Being a salesperson is no easy task, but the position is the backbone of any company. Without sales, your business wouldn't survive. It's a no-brainer. Print salespeople have been fighting an uphill battle for some time now but the strongest of them have survived and even thrived. This is no doubt due to finely honed sales skills (and maybe a little bit of luck). As such, we've created a list of the top seven tips for print sales reps to keep in mind when tackling a sales opportunity.

1. Research: As with anything, the first step of your sales approach should involve some heavy research. Going into a call well-prepared can set you up in a better position for success. Take the time to check out your potential client's website and get a feel for their business. Do thorough research into what about their company makes your offer valuable. For print salespeople, a direct focus on industry forms or repeatable products could be of use to your sales pitch. If you come in with an idea of what your customer needs, you can better sell your product's utility to them. The more research, the better. Remember, there's no such thing as being over-prepared. 

2. Keep your focus on the customer: The star of the conversation should always be the customer: not you, not your company, not even the deal. Inc. contributor Geoffrey James urged sales employees to remember that there is a person on the other end of the phone. Many salespeople are so keyed in on making their pitch that they don't give the customer time to speak. Don't make that mistake. Approach your sales like a friendly conversation. Listen to your potential customers' needs. What do they need from a print distributor? What problems have they run into in the past? Remember, it is better to sell with questions than answers. Put the customer first and a sale will likely follow.

3. Take non-verbal cues: A good salesperson can hear the words that aren't being spoken, explained Entrepreneur contributor Len Foley. Try to listen in for any indications of agitation or anger. Does your customer seem hurried? Do you hear a commotion in the background? These non-verbal cues can be passed on in person by body language or on the phone by tone. Whatever it is, feel it out and then try to address the issue. If your customer seems rushed ask if there is a better time to call, suggested Foley. Whatever your tactic, your customer will appreciate that you noticed and it will help build your business relationship in the long run.

4. Make time for follow-ups: Always set aside time in your schedule strictly for follow-up calls. Whether it is with existing clients or customers on the brink of buying into your services, persistence is key when it comes to the world of sales. Different businesses approach follow-up calls in different ways. HubSpot suggested categorizing your leads into distinct boxes: cold for new calls, warm for those in the market for your products and hot for clients who have sought out your services directly. Whichever way you slice it, follow-ups are a great way to show clients you are dedicated to their business – closed sale or not.

5. Don't focus on the close: Try not to get too wrapped up in the idea of closing. The ultimate close can be determined in increments. Try to secure something small with every call or visit you make. Whether it is as simple as a confirmed call for more details next week or a formal meeting to discuss logistics, sales is about working up to the actual close. Print distributors specifically can offer products incrementally, sell them on your business forms now and your prescription pads later. Don't give up if the deal doesn't happen on your first try. If it did, this job wouldn't be so difficult!

6. Sell relevance, not product: According to James, it's easy for sales reps to get lost in the product details. Customers don't necessarily want to hear about product features, they'd rather hear about how these products are relevant to them. Make sure you include this aspect in your research process. Tell your client how continuous forms and cut sheets would benefit them. This is a much easier way to translate value than waiting for the customer to make connections themselves. Get to the point and make the sale.

The sales department is crucial to the survival of any business. It is hard and important work that obviously brings in key revenue to the company at large. For print businesses, nurturing sales personnel and their skills is an important practice for continued success. Whether using these tips or not, make sure you and your sales reps are constantly revaluating sales tactics as a team.