you descend Mt. Lemmon either on a bike or in a nifty convertible or the roar of the rapids as you maneuver the canoe through the white water. Pretty cool feelings if you’ve ever done either. Is that the same feeling you get when describing your new business sales process? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

While it may not be a fair comparison, humor me. When you think of the acceleration or velocity of your sales process, and if you could change anything about it, what would it be? What might be in the way of change? It might be the overall vision or leadership, or perhaps it’s a people issue. Maybe the plan is not as tight as it could be. In most endeavors the key is execution, how are you doing there?

In a dynamic, quickly changing marketplace the answers to these questions can be daunting. The answers can be even more elusive if we don’t heed Peter Drucker’s advice and ask the right questions. Leadership, vision, people, the plan, and the discipline of execution. Grade yourself on these issues, or better yet have a peer, or another business leader grade your efforts. This is hard work but can be very rewarding when you begin to isolate the areas that are holding you back from accelerating your sales process. If you’re interested in an objective opinion let’s set up a time to talk. Share your plan with me and I’ll tell you what I think.


All Accounts Are Good…


Some are just better than others. You know the accounts that I’m talking about; everyone in the plant knows who they are too. Your best accounts value the input and attention to detail you put into each project, they appreciate that you take the extra step to maintain their brand integrity and the value (the difference between the price paid and the results) you deliver exceeds their expectations. It’s all good.

How about the other accounts in your portfolio? The ones that when you ask the rep about them their reply is, “they aren’t great but it’s work.” These are the same ones that when their projects show up on the schedule the senior managers ask repeatedly “why are we still doing work for these folks?” It’s not personal-just business. They really don’t see or experience the same type of gratification that your best accounts have when working with you. There isn’t a connection. They don’t see any difference in working with you as opposed to their best alternatives. We often see these groups of client results when we perform NAPL’s eKG Competitive Edge ProfileTM. These are the ones that rate you the same as anyone else they would be working with.

NAPL’s Key Account AcceleratorTM is another place we see these results. Starting with your top 20 accounts, we determine three things: how significant, strategic and profitable are these accounts to your business. Next, take this to your “lower” 20 accounts and the difference becomes very clear.

Peter Drucker, that famed management guru talks about planned abandonment. Simply, the concept encourages business managers to regularly review their business to determine if anything is out of alignment with their stated goals and that might be taking up valuable resources or deterring their growth. He goes into much greater detail and I encourage you to read his work.

So what does planned abandonment and the fact that some accounts are just better than others have to do with each other? To me it’s about making choices, making the choice to work with the accounts that are significant, strategic and profitable and to replace the accounts that aren’t with better ones. This isn’t a “flip the switch” maneuver, rather this only happens by doing the work necessary to know your accounts, to know what you want and what you don’t want and finally to be able to say no to the ones that take you astray from your goals. It only works with a solid growth strategy that spells out the details, strategy and tactics and provides your sales reps with a roadmap of your expectations. To use a line from Jim Collins, this plan tells your team where the bus is going and what it will take to secure a seat. It’s hard work but the alternative is to stay the current course.

If you’ve created your own roadmap for success I’d like to hear from you – how’s it working?

Your Fantasy Sales Team


With the start of a new year the common questions revolve around “what are we going to do different this year in hopes of better results?” A good place to start is by examining your sales team. Look at team members and create a depth chart, complete with all their stats. Many of you already do this with your fantasy sports teams. Look at the chart, what do you have? Do you have the right folks playing the right positions? Are they on top of their game? Are they being coached properly?

If you were building a team from scratch, what would you want it to look like? This can change from company to company based on the culture, the markets served and the diversification of the products and services. My guess though is that this team might include those who:

  • Are well versed in the vertical markets that you value.
  • Have good business acumen.
  • Knows how you make money and is focused on uncovering opportunities where you can be successful, profitable and deliver ongoing value.
  • Has both the empathy to connect with a buying organization as well as the drive to connect the necessary dots to build and sell a solution that differentiates you from the competition.
  • Understands the importance of ongoing account management but works within your guidelines to allow the internal support team to manage that aspect of the relationship.
  • Is committed to being the best at what they do.

There’s a good chance that there is overlap between your fantasy team and your existing team – great. Where there isn’t overlap is where you need to make changes. It may involve a new approach to your training and continuing education program and it could mean moving some to different positions. It could mean a new strategy – new plays. We all know finding new sales people has gotten harder and harder so this exercise might help in defining the attributes that you’re looking for in your next rep. In the race for talent, just looking for “more of the same” probably won’t get you to where you need to be.

Find Your Champion


You know, it really only takes one. Look through the different departments within your business; it may be a customer service rep or a lead operator in the plant. It could be that seasoned sales rep that has found a new gear and is full of optimism, ideas and client success. If you still haven’t located one, keep looking because this is important.

Finding these folks is tough because we’re not usually looking for them, right? We are usually too focused on the exception – the bad egg. This focus dulls our senses and the shining apples in our businesses get overlooked. Time to change lenses!

After spending all week traveling to three different companies, I met some great examples of company champions. Two senior sales reps among a group of eight at a commercial offset, digital, large format and label shop who are so motivated to continue to build their business (and they are doing it) that it’s contagious to the other reps. They are leading by example and it was refreshing to hear them speak about their clients, prospects and newly targeted markets. At another company, two recently minted managers at a digital and direct mail shop spoke about growth, capacity (in a good way), creating solid employee teams and harnessing technology to enhance the client experience and production efficiencies. Cool stuff.

The moral of the story is that there are opportunities out in the marketplace and within the four walls of your facility. You’ve got to work hard at identifying and nurturing both. It can be a challenge but seek out and find someone doing something great. Who knows, you might get good at it. It’ll make a huge impact on that employee and the word will get out to everyone else that doing cool things in your company is a good thing!

Revamp Your Sales Model


Your business ebbs and flows. Good months followed by an ‘OK’ or a not so good month. How do these results compare to your plan, what’s working and where is either the plan or the execution falling short. We could be talking about a few of your reps or the entire business.

Too often the plan has not been thought out as well as you’d like it to be and the story is that the outside environment-the clients, the competitors, the ‘markets’ aren’t playing nice or playing fair. Well, that’s the norm for today. Nothing is fair and logic is not what it used to be. Maybe it’s time to revamp the sales model. We see company’s overcoming these obstacles by doing a few things differently.

  • They have gotten closer to their clients and have a better understanding of their updated buying processes. This has enabled them to modify their sales model and increase their sales effectiveness.
  • They have achieved buy-in from their sales department, their senior management team and all client-facing staff to the plan, the company’s plan.
  • They have targeted growth opportunities in vertical markets that they can repeat their sales process to effectively communicate, build trust, present real-world business solutions and earn business from these new clients.
  • They’ve incorporated a suite of metrics to measure and report their successes in achieving the sales goals their going after.
  • Accountability. No plan is perfect, right? When they see elements of their plan not generating the results they need they are not hesitant to tweak the plan and make adjustments (sooner rather than later).

While no plan will cover all the moving parts of an industry that is transforming, without one it becomes increasingly difficult to adapt both the sales effort and the business to opportunities in the marketplace.