Bottom Line Up Front: You’re already selling to the people who are aware of their needs, but what about the people who aren’t? If you’re looking to take your earning potential to the next level, you need to become proactive. Here’s how:
Broken down to their most basic levels, consumers have two types of needs. First and foremost, they have active needs — the needs they’re cognizant of and taking direct action to fulfill.
When they come to you to fill an order for the upcoming season, that’s an active need. When they’ve asked you to design t-shirts for a fundraising event, or approached you for advice regarding employee swag in 2021 — those are active needs. They’ve been identified, planned for, and moved on. And you’re only the latter part of the equation.
So that’s Box #1. Straightforward and reliable — but not everything.
Because Box #2 is where the real potential lives. It’s where you can be in the driver’s seat, and it’s where you can personally carve out the market real estate you need to shine. Ladies and gentlemen, Box #2 is… latent needs.
Latent needs: the needs that are there, resting just under the surface. The needs that haven’t yet been given names, or brainstorm time, or actionable steps. The needs that your prospects, at this moment in time, don’t even know they have.
These latent needs are your playing field — and they’re the foundation of this article. When you learn how to speak directly to them, increasing your prospects’ awareness and profitability and differentiating your business as an expert in the field, you won’t just become more attractive to your audience.
You’ll also expand your sales power. Exponentially.
In this breakdown, we give you the complete roadmap for capitalizing on your prospects’ latent needs in 2021 — with an approach they’ll actually want to respond to. From understanding the context to producing the right materials to closing the sale, we cover everything. So you can get to reaching your fullest — and sturdiest — growth potential this year. Quickly and easily.
Latent Needs: The Context
Here’s the thing: in 2021, you have 250 business working days. That means you have 250 days to be enlightening the businesses in your community about how your capabilities, and your services, can help them reach their goals.
But let’s back up a second. Consider the general market that your audience — businesses, organizations, and schools of all sizes — are operating within this year. Their norms are just now coming back into the picture. Their focus is on making up for lost time. Their resources are going towards fixing the most urgent problems — not towards thinking bigger.
They’re already strapped for hours in the day, money, and manpower. They’re not looking out for new ideas or creative sparks; they’re simply trying to keep their ships afloat.
What they don’t know is that your products, that your services, can help them do that.
And why would they know that? It’s not their job to know that custom decorated apparel can increase brand awareness, marketing power, and that sought-after sense of unity. It’s not their job to know that custom Online Stores can boost reach and opportunities for selling, or help them embody new levels of professionalism. It’s not their job to know that — but it is yours.
So what do you do? You work backwards.
Think about what you know about your target prospects — what is it that local businesses, organizations, and schools consistently look for? Your answer should boil down to three umbrella goals:
- More Sales
- Better Marketing
- Happier People
With more sales, you know that they’re looking for products and services that drive their end-consumers to action. With better marketing, you know that they’re looking for new ways to get their name into their audience’s sphere — driving more intrigue, recognition, and connection. And with happier people, you know that they’re looking for strategies to help them hold onto their communities — whether staff, customer, or student.
Knowing those wide-lens goals, you have the ability to hit the nail on the head. To approach the prospective customers in your community with results-focused plans that will give them the exact outcomes they’re shooting for — without requiring them to spend time, energy, or money thinking things through.
Of course, you should be doing more than just speaking in general terms. You should be taking the time to get to know each specific prospect before you approach them, learning about their nuances and figuring out where they are right now, in 2021. What are their biggest roadblocks? How have they been approaching their goals thus far?
The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. And in your role as educator, preparation is key.
So let’s go back to our earlier metric: there are 250 working business days this year. Let’s say you — and your team — provide some semblance of education to a new prospective customer three times each day. By the end of the year, you’ll have engaged 750 more prospects than you otherwise would have.
That’s 750 more opportunities to sell.
Even if you close just 15% of the time, you’re still walking away with 112 new orders. Multiply that by your average customer value, and we bet you’re looking at a serious boost in revenue.
So that’s the context of latent needs. That’s the earning potential. Now, are you ready to learn how to translate all of that into action?
Latent Needs: The Approach
It is quite literally the difference between being reactive and being proactive. Instead of waiting for customers to come to you, you’re meeting them on their grounds. You’re preaching the merits of the industry you’ve dedicated your career to, and you’re proving that you care enough about your prospects to take the time to do it.
Okay, but… what does that look like in practice?
Two words: Virtual Sampling.
