Staking out a place as a print service provider in today's market is a complex process. Unless your sales team can bring in high-quality leads and get those customers to stay with your company over time, there is a good chance you'll lose ground within a market that has already been depleted by the digital revolution.

It's clear in such a scenario that taking the right approach to marketing and sales can radically change the outlook for a printing business. While every company will have its own specific processes and approach, there are a few major priorities to keep in mind when hiring, training and overseeing the salespeople who will represent your brand.

Learning from what works
Instead of dealing with generalizations, WhatTheyThink columnist Jennifer Matt recently delved into concepts that worked when Arnold Printing revamped its sales team. Sharing the lessons learned, she noted that when new team members are brought on board, they are given plenty of support and information to get up to speed. The onboarding process lasts a few weeks at most, but can have positive echoes throughout an employee's whole tenure.

When salespeople don't learn enough about the products and services they'll be representing, they obviously won't be able to perfectly match the service provider's offerings with client needs. Such a lack of specificity might lose the organization sales, and it will certainly mean missed opportunities for making perfect matches between product and client, as well as the chance to creatively upsell new contracts.

While every printer will have its own unique office culture and processes to impart, the one way to do onboarding unambiguously wrong is to ignore it altogether. Throwing sales representatives into the fray will leave them unprepared for what's to come, as Matt explained. If there is no consistent path to work through, new hires who were excellent job candidates may end up failing to fulfill their promise. Unprepared reps will be unable to know with any confidence how they should handle their roles.

At this point, it's important to reflect on just what skills make someone a top candidate for a print sales role. Matt explained that today's printing industry is unlike the space as it existed for decades. Employees have to be ready to match solutions with complex customer needs. To do this, they have to have a deep understanding of the printing sector and the kind of soft skills that allow them to communicate and sell with confidence.

Always be ready to rethink
Of course, print salespeople don't stop learning or growing once they're officially onboarded. Every day is a chance to grow and evolve, and Printing Impressions columnist Bill Farquharson believes that's what employees should do, whether things are going well or poorly. When sales are down, it's obvious that something needs to change – expecting conditions to improve with no direct action is unrealistic. During times of acceptable sales and positive momentum, however, it may be harder to make salespeople reflect.

There's no such thing as a perfect sales process. This, according to Farquharson, is why it's possible and even important to make changes during good times. Sales teams could have inefficiencies and time management issues that need attention. Dealing with these problems is a good way to ensure that conditions get better rather than remaining level.

Taking steps to improve conditions overall could mean stepping back and taking a more philosophical look at the current state of the sales process. Farquharson is in favor of that approach. When sales employees become too focused on the micro level, the next task that needs to be accomplished, they may be missing major chances to shake up and improve their routines.

Sales today
Selling print is a process based on finding solutions to problems. It calls for intuition and careful thought alongside attentiveness and deep industry knowledge. Getting to this point isn't easy, but once you've found the right team and training methods, the results can begin to appear. Other print service providers will likely have products and services very similar to yours – it is your sales reps who will set your company apart in the eyes of potential buyers. Becoming a leader in the field may come down to effectively matching each client's worries to an ideal offering, and that's the role of sales.