Transforming your business without getting lost in the process

I recently co-hosted a webinar for WhatTheyThink.com – aimed at helping printers to transform their businesses without getting lost in the process.

All too many companies have been stuck in making the transition from traditional printing into the world of value-added services.  (Our on-line poll reported that 58% of the attendees have begun to transform their businesses, but the process is going more slowly than they had hoped.)  Most companies have underestimated how long the transition would take, and how difficult it would be. Most are so occupied with looking for a new answer, that they take their eyes off the ball, and fail to preserve their existing sales.

There are two major issues that derail most companies. First, they’re waiting for a blinding flash of inspiration – some cosmic new idea that will turbo-charge their sales. Yet the most successful companies have found the answers within their present operations – penetrating an industry where they’ve already had success with one client or offering added-value services more broadly, after being successful in offering those services to an existing client.

In one case, a printer had done a wide range of work for a local college, and hired the college’s marketing director, who offered her experience and expertise to more than a dozen other local colleges. $100,000 in work for one school became $2.2 million for 14 schools – all in less than two years.

In another case, a printer had developed a print-on-demand portal for a client to fulfill dealer requests for sales literature, along with pick and pack fulfillment services. Why not offer those services to other clients? A $125,000 single client became a $1.5 million line of business – adding important connections to eight existing customers without adding any more capabilities or equipment. And just as important, those existing customers were now closely tied to the printer in ways that provide insulation from most competitive challenges.

Most printers have encountered a second major issue, when they try to redirect their existing salesforces to selling added-value services. It requires consultive selling skills that most traditional print salespeople don’t have. So they’re forced to do something uncomfortable and/or they do it badly. What’s worse, they’re diverted from holding on to their existing book of business. So they’re failing to develop new kinds of business while also permitting their current sales to suffer. This seems to afflict almost all the companies struggling with transforming their sales effort.

Most of the more successful companies have recruited new kinds of salespeople with entirely different skill sets – not much printing knowledge, but comfortable in new business prospecting, consultive selling approaches and dealing with higher-level corporate executives. They can discuss marketing challenges comfortably, without being discouraged by the longer selling cycle.

These companies have proven that you can have two different approaches to selling, with two types of salespeople selling their services at the same time. The established salespeople can defend their sales base while looking for new opportunities that they’re comfortable with. The newer salespeople can break new ground without being diverted by defending their installed base of business.

What’s the lesson in all this? Despite all the challenges you’re facing, transforming your business isn’t a mysterious process. But it’s easy to get stuck midway in the process, so you’ve got to aim your efforts in the right directions and pay unrelenting attention to the right issues.

The more successful companies make it look pretty simple. They don’t have any cosmic secrets, but none are required.

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About bobrosen

Management Consultant specializing in the Graphic Arts Industry.
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