Historically, samples have been a tried-and-true staple for businesses in all industries. They create awareness and interest, and are often persuasive enough in themselves to drive decision-making — and action. Whether it’s a new brand of crackers in the grocery store or a short free trial of the latest software, samples allow consumers to experience the benefits without the risk.
So why not extend the same luxury to your consumers?
Obviously, printing samples and handing them out to every business, organization, or school that you think could benefit isn’t an option. Regardless of whether you customize the goods or not, that approach would drain your resources — and in all likelihood, the ends wouldn’t justify the means.
But what about virtual samples? What about using the capabilities you already have — or could easily acquire — to demonstrate to your audience exactly what’s on the table?
Not only would those virtual samples give you a straightforward way to capture attention, explain services, and showcase value, but they’d also serve as your biggest differentiator at this stage in the sales process. Stick with us: polished virtual samples show your audience that you’re equipped with the most cutting-edge capabilities. They show them that you’re well-versed in industry professionalism, and that you’re willing to go the extra mile.
But most importantly, they show them that you know your stuff.
You’re the expert. You’ve gone through the process a million times before, and you have the game plan — and the evidence — to prove it. Virtual samples will incite curiosity and establish awareness, but they’ll also establish you. As a force for success.
And once your prospects see what’s right in front of them, they won’t be able to walk away. They’ll be envisioning the impact and the ease of process, and they’ll nod their heads with certainty — and sign on the dotted line.
So what are we suggesting? Simple: embrace the power of technology. Welcome InkSoft’s Art Approvals, Quotes, Invoices & Sales Presentations into the fold of your operations, and let the process of producing stand-out virtual samples — in minutes — do the convincing for you.
The latent needs are there. Here’s how you go about pulling them to the surface.
Virtual Samples: Your A-Z Guide
So you have an overarching understanding of how virtual samples can be effective. Your eyes are peeled and you’re ready to get deeper into the specifics.
You’ve come to the right place.
In this section, we’re breaking down the ‘how-to’ necessities so you can take the concept and transform it into practice — but we’re also looking at the specifics when it comes to the inherent value of the process. By learning how to implement the strategy and knowing what to look out for in terms of results, you’ll be perfectly positioned to reap all of the benefits. Without any of the hassle.
So? Let’s get to it.
Producing the type of virtual samples that hook your prospects’ attention, keep their eyes on the page, and drive them to make a decision that favors you is as much a science as it is an artform. First, let’s dive into the science — the 3-step process.
- Get Researching: Before you can adequately create a sample that impacts, you’ll need to know who your target is. And while it’s always great to take the time to uncover the details — about their needs, their goals, and their past strategies — if you’re looking to keep up with the quick pace of reaching three prospects each day, you might need a more efficient approach. Our recommendation? Create prospect profiles.
Maybe it’s a profile for each industry, where you accumulate the insight you know to be true based on your work with past customers. For example: you might create a profile for schools, for non-profits, and for athletic organizations. Or maybe you’d like to get more specific, focusing on the concrete needs instead. You create a profile for schools with outdated uniform/spiritwear stores, non-profits in need of reimagined fundraising events, and athletic organizations searching for new ways to welcome their communities back.
By building out these profiles, and then pinpointing new prospects and putting them into the correct column, you’re doing the legwork ahead of time. By the time you’ve selected the prospect, you know what they’re looking for. You know what they need, who they’re targeting, and what will excite them. In other words: you’ve done the research. And now you have the wherewithal to deliver a strategy that’ll actually resonate.
- Go Digital: It’s a modern world, which means that you could have the right intentions — but if they’re not grounded in the right cutting-edge methodology, they won’t shine as bright as the guys’ that are. So what do you do? You make sure every fragment of your sales cycle is entrenched in stand-out technology. From the first hook — the first virtual sample — all the way through to the final selling platform, it’s your job to provide the right experience.
And that means going virtual. Virtual presentations that aren’t just clearly laid out, seamlessly delivered, and effortlessly examined but also empowering to your prospects are the only way to go. Think about it like this: when your audience has the ability to click onto, zoom in on, and scroll through the material at their own pace, to their own heart’s content, they’re the ones in charge. They’re no longer just the passive listeners to your sales pitch; they’re actually the active hero of the journey.
They have the power to come back to you, pointing at specifics for what they like or don’t like. They have the power to leave comments in the pages, to articulate their perfectly-informed opinions, and to ask for additional details based on what they see. But most importantly: they have the power to experience the presentation from anywhere, at any time. They’re not relegated to a meeting room, to a Zoom call, or to a verbal pitch that interrupts their busy schedule.
They’re in a better mood, they have the reins in their hands, and they can see the professionalism seeping off the page. That makes all the difference.
- Give Custom: So you know that you have to get specific about the prospect you’re targeting. You know that you have to use the most cutting-edge, polished delivery framework to leave a strong impression. But what about the actual content? Can you just send the same pitch over and over again, showing off the best of the best of what you bring to the table?
The answer is both yes and no. Yes, because you should absolutely be choosing your top 30 or so products — the items that you know print well, have strong inventory levels, and have gotten great reviews from your customers in the past. You’ll want to make sure that within that curation there’s something for every type of prospect, so you’ll need a good mix of apparel and promo product options, in addition to clear displays of what’s possible from a graphic/text standpoint.
But then there’s the no, because while you do want to ensure you’re showing off your full wheelhouse, you also want to ensure you’re speaking directly to the prospective customer — on an individual level. That means you need to be molding the right end-to-end presentation for their needs. With InkSoft’s technology behind you, you have two options:
- Virtual Store: One of InkSoft’s most popular solutions (for good reason), Online Stores offer your customers a way to get their custom apparel and promo products directly to their end-consumers — in as effortless a process as possible. So, for the prospects who you think can benefit from the end-to-end fulfillment framework delivered through their very own custom Online Store, your persuasion tactics should start here. With the very first presentation.
Instead of a run-of-the-mill pitch presentation, you send them your carefully curated product options through an Online Store — a Pitch Store. They’re able to experience the ease, the convenience, and the customization potential of the e-commerce set-up for themselves, deducing firsthand just how their end-consumers will feel. And while your products will help to illuminate your value, nothing is as downright convincing as that seamless experience is.
- Virtual Sales Presentation: For the prospects who might not need the e-commerce side of things, InkSoft’s Online Sales Presentations are the way to go. They’re 100% customizable, simple to navigate, and polished from top to bottom. They’ll land right in your prospect’s inbox, minimizing the need for time, effort, and scheduling — and maximizing their experience.
Remember, with these sales presentations, they’re in control. They can click, scroll, and note the products they like, the questions they have, and the ideas that’ve been sparked, and they can do it all from wherever they are. With an Online Sales Presentation, you’re grabbing their attention with the subtlety of a confident, innovative business — and letting them know that whenever they’re ready, you’re ready.
Research, Digitize, Customize — that’s your 3-step, scientifically-proven (by us) process. But that’s just the start of your game plan. With the breadth of competition out there, you’ll need to put your hyper-personal spin on what makes your business so uniquely valuable.
How do you do that? You play into your strengths.
Let’s break down the six distinctive value angles that a virtual sample — from your business — inherently brings to every prospective customer, and look at how you can best capitalize on them for maximum results.
- It’s Attention-Grabbing: In a world that’s so cluttered with endless marketing campaigns, persistent junk emails, and digital races to the ‘viral’ finish line, your audience is desensitized to the inauthentic. They can smell out advertising ploys from a mile away, and they have no time for sales tactics lacking the substance to back them up. All of that makes their attention pretty hard to grab ahold of.
Unless you’re a virtual sample that does more than just talk the talk. The opposite of a faceless, generic spam call or an email with too many words capitalized, digital samples use the powers of customization, convenience, and originality to hook your prospects — and the power of meaningful content to keep them immersed.
In order to capitalize on the captivation potential, you need to make sure your digital presentation is as visually appealing as it is substance-filled. That means using the right customizable delivery system (hello, InkSoft’s Art Approvals, Quotes, Invoices & Sales Presentations), curating the right collection of sample products, and proving the unique value of your business’s offerings and services at every turn.
- It’s Visual Storytelling: As humans, we’re naturally visual creatures. We can register visual communication much quicker than we can text and audio — in fact, the evidence dictates that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. So what does that mean, really? It means that every piece of your digital presentation, from the email it’s delivered through all the way to the last page of the sales pitch, needs to be visually enticing.
Big chunks of text, carelessly designed graphics, and misaligned visual elements will speak much louder than the sales pitch on the page. Every aspect of your virtual sample will be taken into account as your audience weaves the visual story of what, exactly, you’re saying, so you need to be hyper-aware of each building block.
