Compromise. What role does it play in the sales cycle?

The dictionary definition of Compromise; a noun: an agreement in an argument in which the people involved reduce their demands or change their opinion in order to agree. Or – in the printing world, perhaps, ‘an agreement where customer and supplier agree that the content and timeliness of a printed item, is of more importance than the finished quality’. This may appear an alien concept to many readers, but let me explain…. Reaching a compromise is a concept that I have followed successfully for a number of years when out-selling print and production. There are occasions when the finished quality is of overriding importance. Equally there are times when the content is more important than whether the finished piece looks utterly perfect. Mass produced direct mail has always been an area where it has been ok for the quality to be seen as acceptable. Often there is relatively low ink coverage, and as long as the colours match where needed, and there is no obvious banding or severe degradation, then meeting the delivery date can often outweigh the need for perfection. If as a company you are considering embarking on digital and inkjet colour production, this idea of compromise should be borne in mind in all sales conversations. In order that you as the print supplier can choose the best and most cost effective production method for any given project – as early as possible in the brief the sales person needs to ascertain certain facts. What is the client expectation from both the job and you as the supplier? Who are the audience and what is their expectation of the printed piece? Are there particular requirements that need to be taken into account, for example, special colours that are non-negotiable? What is the budget? Without the answers to these questions, it can be difficult to ascertain whether the client needs a Rolls Royce job produced, or whether something of a Mini Cooper standard will be acceptable. It’s important to know this, because with the advent of inkjet colour printing, where speed often outweighs the absolute quality of output, for many clients this potential compromise will need to be discussed and agreed. A good example that ideally highlights my point, are projects where holiday ticket items are produced. This is big business for some direct mail printers in the UK. Without being in safe receipt of their tickets, recipients will not be able to go on their holiday. So, if the product is late, or incorrect, there are a number of potential consequences: •Customers who are unhappy with the service provided by their chosen tour operator, and because of this may choose not to place repeat business and book further holidays •An increase in the volume of phone calls received by the holiday call centre from customers panicking about their tickets not arriving •Staff tied up sorting out the resultant queries, thus increasing costs •And in worst case, a direct loss of revenue whereby tickets have to be placed on special delivery or extras given away in recompense for errors made. Timeliness is of paramount importance in this type of campaign – the product cannot be late under any circumstances. But ticketing is a complex business, with potentially time consuming data manipulation being required before we can get anywhere close to putting ink on paper. Then the finishing may be quite complicated in terms of putting together the final item – almost always there will be matched personalised sections, saddle stitching or perfect binding, trimming, fulfilment and mailing etc. All these factors squeeze the production schedule – meaning we need to print the pages in the quickest time frame possible. This has resulted in a drive towards inkjet as a production process in many instances. But right now inkjet isn’t as perfect reproduction wise as litho or colour digital, so an agreement on the required standard of quality needs to be reached. Therefore, in most instances – a compromise will need to be reached whereby the client agrees that timeliness and accuracy outweighs absolute printed perfection. Equally, there will be occasions where there is no compromise, and quality of output is all important. High quality brochures for such companies as car manufacturers or fine art auction houses are often non-negotiable – the finish must be perfect. It is essential that we equip our salespeople with the wherewithal and knowledge to be confident in these conversations. To understand why they need to know the answer to these questions, and be able to have the conversation with the customer as to what they really need from each campaign. The compromise conversation can open the door to more detailed briefs, and uncover new opportunities in an account that may not have been previously fully explored. The account manager who can have discussions at this level will generally be more successful. They will be perceived as more intelligent, knowledgeable and empathetic to the customer’s needs – and increasingly able to handle complex enquiries. And in most instances – the more complex the job, the higher the value and the potential margin will be. Just going out and taking orders isn’t selling. Discussing, negotiating, being benefit led and marketing savvy, discussing the impact of various scenarios on the campaign as a whole, coming up with ideas and inspiration for the customer – ensuring the finished project is one that will benefit both parties – these are the tell-tale signs of the competent and successful salesperson. How well are your guys doing? –By Jo Lloyd