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By editor Morten B. Reitoft 

Once I worked in a printing company in the suburbs of Copenhagen. I was responsible for new sales, which was fun and always a good learning experience. If you have forgotten how it is, try cold-canvasing, try visiting customers, try figuring out the real KPIs customers care for - it's extending your horizons. However, the company didn't do well, and my boss asked for my opinion about two of the managers. First of all, not a pleasant situation to be put in, so I speculated how I could avoid answering this delicate question. The answer I gave has ever since been a learning lesson for me!

I told him: "I can't give you an honest answer as I don't know what expectations you initially agreed on!"

And think about it for a second. To judge whether a person is doing their job good, you must know what expectations are agreed upon. You would think that it's the most natural thing in the world to align expectations, but I see more and more that this is not the case - otherwise, it would be easy to fire people - even the ones you like, right?

So yes - it is time to find new sales- and marketing people!

I can't, of course, judge your current people, but as we all live and work in a constantly changing market, this must be the obvious answer. Of course, I am not suggesting you lay off any, but I mean that tasks must be aligned with your company's needs. Otherwise, you will never know whether you have maximized your potential.

What I have realized over the years is that salespeople are not really salespeople but more account managers. Account Managers are essential and needed, but not all Account Managers are salespeople. I have also realized that many in marketing have a skewed view of value. Conversions, likes, shares, and clicks are NOT a currency that necessarily gives your company revenue, and when the day is over, that's the only thing that matters!

So align. Your current salespeople and marketing people need clear guidance or objectives - not tasks. Salespeople MUST, in my mind, have clear goals of getting more customers (diversify and spread risk), increasing profit, upsell- and cross-sell, tying customers closer to the company by, i.e., using web technologies and mutually beneficial relations. Each objective must be quantified and valued, so the next time somebody asks whether a person is good at his work, you will know what was expected.

Please also consider how you compensate. Some owners believe high fixed salaries are better than commissions? It depends on your objective and what kind of people you employ. If you need to move your company fast, you can always consider WHAT incentive works best for a salesperson? When I was growing a company rapidly years ago, I realized that a company's dynamics often come from a mix of compensation roles. Sometimes you need to grow your revenue by being highly progressive in the market; sometimes, you need to increase profit and customer relations - and mostly, you need both.

Be aware that salespeople are dependent on the rest of the company. If your salespeople have to sell twice - first to the customer and then to production- the resources are spent wrongly. If the production can't deliver on time, at quality, etc., the salesperson is already uphill, and the next sales are considerably more difficult. If your production also has incentives, sales and production are on the same page!

I know that this sounds not so nice to some, but think of it again! You can quantify and be open about it, or it will be a subsequent consequence when your company goes out of business!

So - how can you get the right people? First of all, no one size fits all when managing a company, but you always need engaged people. You need team players and individualists, and you need people who share the company's vision. Growth is the ONLY way forward, and though you may halt on new customers because of the paper situation, you always need to focus on growth. The opposite is not an option. Imagine that you, on the first upcoming sales meeting, tell your salespeople and project managers, "guys, please do your job a bit worse today. Yesterday was good; today should be less good. Thank you!"

This is, of course, not an option, and fortunately, growth comes from everywhere. Optimizing production, reducing errors, increasing profit, working on better customer relations, and many more are growth options - and fun simultaneously!

For marketing people - well, I have been a marketing manager in the music industry, and I have also worked with marketing for years in the printing industry. Marketing is NOT an expense; it's an investment. If you think marketing doesn't give you a return - and no, I am NOT talking about likes, views, conversions, shares, number of readers, or anything like this - marketing, in my mind, should be re-organized.

Marketing in a B-to-B environment is not the same as marketing in a fast-moving goods segment. The new marketing people often judge their marketing activities for a brief period. You MUST differentiate branding and marketing, and the branding exercise is unfortunately often forgotten.

I asked (for fun) yesterday a friend whether he would choose IBM or Apple if he had to choose from the two. He chose Apple, and when I asked him why he said Apple is more modern, 'hip,' has better designs and all the same things you would probably say yourself! Why should buying a printing machine, inkjet, or binding equipment be considerably different? You, of course, choose products based on specs, price, and performance, but you also select equipment based on your impression of the company.

When the day is over, we don't know many details about the companies we work with. We may know the sales rep and the service technicians, but we still believe we know HP, Canon, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen, etc., yet everything is an illusion. We judge the companies on how they have build-up their brand for years!

B-to-B marketing in the graphics arts industry is about specifications, output, value, and business. You can't seriously think that media like TikTok, Instagram, and to some extent, all other than LinkedIn are serious ways of promoting your business and products. You can't, seriously, think that your 2 million euro device should be found side-by-side with puppies and teenagers?

It's not about where your customers are - it's about where they are at the right time for being receptive to supposedly serious messages.

When I see how companies believe that influencers are the solution to the marketing of everything - I am just wondering when sanity will kick in. When I watch some of the influences my sons are following - yes, they are fun, but that a 16-years old teenager playing a specific game should be used as an influencer for anything serious - come on.

It may happen - yes - but as a business, you also make some choices. If you want to talk to men, you don't necessarily market your printing machines on Pornhub because the audience is there. You don't market your products without considering the long-term effect on your brand - of course not!

In my mind, CEOs need to ensure consistency in communication and the values a company represents. You can't have bad marketing. Think of this for a second. I have seen a marketing person in the printing industry posting videos of running equipment where the video quality is SO bad and misaligned with the brand and the values the company, in my mind, has that it devalues the overall brand. It doesn't improve as the content is also considered wrong by some.

So dear all - should you find new sales- and marketing people? Not if you don't need to, but sales- and marketing people are more important than ever, and there are maybe too few out there; what do you think?

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