When Print Sales Are Down, Who’s Really at Fault?

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When printing businesses see their sales drop, there are gaping organizational issues that can be the root cause. The printing company itself may be the one at fault, and that’s the core reason the sales team struggles to do its best work. 

We’ve talked about how print sales teams can hold companies back. In this post, the tables are turned. We’re going to talk about how companies can hold salespeople back. 


My marketing strategy clients are often referred to me by a provider such as a CPA, M&A advisor, sales coach, workflow consultant, or agile trainer. Trusted experts like these have an inside view of the strengths and weaknesses of the client’s business.

As a marketing provider, I, too, need to understand the depth and breadth of the business — all the issues — so we’re not simply putting band-aids on other problems. Yes, we want to get going on the sales and marketing program but, to improve sales, first we must create an environment where teams can be successful and are motivated to do an excellent job.

Here are common places where printing companies get in their own way when it comes to sales:

Customer interface. Your interface is how customers view, interact with, and experience your company. It could be your automatic call reception that puts people into “press 1 for sales” purgatory. It could be your CRM that doesn’t allow your sales, marketing, and CSR teams to pull a name up quickly by incoming phone number. It could be a lack of AI-informed data, such as having to scroll through 50 people named “Mary” to find the right one. It could be a no-reply email that doesn’t allow your audience to express interest, get more information, or give feedback. It could be a disorganized website or an outdated web-to-print portal. These poor first impressions can be deal killers, and your salespeople suffer because of it. 

Customer retention. If you’re struggling to gain topline sales, but your existing customers are flowing out faster than new ones come in, that’s a waste of my time as a marketing strategist. We must stop the bleeding before we work on attracting new customers. 

Poor quality printing. Ouch. And yet quality is a factor, isn’t it? How can salespeople confidently sell if they have to babysit their print jobs on the shop floor or warn customers not to try something new because “your results may vary.” A quality control program is not a one-and-done situation. Quality improvement is an ongoing process, led by people with integrity. We measure the right things – in the right way. We don’t hide bad data. We analyze the numbers and apply insight with context. If you want to see a salesperson squirm, ask them if they’ve ever been embarrassed about a job that was delivered to a customer. See what I mean? 

Not listening to the sales reps about what they need. Your salespeople have a well-developed way of winning business. Good salespeople make it happen. However, I often see executives in printing companies get distracted by the newest sales razzle dazzle rather than dealing with existing issues. We need to sit down with individual sales reps to understand what they need at specific points in their sales process. I remember meeting with the sales reps at a SaaS company. They didn’t need a new sales trick. They needed a selection of short, fact-filled case studies to be able to address questions and objections powerfully. The salespeople are right there on the front lines seeing what works and where there are blockages. 

In addition, listening respectfully to your reps means doing so without punishing them for telling the truth. If they trust you, they will tell you what they need. If they don’t trust you or don’t believe in you, they will tell you what you want to hear and no more — which does not help anyone. That brings me to my next gaping area of failure in printing companies.

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An unproductive work environment. Bad company culture affects everyone! It can be unhealthy behaviors such as drug use on the job (don’t pretend you don’t know this is going on), favoritism, backstabbing, cliques, silent treatment, wars between departments, and those nasty souls who make life horrible for everyone. Companywide issues that are distracting and unfair sap morale and productivity. If you want your salespeople to go into the world and advocate for your company, you have to pay attention to company culture. 

Not convinced? Check out sites like Glassdoor or Indeed, where employees can publish posts on the dirty-dirty of their companies. When I am approached about working with a client, I look up the printing company AND all their major competitors. I cut and paste all those comments into a database. No matter how many comments there are, more than half will be about the same thing: how companies treat their employees. If you’re curious to see one of the databases, connect with me on LinkedIn or drop me a line. I’ve made the comments anonymous and sorted them by category. 

For salespeople to be passionate enough to win the deal, the company behind them must be worth fighting for. Your salespeople must believe in their hearts that your printing company is not only suitable for the project but the #1 best one to do business with. If that’s not true, build your business from the inside – and make it true. 


If you’re motivated to take the next step in fixing the gaping issues in your printing company, start by creating an atmosphere where your teams and your management leaders feel comfortable saying the truth without fear of repercussions.

Encouraging honest feedback can be hard for printing companies. It’s not a cliche to say that change starts at the top. It takes honesty, integrity, and working with a purpose — not just worshipping the almighty dollar. I’m advising two print-related companies right now that are on a short timeline to grow and sell the businesses. It makes a huge difference that they are facing their uncomfortable issues, fostering quality improvement, and building from the inside. 

When print sales are down, we must step back and figure out what’s really going on. When you commit to building the kind of company salespeople are proud to sell for, that’s true progress. 

After we ask ourselves who’s to blame for slower sales, we must be brave and say, “No matter what, the entire organization takes responsibility for our current situation. We commit to stepping forward together — starting today — to make the business better.”

Check out Sandy’s previous post here: https://printmediacentr.com/is-your-print-sales-team-holding-you-back/

Read all posts from Sandy

Sandy Hubbard is a Marketing Strategist and CMO Advisor for the Printing Industry. She helps companies build successful marketing programs and foster an environment where salespeople can succeed. Sandy produces #PrintChat, a weekly global forum for the printing industry. She is a monthly columnist and industry expert for the print industry — and a Certified Scrum Master, helping marketing and sales teams become more effective.


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