The fourth myth of print sales: it’s the customer that makes it all about price

Posted by Matthew Parker

  • The more urgent the job, the later the files.
  • A printer is only as good as the last job they delivered.
  • The customer will have conveniently forgotten what you said to them, unless you have it in writing.

These are just some of the things that I have heard printers say about customers. I think we all agree that they have more than a grain of truth in them!

Here’s another thing that I hear printers say about customers:

  • The customer makes the sales conversation all about price.

But this is one that I don’t think is so true. In fact, many times I think the opposite applies.

Often, it’s the printer who makes the conversation all about price

This is the sales approach that many print companies approach buyers with

This is the sales approach that many print companies approach buyers with

Throughout my years as a buyer, I have been regularly disappointed that print salespeople assume that I only want to talk about price. And I have been regularly surprised at how quickly print salespeople want to start talking about price.

Print sales people who avoid assuming that the conversation should be all about price are more likely to engage me. They are more likely to create a meaningful relationship with me. I also find that these salespeople control the sales conversation more often. They often walk out of a meeting having achieved what they set out to do.

Print sales people who assume that they need to sell on price often don’t even get the meeting. They certainly find it a lot harder to achieve what they need to. Buyers treat them as commodity sales people. There is no relationship. It’s the buyer who controls the conversation.

Many print salespeople have trouble in believing me when I suggest that is often the printer who leads on price. But here are three ways in which they frequently do this.

Print salespeople often tell me they have great prices

They often tell me this very early on in the conversation. This claim is made even though I haven’t even mentioned price. However, it is often assumed that the print sales person has to tell the buyer about great prices just to get a conversation with them.

It is true that some buyers to immediately bring the conversation round price. But many times it is possible to have a conversation without mentioning price straightaway. Of course, to make this conversation successful, the print sales person has to avoid the second sign of selling on price.

Print salespeople often fail to sell me their company

Frequently, when a print salesperson talks about great prices, they fail to talk to me about their company. It’s as if they don’t believe that they have anything worth selling. It’s as if they believe that all print companies of the same and that the buyer will only choose on price.

Of course, if the buyer really does feel that all print companies of the same, they really will choose on price. I will talk more about this in my next article.

I can’t believe that print salespeople haven’t got something good and unusual about their company to talk about. But, all too frequently, they are busy making the third sign of selling on price.

Print salespeople often ask for quotes too soon

The goal of most print sales calls and meetings is to get the buyer to ask for a price. However, for this to be a worthwhile enquiry, the buyer needs to be interested in your company. Otherwise, they will just be getting a price to check if they are paying too much. If this is the case, a competitive price will usually be used just to beat their current supplier down.

Many times, print sales people ask me for prices far too early on in the conversation. I haven’t yet got to the point where I am interested in their company. Without this genuine interest, the exercise of quoting is rarely worthwhile.

Let’s see how this works in real life.

Here’s a typical price led sales approach

This is an actual email that I received from a print salesperson:

Hi Michael

I hope you are well.

How are you finding the trade at the moment?

For us it has been very up and down, at the moment we are very busy. But, as always, we want more work, so if you have anything that is suitable to my presses, both B1 and B2, then please contact us for a quotation.

This email is all about getting a quote request. It doesn’t try and sell the company. It doesn’t try and engage me. (The salesperson didn’t even get my name right.) So, of course, I am only going to respond to this email if I am interested in buying on price.

Many print sales people tell me that they feel they have to go through this process.

The buyer expects the conversation to be about price

This is often down to the mindset of the salesperson. If you expect the conversation to be about price, you make the conversation about price. But it’s different if you expect a conversation to focus on the advantages that your company can bring a prospect. Then you will make the conversation about how your company can help the prospect.

Here are three action points to make your sales message more positive

  1. Review your current sales message. Does it engage the prospect? Or is it focusing too much on how competitive your prices are?
  2. Review when you are asking for quotes during your sales process. Make sure that this is not happening too early.
  3. Make sure that prospects understand the full value of your offering. (This does mean that you should be offering more than just ink on paper.)

The customer is often guilty of causing you many problems

However, leading the conversation on price is frequently not one of them. That is often down to the print salesperson.
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