I have always hated fax machines. Even on its best day (the day that I received my first sales contract over the kludgy contraption) the FAX is not what one would call elegant technology. The Fax’s shortcomings range from unsolvable paper jams to maddening paper outages. The technology also led to two new annoying sentences in the customer support excuse lexicon: “We never got it. Are you sure you sent it to the right place?”

I once closed a huge software sale by faxing a one-page closing statement to a CEO who was sitting over 2,000 miles from me. This was before widespread email adoption and I needed to close the sale by December 31 to make quota.

At 11 AM on the last day of the year, the CIO told me that his CEO said they couldn’t afford our software. I sat down in my Boston office and wrote a one-page closing argument as to why his company could not afford to go on without our software. I called the CIO and encouraged him to take my treatise off the fax machine (in Texas) and deliver it to the CEO. Two hours later, we received their order and my quota was retired.

Quaint story? Outdated? I don’t think so.

It’s an obvious fact that the best salespeople are those who have developed such a relationship of trust with key customer contacts that those contacts will open the doors to the people with signing authority. In this case I had the CIO’s trust but I couldn’t get directly to the CEO. But one piece of powerful printed messaging was able to sway the CEO’s decision from a no to a yes.

Even in today’s frenzied electronic world salespeople should be armed with printed sales enablement materials. Such sales aides work with key customer contacts but are even more effective with those decision makers that you don’t know.

Digital content is obviously of critical importance to a company’s sales efforts. The benefit of adding printed collateral to the sales mix is that it stands out from the unending stream of emails and electronic content that we read every day. Customers appreciate the extra effort that a prospective vendor put into producing insightful and relevant printed content.

All the salesperson needs to say is:
“Please read this short case study about what we did for a customer like you – This is the type of difference our solution can make for your organization. And here are a couple of extra copies for Sheryl and Steve.”
“Please read this third-party article about how this technology will be essential within three years”
“Look at this solution brief which outlines the differences between our company and the competition. I think after you read this you will agree that the choice is clear.”

Leveraging strategic collateral helped me close over $100M of technology transactions in my career. It may sound old fashioned but great content can be a huge factor in successful selling.

For another take on the value of printed collateral check out: