Wednesday, 08 Aug 2018 16:30 GMT

Top Tips in Sales

Nick Devine founder of The Print Coach, shares his top tips from a wealth of experience. This month: five steps to find, win, keep and grow ideal clients at premium pricing

The sales strategy blueprint

I received one LinkedIn message and two emails in the last three weeks, which I want to share with you. Each one posed a different question but with a similar theme.

  • How can I build the right target list and develop a consistent pipeline of prospects?
  • How can I locate nice sized customers who value service over price?
  • What is the best approach to a market where everyone seems to buy on price?

The good news is that there is a simple answer to these questions. And that that answer can be summarised as follows…

Sales follows strategy

Unless you have been fortunate enough to receive advanced training in the world of B2B sales and sales management, it is easy to misunderstand how B2B sales works.  The natural assumption would be that you hire a salesperson who knows how to sell. The salesperson goes into your target market and wins a steady flow of new business for you.

Unfortunately, that rarely happens as you probably know from your own hard-won experience. And the reason is simple – the salesperson has no underlying strategy to support their selling tactics. And everybody agrees that strategy will beat tactics every time.

Here are the five parts to the sales strategy blueprint, so that you can leverage your sales tactics and win more new business sales.

1. Ideal 100 list

Most people reading this article will have heard of the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 principle. When you look at your full customer database, you will quickly realise that 80 percent of your business is being generated by 20 percent of your customers.

When you look at your full customer database, you will quickly realise that 80 percent of your business is being generated by 20 percent of your customers


If you look carefully, you will notice that the bottom 50 percent of your customers contribute only five percent of your revenue. And, if you allocate your costs correctly, you will see that the bottom 50 percent are in fact costing you money.

The 80/20 principle is equally applicable in your new business selling efforts. With 20 percent of your target market holding the key to 80 percent of the potential revenue and margin. You need to create a list of 100 ideal prospects and mandate that your salesperson/team focus the majority of their selling efforts on that list.

Pareto principle: 80 percent of your business is being generated by 20 percent of your customers



2. Difference maker

Now that you know who we are going to sell to, next you need to figure out what you are going to say to them. That is why it is critically important that you have a very clear difference maker (unique selling proposition).

Most of your competitors will have what I refer to as a better sameness value proposition. They will try to compete on the same value points while claiming they are better than their competitors on each one. Better quality, better service, better pricing and better delivery.

Unfortunately, their competitors are claiming the same value proposition, so the customer ends up buying on price.

A good starting point to uncovering your difference maker is to carefully examine the business impact you are having on your best three customers


A good starting point to uncovering your difference maker is to carefully examine the business impact you are having on your best three customers. These are not necessarily your top three customers. They are likely to be customers who value what you do and are willing to pay premium pricing for it.

3. A-players and performance pay

Your business will never exceed the performance capability of the people working in your team. If you want a steady flow of new business, you have to know how to find, hire, train and retain great salespeople.

A good salesperson rarely has to have industry experience unless there is something deeply technical about the product/service being sold. High-end technology, medical sales and financial services would be examples where industry experience is required.

A smart new business salesperson can learn 80 percent of what they need about your industry within 90 days, if you train them correctly. When you realise that you are not constrained by having to hire industry salespeople, you immediately open up whole new avenues of potential talent you can recruit from.

One of the factors that is important in the recruiting process is the compensation plan aka performance pay. Sales compensation plans should communicate the priorities of the business to the salesperson. For example, if you simply pay based upon revenue generated, you are communicating that margin is not important.

Performance pay is a complicated subject, but this would be a good starting point for you.

Ramped commission: for example, a five percent commission on gross margin up to £x. After that, pay seven percent. Applicable pay period can either be one month or one quarter.

4. Product/service mix

Most companies have a product pyramid, whether they realise it or not. The pyramid will typically have three levels, as follows:

1. Base of the pyramid: high-volume/low-margin products and services

2. Middle of the pyramid: mid-volume/mid-margin products and services

3. Top of the pyramid: low-volume/high margin products and services

The products and services at the top of your pyramid, are an excellent opportunity to increase your overall net profits.

Review your existing accounts and ideal 100 client list and look for opportunities to sell more of your top of the pyramid products/services. Create a target list of opportunities and begin to work them consistently.

5. Consistent sales process

If you were to ask the owner of a print, packaging or wide-format business to describe their manufacturing process, it is likely they would describe something like this: prepress, production, finishing and warehousing/dispatch.

Successful B2B salespeople also follow a consistent sales process. The process can be summarised as follows:

1. Find: lead generation
2. Win: sales conversion
3. Keep: customer loyalty
4. Grow: account development

The most important tool successful salespeople have at their disposal, are the questions they ask.

My best sales questions

I have invested 33 years of my professional career studying what works in the world of B2B selling. During that time I have tested an extensive range of sales prompters and selling systems. One of the most important steps in your sales system is the initial prospect meeting. In order to make that meeting effective and secure a subsequent follow-up meeting, you need great questions to ask.

I would like to offer you a one-page cheat sheet with the seven best questions my clients and I use consistently. To get your personal copy, send an email to Nick@theprintcoach.com and put the words ‘Seven Sales Questions’ in the subject line.


Nick Devine is the founder of www.theprintcoach.com. We help print, packaging and wide-format companies create predictable sales and profit growth with guaranteed results.

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