What’s in Your Basement?

Your driveway needs to be repaired. Actually, it’s beyond repair and will require complete repaving. Because a lawn sprinkler pipe runs under the pavement, preparing for that day will require a visit from the irrigation specialists. When the irrigation guy shows up, he wants to see your basement and check out the status of the equipment. This creates instant feelings of sheer terror, for you know the status of your basement: Furniture and lamps and boxes and skis and luggage and storage bins and the results of the “Mom and Dad, I need somewhere to store some stuff but don’t worry, it’ll only be a couple of weeks” request made by one (or more) of your kids two years ago and things are strewn about everywhere. Don’t you wish you had taken the time to clean up your basement just in case someone needed to get down there?

Let’s talk about your “basement.” Through some stroke of luck—or perhaps due to your diligence—you get a prospective customer on the phone. The call is going well and a call becomes an in-person visit. That day arrives, the meeting commences and it is clear to both parties it might be a good fit and this is an opportunity directly in your sweet spot. As the appointment is winding down, the client makes a request, one that creates instant feelings of sheer terror: “The next step is for us to do our due diligence on your company. We’ll go online to learn more and then will want to do a site visit. Can you send me a link to your website so I can check your company out further? And what’s a good date for our team to stop by?”

Such a request is the equivalent of a stranger making a surprise tour of your unkept bottom floor, only this time you don’t fear being judged but rather the way your otherwise wonderful and amazing coming will be seen by a prospect. You can already feel the perfect opportunity slipping away.

What’s in your basement?

Generally speaking, printers are not known for their marketing efforts. As an industry, we do a poor job of shining a light on our strengths and capabilities. A good example of this weakness can be found in the websites printers display. Words used to describe them range from, “archaic” to “zero” (as in, we don’t even have one). Companies have all good intentions but they never seem to get around to making it a priority. Others just don’t see the value and as a result, their website is either a basic template or something they the Production Manager’s unemployed nephew (the unwashed one that spends a lot of time in his parents’ basement on the computer and claimed to be a web designer) put together years ago. In sales meeting after sales meeting, the reps beg for something more but since their name goes on the back of the check not the front, their requests often fall on deaf ears. Fortunately, there is an option which is completely within the control of the salesperson. More on that later.

The online forward-facing view of your company is made up of your website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile (and that of your key employees), Google reviews, Glassdoor rating, and any information you have pushed out, such as press releases. Given that, as the saying goes, you only get one shot at making a good first impression, a review of how your company presents is a good starting point.

Beginning with the end in mind, what message do you as a company want to send. In other words, if the client or prospect whipped out a Polaroid and took your picture, what would develop? Here’s a quick checklist of the top four components:

  • Capabilities—You’d want to shout out your equipment list, especially anything unique (digital, inkjet, etc.). The other side of that is the kind of products you produce. However, try to avoid the “we are printers” banality which makes you look homogeneous to every other printer out there.
  • Brand—What’s the core message or goal, the stated purpose of your existence? Why do people do business with you? You need to have one central theme and make certain everything connects to that message.
  • Rating—These days, we don’t buy a pack of gum without reading the reviews from other chewers. A new customer will surely look for comments and want to see consistency. Important: Everyone has a negative review. One sign of a great company is how they respond.
  • Successes—Tell stories of how you took a client from point A to point B. Include a happy testimonial. Bonus: You might even hear from a prospect who says, “We have that same issue!”

As for the sales reps, the company’s marketing is out of their hands. They are at the mercy of ownership in this area. There is, however, another option. Each has his or her own “basement” in the form of a LinkedIn profile page. Done correctly, this gives the reps complete control over what a prospective client will see and how they, themselves, will be gauged and measured. So, what does “done correctly” look like? Two areas:

  1. Who you are—First and foremost, make certain that a prospective customer gets a quick, accurate understanding of who you are and why they should look your way. What is your differentiator? Why do clients choose you?
  2. Testimonials—Consider yourself as a movie no one has ever heard of. Choosing your DVD at Best Buy, the customer flips to the back. You want him/her to read the positive words of others who give you two thumbs up.

No less important than these two things are the connections you have collected. Make certain that yours are in the thousands. Make it a point to add to your network constantly. You never know whose brother’s banker’s son went to school with the daughter of a guy whose landscaper’s dentist cleans the teeth of your next big customer.

The final possibility for salespeople are success stories. It costs nothing to create a PowerPoint presentation with voiceover that tells the story of that time you pulled a rabbit out a hat and saved the day for a client. This is a good project for those quiet times of year (days before Thanksgiving or between Christmas and New Year’s, for example) when sales takes a back seat to marketing.

Right now, as you are reading this column, someone is checking you out online. What are they finding? Most buying decisions are made long before the price is considered. You might think you lost an order because yours was not the lowest when in fact, it was an ill-kept basement. Control what you can control. Transmit and display a message of competency and quality, of integrity and competence. The right clients will find a way to buy from you regardless of cost if they are pre-sold on your value. Roll up your sleeves and get started cleaning up your message.

Bill Farquharson will be presenting at America’s Print Show. He can be reached at 781-934-7036 or through his website, SalesVault.pro

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