In order to use visual storytelling to your advantage, create a united front: digital presentations that are branded with your business’s identity, yes, but also with your prospect’s. They need to know that they’re being approached by a professionally reputable business, but also that that business is speaking directly to them. When you convey those things visually, you’ll be garnering their trust. And their business, whether it’s now or down the road.
- It’s Compellingly Unique: Your prospects are operating from a place of desensitization; if you’re not showing them something new, you may as well not be showing them anything at all. That’s where the beauty of cutting-edge technology comes in, allowing you to ground your business offerings in a sparklingly novel framework.
Think about your competitors. How many of them do you think are sending digital product mock-ups to their prospects? How many of them do you think are doing that proactively? If the number was small with the first question — and we’re just about certain it was — then it’s even smaller with the second. (This is your chance to stand out, but it’s also your chance to not get left behind.)
So how do you leverage the power of your unique virtual sample capabilities? In two ways. First, you be sure to utilize every feature of your technology — with InkSoft’s Online Pitch Store or Sales Presentations, that means customizing and then customizing some more, pinpointing the right language, graphics, and media, and showing off the full range of what’s possible. And second? You speak right to your abilities. You give them voice — in every portion of your communication.
“Click to enter the highest tech digital presentation on the market!” “We crafted this interactive digital product showcase just for you!” The more you call out the uniqueness of what you’re offering, the more your audience will realize just how special it is — and the more inclined they’ll be to dive right in.
- It’s Crystal Clarity: Instead of forgetting value angles when you’re cold pitching verbally or overwhelming your prospects with too much disorganized information when you’re compiling your sales presentations manually, virtual samples give you a way to put your know-how where your mouth is — and walk the walk. Clearly.
Dense, technical text explaining uses and value turns into clearly laid-out, easy-to-read pointers that your audience actually wants to absorb. Vivid pictures of products arranged intentionally give them a clear story to follow, and supplemental details that appear when they scroll or click puts them in control of their own understanding.
In order to take advantage of the unrivaled clarity virtual samples provide, you have to use your own creativity — and some help from your technology sidekick. With InkSoft’s Art Approvals, Quotes, Invoices & Sales Presentations, and Online Stores set-ups, you’re able to integrate the right images, text, and media at exactly the right times. That creates a better pitch experience for both you and your prospects — because it’s less strenuous for you, and less confusing, demanding, or downright annoying for them.
- It’s Entirely Actionable: One of our favorite truths about virtual samples? They make the best conversation starters. The second you have a prospect immersed in the experience of scrolling through your carefully selected products, getting to know your offerings, and seeing their own branded markings on the screen — you’re piquing their attention.
And not only are you piquing it, but you’re driving it — right into action. With the virtual sample, you’re giving them a straightforward opening for learning more. For reaching out to you with specific questions, for pinpointing their likes and dislikes based on what they’ve seen, and for working off of a comprehensive starting point for a process that’s as productive, and quick, as possible.
So how do you leverage all of the action potential? You make next steps easy. You provide simple and clear CTA’s, you guide your materials to touch on needs that are approaching (like back-to-school or the annual gala) for urgency, and you be sure to follow up after sending. The more streamlined a process your prospects feel that it is, the more interested they’ll be in pursuing it. So shoulder the effort, give them clear opportunities to move forward, and watch as they pursue away.
- It’s Earnestly Personalized: There’s a difference between customizing for the sake of bettering the experience and customizing for the sake of saying you customize — and trust us when we say, your audience can tell. The good news is, with the right capabilities, you don’t have to choose between spending hours personalizing each virtual sample or taking the lazy way out. You can actually have the best of both worlds.
With InkSoft’s Online Stores and Art Approvals, Quotes, Invoices & Sales Presentations, swapping out graphics, text, and products is truly easy. You have the power to trial new arrangements, input new logos, and change up the color scheme with ease — so that each and every one of your prospects feels like the presentation was constructed just for them.
To take advantage of the customization power in the most efficient way possible, set yourself up for success at the beginning by picking the right selection of products to showcase. The more versatile the selection, the less time you’ll spend swapping out pieces for different prospects — so show off your best stuff, but choose wisely.
Next, create a standard practice for building and sending new virtual samples, ensuring your team is up-to-speed. Maybe there’s a monthly rotation of two employees who are responsible for finding new prospects and inputting their brand markers (logos, colors) into the sales presentations, or maybe you have your whole sales team on the process. However, you delegate, make sure everyone is working productively. And intentionally.
