Consultative Selling

Consultative selling has been around since the 1970’s and refers to the technique a sales person uses to discover the needs, trends and opinions of a prospect. This type of sales training is immensely under-valued. Sales is not about having the gift-of-gab or that mega-watt smile. It is a consistently applied approach to understanding and applying the method to locate potential clients, discovering their needs and delivering products or services to satisfy their needs.

If I’m in the market to buy a car, I’m disappointed when the sales person lamely shows me the cool nets in the trunk space that will hold my groceries. Really? This is all you got? Why wouldn’t they ask if I will be toting children and if safety is a concern. (safety stats) Why wouldn’t they ask if I would like to resell a car often or keep it till the wheels fall off? (resale value versus repair costs) What if my budget needs to consider the costs of insuring a 2-door versus a 4-door. (the rising costs of insurance) These are the things that matter. I know the new car will smell good and drive well. I might want to know the interest rates they are offering. I might observe how easy it is to get in and out of the showroom and their respect of my time.

I’ve never understood the notion that as a sales person I have to sneak information past a “salesperson filter.” This is where the sales process is misunderstood. Somewhere along the line buyers began to believe that sales people would somehow make them buy something they didn’t want or need. It would be of great value to consumers and buyers to act completely opposite and be open-minded to probing questions. You might find what you are looking for faster or perhaps even find a better alternative if you are open about what you need. We may discover together that I’m not a good fit for your company, but I might be able to direct you to vendors that can assist you. You might not know the answers to my questions, but I can help you track your stats to determine the best way to buy. Didn’t know your mailer could have been produced for less money just by altering the size? Maybe you thought I was being nosy. Nope, just trying to figure out how I can help you…not sell you.

My Day of Reflection

reflectiion

Eleven years ago this coming Monday, I woke up groggy from surgery. Staring up into John’s face he looked funny to me; not funny ha-ha, but funny weird. His eyes reflected something different, a sadness I couldn’t quite comprehend. “We don’t have a problem, right?” I stated more than I asked. “Yes, we do” he answered. That was exactly how my journey with breast cancer began.

It doesn’t really matter if you’re a printer, a journalist, accountant or teacher, cancer is indiscriminate my doctor told me. It didn’t matter that I took care of myself, ate well and exercised often. I don’t have a history of breast cancer anywhere in my family. So, when I woke up that morning years ago I felt sucker-punched. Cancer…really?

In our office right now there are four of us. Four survivors out of the 14 women who work here. Higher than the 1 in 8 ratio normally referenced in breast cancer statistics. Many of us will participate in the local Komen Race For The Cure to raise money for research and to honor those we love who currently battle, or those we’ve lost to the disease.

Since that day, September 30th has become my day of reflection. Then, the next day, and for the entire month of October, or breast cancer awareness month, I’ll represent my fight. I’ll wear my pin and my bracelet that serves to remind everyone that this is the month to be aware, and perhaps to consider donating.

I’ve written before about Chump Change. Not inferring at all that the money I had tucked away for years in my jewelry box was chump change. But, more that I was a chump for not realizing what I had. How many of us might have valuable foreign money…tucked away from trips long ago that might be exchanged and used for donations? Whether you donate to the Komen, or any other good cause, it’s a good thing. Don’t be a chump

Sudoku at 3am

For many years I’ve polished my word skills working the crossword puzzle. Occasionally I’d glance across the page at the Sudoku puzzle wondering how that worked, but not curious enough to try. On a recent trip to New York, with newspaper in-hand and the crossword done, I took a stab at the Sudoku numbers puzzle. There I sat, trying my best to logically figure out the pattern of numbers. Soon John took an interest and by the end of our trip we were hooked on Sudoku.

Last Saturday evening, I was working a puzzle with a level 5 difficulty and was so stuck that I gave up and went to bed. At 3 am Sunday morning, my sweet dog needed to be let outside, so while I was waiting to let her back in I took a look at the puzzle that had me stumped the night before. Within one minute of looking at the squares I discovered the one number I needed and a few minutes later I had the puzzle solved. Wow…my first level 5. (Yes, I woke John up to tell him)

I don’t know if it was the five hours of sleep, fresh eyes or just luck that I discovered the number that held the key to solving the puzzle. But, like usual for me, it made me wonder about how our minds work. Perhaps the uncluttered mind at 3 am was all I needed to see what I was too tired to see the night before. Or maybe it was the absence of stress that made the solution so obvious.

This makes me think of Raymer Bookbindery and the philosophy that Myers, the owner, uses to create his custom bookbinding. Myers likes to muse about a project and he will not be rushed. He knows through experience that his most challenging projects can’t be solved quickly. He is certain the solution will come to him, but perhaps in a time frame that is not necessarily in sync with our current craze of doing everything quickly.

That gets me to thinking about some of my more difficult print projects. Sometimes I don’t immediately know the best way to proceed with a job and I’ll need to make paper mock ups and discuss the project with my pressmen or production team. All of this takes time for us to think, to estimate, discuss some more and execute. The absence of time restrictions would be beneficial to every project, and although we don’t typically have that luxury, it is obvious that with additional time to ponder we would be more efficient at solving problems.

