Selling print products and services is the beginning of a relationship between vendor and client. This is a connection to take seriously. Indeed, in a world that has gone largely digital, you need to hold onto your current customers more closely than ever before. Thus, it's important to think about your customers first when it comes to moving the relationship along. Encouraging repeat business and suggesting new offerings can be done with client challenges and needs in mind, rather than your own particular sales goals – and should be.

When the connection between you as a salesperson and the client as a buyer is strong, based on trust and a commitment to a shared strategy, it's more of a partnership than a customer-vendor bond. This means you have to commit to truly learning about your target and current clientele. Understanding their industry pressures and current needs will enable you to forge this new and necessary level of connection.

People are the difference-maker
When it comes down to it, print service providers sell fairly similar offerings. Printing Impressions contributor Margie Dana recently proposed an exciting way to break through the stalemate and make your lineup stand out: Emphasize the people within your company.

Dana specified that when clients sign up with a printing business, they want a long-term commitment, dealing with the same individuals over time. This will be much more enjoyable for everyone involved if your team is friendly, conscientious, knowledgeable and dedicated. It's up to you and your colleagues to present this high level of service, and to use it as a selling point.

When it comes to selling, it's tempting to make some technical point the star of the show. If you have the best available technology, or the lowest prices in the printing industry, this is the kind of element that tends to get play in marketing materials. Dana countered, however, that there will always be competition on each of these types of performance. To truly stand out, you've got to make your people are the stars of the show.

Several different areas of expertise and interest among your team can be major selling points. Dana pointed to examples in which learning about individuals' personal hobbies made them seem more interesting and memorable. Furthermore, if there is a deep well of paper industry experience in your ranks, that is worth mentioning.

The aforementioned tactic works with all kinds of employees, as clients will have to deal with multiple levels of your company from time to time. From the owner of the firm to customer service reps, to you and the rest of the sales team, all these individuals may interact with the clients. Launching a sales pitch based on the dedicated, versatile and very human professionals who compose your organization could make a much deeper impact than speaking about a product or pricing strategy that rivals can easily copy.

Teaming up with executives
Another Printing Impressions contributor, Mike Jacoutot, described a situation in which multiple team members can forge a deeper relationship with clients than a single individual. He explained that when you're dealing with high-level executives at client companies, it pays to bring in your own top-level people. The author added that when you set up meetings between leaders at client companies and your own firm, these should be substantial conversations with strategic implications, deepening the bond between organizations.

Becoming a trusted confidant of C-suite leaders at customer businesses depends on a few important factors, Jacoutot explained. For instance, you have to be willing to give deep insights into how your organization runs and your overall strategy. If you commit resources to the relationship, it will progress better than if you're all talk.

If you are an accountable contact, someone who is knowledgeable and decisive, you can become an ally and partner to demanding and time-pressed organizational executives, according to Jacoutot. These types of connections are essential, considering the current state of the industry. Ensuring that buy-in exists at your client firm from the top down may confirm that you'll be part of the strategic mix beyond one or two campaigns.

Becoming a leader
With the sales process increasingly focusing on your people and the deepening of client relationships depending on your dealings directly with individuals at the customer firm, it's clear that the printing industry has entered a personal era. There's little room for tenuous connections based solely on a few offerings or a promise of lower prices. Those bonds can easily be broken when a competitor undercuts your deal. Instead, it's best to ensure there are personal layers of trust between you and your customers.

Even in an era defined by digital systems and communication methods, individuals value human connections and believe in people rather than things. Tapping into an intrinsic need for collaboration and connections to be made on an interpersonal basis could truly differentiate your print offerings and make them stand out.