Selling print today is a complex process that might start with a false assumption: Potential buyers could go into the transaction assuming they won't benefit from purchasing new printing services. In a world of digital data storage and online marketing, it's no secret that some of print's main use cases are no longer the slam dunks they used to be. That said, print service providers have all the tools they need to make a compelling case for their products' continued relevance, provided they do some research.

Selling print is a process based on creating solid business relationships rather than just convincing a buyer to make a one-off purchase. Despite the fact that quick, unique contracts are becoming a powerful source of income within the printing industry, it's clear that these jobs are at their best when the customers are eager to keep working with the service provider on their next few similar jobs.

Making these lasting connections is the main responsibility facing salespeople in the printing business today. If they use their internal resources intelligently, they could have a great deal of success convincing clients to get on board.

The importance of 'homework'
No two print service providers are exactly the same. Based on shop equipment, staff experience, region and more, each business will have its own ideal target audience. According to WhatTheyThink contributor Lisa Cross, there is value in zeroing in on the most fruitful market segment available and learning as much as possible about the needs, trends and interests in that sector. This deep knowledge could be more effective than gaining a surface-level expertise in a wide variety of unrelated industries' backgrounds.

Cross recommended that sales professionals delve into publications and research about the industry, and establish a presence on related LinkedIn discussion groups. This kind of submersion in the concerns of potential customers could seem too excessive or speculative, but it can pay off in negotiations. When buyers see they're dealing with individuals who know what they need, they may be more comfortable signing a contract.

Furthermore, a meaningful component of the sales challenge today may involve simply picking what to sell. When prospects open with the assumption that they don't need print, salespeople who are experts on relevant industry trends, demands and norms can counter with well-informed suggestions that point to a productive way forward for client and seller alike.

Once print shops become adept at serving a particular industry, their future offerings can be shaped by past performance. Even at the beginning of a sales campaign, however, there is plenty of value to be had from using specific messaging instead of a more general set of suggestions.

Convincing sales assets
Print service providers should also be well-stocked with materials that present the business as a great choice for prospective print buyers. Especially in today's internet-dominated business world, there is no need for a potential print buyer to speak with a sales representative in advance of a purchase. Self-guided buying is a common way for potential clients to pick from among the many service providers that could meet their needs, and print shops that cater to these independent-minded shoppers may take value from the strategy.

Printing Impressions contributor Matthew Parker recently opined that it's too common for print service providers today to offer up sales materials that are inwardly focused. The brochures and websites spend copious time describing and praising the shops that created them, explaining its equipment setup or history of the business. The assumption that goes into these assets is that buyers will compare the merits of many different print shops and pick one. They are missing one element, however – much like in-person sales conversations, materials should be focused on consumer needs.

Parker noted that when companies use testimonials from current customers and case studies on how they've gotten results in the past, these offerings provide more concrete guides for potential customers, describing real ways in which that print shop's offerings are targeted to solve relevant issues in the chosen markets.

The sales process today can benefit from specificity and good targeting of the audience. People shopping for print services today may be more willing to make a decision on a partner company when they don't have to flex their imaginations too hard to figure out how the shop will help them achieve business goals.