Looking for a job…

When was the last time you tried to sell yourself?

The typical preparation would be to prepare your résumé, get your profile out in the social media channels, contact your current relationships for introductions and prepare to contact and interview with prospective employers.

You can only put so much information on a résumé, your education, work history, accomplishments, maybe some personal information. Then, if you’re fortunate enough to land a personal interview, you only have a short amount of time to impress the interviewer. But, most-likely, a prospective employer will only scan your résumé, and if nothing interesting catches their attention, you’re filed away with the myriad of other job seekers. You become just another piece of paper in a file…but you know you’re much more than that piece of paper. You know you have so much to offer and you could fit in well and make a difference. You can solve problems ~ you know you’d be an asset to the company. You just know it…but how do you convince that one person of that?

Being educated, accomplished, likeable or interesting isn’t always enough. You can have the skill set the job requires, but then, maybe you didn’t graduate from the right school, or you’re wearing an outfit that’s too conservative or perhaps too sophisticated. How would you know? You can research the company in earnest before your interview and think you know enough about the company, their culture and what they’re looking for, but your first challenge is to impress the interviewer.

Searching for a job is challenging, humbling and at times, scary. There is a fine line between selling yourself and bragging, and then you have the challenge of asking the right questions to provide the information the interviewer needs to make a scrutinized decision. But, when a job search stretches on, especially in down-turns in the economy and you become frustrated, you certainly can’t come across as pushy or desperate to a prospective employer.

Here’s where I’m going with this blog.

Professional sales people sell themselves everyday…that is their job. We manage current client expectations while at the same time searching for new opportunities to keep our manufacturing plants open, and not only ourselves employed, but our co-workers employed. Our résumé might be our equipment list…not a complete example of what we can do for a client, but a form of introduction non-the-less. We are active in the social media channels but those mediums work only if clients are searching for us. Nobody has unlimited time to wait to be discovered, not the person looking to be employed, or the salesperson looking for work. It’s good to have those channels covered, but the reality is sales people must be more pro-active.

So, if I’m (interesting/knowledgeable/funny/?) enough on the telephone or on paper without sounding like I’m selling or pushy or desperate, I might get an appointment. But, if I don’t nail the client’s need on the head, on what sometimes is my only opportunity, I must continue to find another person who will take the time to see me. If you’ve ever looked for a job, you know how difficult it is to get an interview AND land a job. There is not a rep here at Ussery Printing who I would classify as slick. As a group we are veterans of this industry but still bumble our words on occasion and sometimes don’t get our message across. We’re human, complicated and sometimes fragile….but we’re also resilient, positive and we know we can solve problems ~ we know we would be an asset to your company…we just know it.

The Death of the Movie Theater

Years ago…back in the 80’s when VCR’s were being introduced, word on the street
was that the movie theater would no longer be needed. Conventional opinion was that nobody would want to, or need to go to a movie theater, since you would now be able to rent movies and watch them in the comfort of your own home. Never mind that the rates weren’t that much different from a movie ticket, but, then again, you could have a group of people watch for only one rental price.

Fast forward decades and the movie theater didn’t fade away, in fact, they grew. Megaplex movie theaters emerged with lots of lights and glam. Although the viewing rooms were made smaller to accommodate many movies, investors made improvements in chair comfort, big screen, big sound and then there’s the IMax. You can’t get that experience at home. The successful movie theaters committed themselves to making positive changes to the movie experience. The theater industry not only grew despite the threat from the movie rentals, but boomed. Who would have thought?

That VCR explosion makes me think about the internet explosion and the conventional opinion that print will no longer be needed. Like the movie rental industry, there will be those situations where the digital version trumps the print version. But what an opportunity for the printing industry to re-invent itself and come out booming.

You Need a Sense of Humor ~

I’ve prayed a lot lately. There are prayers for family, co-workers, people who are sick, and the occasional selfish one that I ask: Please dear God, please let me win the lottery. I’d really like to get all six numbers. Please, please, please? Then I won’t have to work anymore! I promise to do lots of good with the money. Just think of all these people who I’m praying for who need help. I would help them. You get the point. I’m fairly certain most of us have had this talk with God.

Last Saturday night the Texas Lotto was about 17 million and change. Love that…and change. Ha! The “change” is 700,000. So, being the big spender that I am, I played five lines (or $5.00) Of those, three were quick picks and two lines were numbers I chose. A few weeks ago I saw a TV newscast of a statistical mathematician who was giving advice on how to win the lottery. Don’t go with low numbers, popular numbers or quick picks. Really? And how many lotteries have you won?

Anyway, I actually did win the lottery on Saturday night! So, why am I not celebrating in Austin, Texas instead of writing my blog from work on a Wednesday? I did get all six numbers, but on my entire ticket ~ OH, but you need them all to be on the same line to win. And, the winning ticket? It was three numbers on the same line, so I won $3.00.

God has such a great sense of humor. Next time I’ll be more specific.