Virtual Samples: The Operations
So you’re all caught up with the what’s and the why’s of virtual sampling. Now all that’s left is to get into the how’s — namely, how you can implement virtual sampling in your day-to-day operations without wasting time, money, or manpower.
And boy, do we have some answers for you.
We’ll get things going by saying this: the way to get your team aligned, pushing in the right direction, and invested in the process is by showing off your enthusiasm — the same way you do for your products. Here are our four favorite tactics for doing it:
- Gamify: The key to a flourishing proactive sales presentation system is a workforce that’s dedicated to helping it flourish. And what fosters dedication? Joy. Instead of adding prospect research and presentation building to the (likely already long) to-do lists of your staff, turn them into an activity they see as a reprieve from their typical day-to-day.
Here’s what we mean: establish a daily ‘Power Hour,’ where your sales team and your marketing team come together to brainstorm, collaborate, and execute proactive pitching tasks. Crank the music, offer snacks, and get everyone in a creative mood by encouraging discussion, new ideas, and — wait for it — fun. (Not only will it turn into something your staff looks forward to, but it’ll also help you further develop your company culture.)
- Reward: As most managers know, rewarding good behavior — and incentivizing good work — is the key to seeing the results you want to see. And that’s no different here, where we’re targeting productive, effective teamwork in order to proactively pitch prospective customers.
Just like with gamifying the hustle, rewarding the hustle helps to increase the sense of excitement, comradery, and overall fun of the tasks at hand. Maybe you implement a bonus program to incentivize sales conversions from the virtual samples, or maybe you divide your people into small teams, where the team with the highest number of conversions by the end of a given time period is given a day off, a pizza party, or whatever else your imagination lands on.
The point is to transform the work from another thing they have to do to a results-driven mission they get to participate in, where whether they earn prizes or not is up to them. (That’ll lead to heightened enthusiasm and heightened ownership of the process.)
- Prioritize: Unfortunately, building the path to success here isn’t as simple as turning up the music and dangling a carrot or two. You’ve also got to educate. It’s your responsibility to create a sense of excitement, but it’s also your responsibility to showcase just how important the mission is — and when you prioritize the work, whether through teaching, brainstorming, or doing, your team will follow suit.
The most important factor in effective selling? Understanding the rationale behind what you’re selling. When you (passionately) communicate the value of proactive virtual sampling, your team will be informed, coordinated, and assured in their path forward. And where there’s internal alignment, there are results.
- Commit: The true power of proactive virtual sampling won’t hit with one coordinated effort or even a month of coordinated efforts. The real power only comes when you integrate the program into your day-to-day operations. Just like with fitness and nutrition, when it’s a way of life, a schedule mainstay, the effects stop being negligible — and start driving improvement in other areas too.
So how does this go from a crazy idea to a pillar in your operations? It all comes down to your ability to commit. Will you be disciplined in educating your team, fostering space in the schedule, and thinking creatively about new ways to succeed? Will you lead by example, incentivize where you can, and communicate the significance at every turn? Time and consistency will be the biggest factors in your earning potential here, so keep that in mind as you start to bring this program to life.
Virtual Sampling: The Wrap Up
We’ve gone through the context. We’ve highlighted the basics. We’ve covered the distinct value and we’ve provided tactics for seamless adoption. Now? Now, the rest is on you.
Will you take the time to seek out potential customers, addressing their latent needs before they’re aware they have them? Will you establish the program as a constant in your operations, giving your team the knowledge and tools they need to be successful at it? Will you use the technology for all its worth, taking advantage of the power to customize, streamline, and wow?
If you threw three yes!’s into the air, then our job here is done. Because the potential for expanding your profitability is huge — but only if you act accordingly. Only if you put in the prep time, the effort, and the determination. Only if you prioritize education, so everyone from your team to your prospects understands the value. And only if you take action consistently.
There are 250 business working days this year. There are 250 different opportunities to wake up, teach local businesses something new, and provide the value you know you can provide.
The question is, what will you do with them?
We’ve put together a comprehensive Marketing Kit, including all of the goods, to help you take this endeavor by storm. It’s effective, it’s thorough, and it’s free. Get it while it’s hot — and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for the results you’ll make possible with your hard work.
And, if you haven’t yet embraced InkSoft’s Online Art Approvals, Quotes, Invoices & Sales Presentations into your capability fold, then we’re here to tell you that there’s never been a better time. The value of compelling, informing, and impressing your audience through the right technology can’t be overstated; it’s massive, and it has direct bottom-line results. Learn more about the solution here.
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