Selling print services isn't really about what you have to offer. The whole transaction revolves around your customer and what his or her company wants to accomplish. Making this connection is a key moment in any field that depends on contract sales, not just the print business. The marketers and other professionals you're dealing with each have their own objectives and situations, and the sooner you delve into the specifics of those circumstances, the faster you'll connect with your audience.

The printing services you can offer are only potential ways to resolve persistent issues faced by your customers, and if you set out to sell a particular product, you're starting out at a disadvantage. It's better to read the terrain, understand the industry you're pitching to and pick out the appropriate response from among the many experiences your particular print service provider can offer. Don't force your prospects to use their imagination as to how you can help – make it clear from the start.

Overcoming the intimidation factor
WhatTheyThink columnist Joe Webb recently discovered a vital fact about potential print buyers. In many cases, these individuals don't think of print as a "bad" old medium. They're simply intimidated by the idea of using these products and services. Webb noted that individuals who have been in the printing business for a long time are typically shocked to hear that young executives are hesitant to take on print. Such a mindset shows a clear generation gap. Buyers today are less comfortable printing than those in years past, and it's your job to set them at ease.

Print is a longtime stalwart among communication methods, and it serves a different role than just about every other medium. Webb noted that you shouldn't sell print as an alternative to other modes of contact. Instead, it is a circumstantial choice: Some situations call for paper products, and others don't, and that's all right. Instead of forcing the issue, it's up to you to find environments where paper products will be a killer app for marketers.

What makes a situation right for paper? Webb suggested considering print as a support system for existing digital campaigns. Asking today's executives to abandon their tech-based operations is a no-go. Proposing that they use a complementary campaign based in print, however, is a great start, provided you can show the potential value of physical media.

Overcoming trepidation around print may mean providing help resolving the questions young executives tend to have. Webb noted that many people today aren't sure what quantity to order print products in. This is partially due to the fact that turnover in marketing leadership roles moves at a rapid pace. If there aren't individuals on staff who have seen multiple marketing campaigns, there won't be people with a frame of reference as to what print quantities work best.

Solutions beat price
Solving the specific problems faced by buyers today is so important that you may be able to attract business even if you aren't the lowest-cost option on the table. Printing Impressions contributor Matthew Parker explained that he has seen negations from the other side of the table: purchasing print solutions. He explained that when one company explains its services in detail and makes bold proposals about how the companies could interact, while all its competitors mostly emphasize how little their offerings cost, the more descriptive option will stand out.

If you have worked out specific and in-depth ways to serve your prospects, and even to help them overcome the trepidation that tends to weaken print sales today, you may be able to break through and secure contracts, even if you don't slash your prices. Parker specified that print providers competing on features rather than price is truly rare. In all the time he spent considering print partners, only two ever emphasized parts of the pitches other than the bottom line. In a sales world where it pays to stand out, focusing closely on solutions may be a way to break through.