Surviving in the printing industry – and truly succeeding – can come down to the sales process. Keeping business coming in is a constant challenge, especially in an era when print's role has changed from pillar of business to a niche, but still compelling, form of outreach. A printer that isn't successfully selling its products and services is treading water or losing ground, and that's not where you want to end up.

This importance of the sales process is a solid reason to become more than just a solutions-focused company that occasionally makes sales calls. Sales operations should be a practiced and well-designed part of any printing business, with hiring, training and oversight from the top proportionate to their importance.

Understanding is step one
If you are the owner and operator of a small or medium printing business, understanding the sales process is an essential part of your job, even if you have a sales team to handle the day-to-day operations. Printing Impressions contributor Philip Beyer explained that while it's common for company leaders to shy away from the whole sales process, unused to cold calling and fearing rejection, it's essential to understand sales on a fundamental level and pour that expertise into your leadership style.

Equipping sales for success means selecting the right tools to empower the company. Beyer suggests that small-business owners start with a solid customer relationship management system, a bespoke website and an email marketing tool. With these products in hand, it's easier to control and manage the sales process. IT solutions that help track customer relationships over time are very helpful, and email marketing takes some of the onus off of phone calls, keeping in touch with prospects as they move closer to a purchase.

Avoid irritating potential buyers
Another Printing Impressions blog contributor, Mike Jacoutot, gave a warning about some sales tactics that seem too good to be true: He explained that there is no singular tactic that will make the sales process easier immediately. For instance, the seemingly clever approach of leaving ambiguous voicemails that don't announce themselves as sales calls appears promising. Prospects will return the calls in many cases, wondering whether they're missing something important. Once they find out that you're selling something, however, they're likely to feel unhappy and deceived.

Making a sale is about establishing a relationship between your company and the client's firm. If you've been unclear or deceptive from the very first contact, results will likely be lacking. All the returned voicemails in the world are useless if none of those calls leads to a real, significant sale for your organization.

What kinds of practices can yield good results instead of just improved numbers? With the caveat that none of the methods are cure-alls, Jacoutot did make a few recommendations: Sales calls that go to voicemail should be practiced, to-the-point and directly address relevant issues affecting the prospect's industry. The idea of this short message is to establish first contact between seller and buyer, meaning that you should be clear about why the call is happening but not try to close the sale right there. The message opens the door to future conversations.

New business needed
The sales process is a permanent piece of any print service provider's business model. Even companies with good retention rates will need fresh infusions of business to keep growing, as well as strong continued contact with existing clients. Print products still have relevance to modern organizations, but without good sales operations, you may not be able to make the needed connection with potential buyers.

Marketing and sales are also closely related. Beyer recommended a search-engine-optimized website that will bring curious browsers to you. Parlaying this inbound marketing into a more developed and hands-on sales process is an important element of modern operations, and one that can keep the leads flowing into your printing business. No matter what the next few years bring for the ever-changing print sector, sales teams that understand the state of the industry will be essential.