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Commentary & Analysis

Digital Selling: So What's So Different?

By Terry Nagi January 12,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: January 11, 2004

By Terry Nagi January 12, 2004 -- Industry experts have been proclaiming the need for print sales representatives to change their selling style to best guarantee their future success, as their company moves from traditional medium and long run offset to short run, versioned, or one-to-one variable printing. The buzz word is to sell “Solutions” to solve customer communications requirements and objectives, versus merely bidding on their print specifications. Great advice! But, what is so new and revolutionary about this? At least to street smart and successful print sales representatives? Digital sales gurus are recommending that the successful digital print sales representative bypass the purchasing agent/print buyer and work directly with the individual where the success of the selected print communications will have its most important results. This is most often the marketing executive, sales manager, product manager, human resource manager, customer relations manager, etc. These recommendations are as true as gold . At the same time, the successful traditional print sales representative has learned long ago that selling to the purchasing agent usually results in a competitive bid situation, something no print owner wants their sales person to do. The best way to avoid this situation is to sell up the ladder, to reach the individual who is most concerned with the results of the printing piece, versus whether or not they can save pennies on their print budget. So goes the successful digital print sales representative; so goes the successful traditional print sales representative. Solve a problem (recommend a great “Solution”), and win the sale. This is absolutely essential for the digital print sales representative. This is especially true as those most impacted by the success of the printed piece are not familiar with versioned or personalized digital printing. Just meeting with these upper levels executives is difficult enough, especially as it risks the print buyer's wrath for going around them, and even more difficult to advise these upper level executives on a whole new concept of how to use their print budget more effectively. So what's new? The prime, most successful traditional print sales representatives have long learned to change the name of the game (or preferably, change the users original print specifications) by redesigning an existing print to produce better results, with the result they normally submit bids normally significantly different than the competition. Enhanced papers, unusual finishing, upgraded coatings, more color, ancillary services such as mailing and fulfillment --- usually amount to a higher cost per 1000 impressions, but with the additional cost in the eyes of the buyer, if in fact, the finished piece produce better results. Like digital, like traditional! Then there is a concern regarding the small order value for the first digital print order, which makes it difficult to interest traditional commercial print sales representatives in selling a commercial printer's digital print capabilities, as most are paid on straight commission, and tend to earn smaller commissions on shorter run digital work than longer run traditional offset work. The answer is to convince these same sales representatives to evaluate the Long Term Value (LTV) of the client who is convinced that digital printing will significantly enhance their print communications. The reality to date is that future digital print orders do get larger in dollar value (in some instances in excess of $100,000), and as ancillary services (such as digital asset management, mailing, fulfillment, etc.) become important and billable, higher earnings will result and fewer competitors will be experienced. A satisfied digital customer will be more loyal to the prevailing sales representative. This works for the digital sales person. It also work for the successful, street smart traditional print sales person. Many print sales representatives already realize that the smallest order, where the buyer is testing the sales person and the printer, to determine if they can perform, is the only way to ultimately move on to major business from a major account. Over the years, that first business card order, well-served, produced and delivered, can become the roadway to a rewarding Long Term Value (LTV) in the traditional commercial print world. The small commission on the business card order often results in a future continuous, magnificent stream of revenues for the sales representative. An additional suggestion for a sales person's success in digital printing is to deal first with current clients, and take a vertically integrated approach to pursuit of new prospects. This is especially beneficial if the sales representative has already established contacts with upper-level executives, and has proven themselves valuable in creating better ways of utilizing print to meet specific objectives. The vertical industry orientation creates the aura of a print consultant to the potential prospect, someone who understands the buyer's industry, their needs, changes, and the role of print and non-print communications and meeting specific organizational objectives. The financial, healthcare and insurance industries are well known for their use of single-color variable printing (now moving to multicolor variable digital printing) to produce targeted, error-free messages, to their database of users. In the digital color world, in addition to those listed, the following industries are already known for their utilization of versioned and personalized color digital printing: * Health & medical (hospitals & pharmaceuticals) * Education (colleges) * Finance & banking * Insurance * Retailing * Manufacturing * High tech and software * Major advertisers * Agencies & designers * Travel The traditional sheetfed or web offset sales representative has long ago learned it is easier to maintain a current client, than find a new one. This is ever so more true in today's commodity marketplace where digital printing is still considered to be non-commodity, (but for how long?)-- sell more to the best versus selling to more. The successful traditional print sales person and the new digital sales consultant must will constantly expand their circle of influencers and buyers. They network constantly, even to the least important people (who in today's economic situation can easily become the boss and decision maker) Mind you, this is not easy in the traditional offset marketplace, and certainly isn'tin the digital world. So what have we learned? Whether it be digital or traditional, the most successful sales people pursue the above principals, with diligence and tenacity. They provide “Solutions” to upper level management, based upon fulfilling their stated objectives for a specific printed peice. They become an industry expert and realize the first sale, no matter how small, will lead to ever-increasing sales. They keep expanding their circle of buyers. Next month, we will explore the issue of digital training for the sales representatives, followed by digital training for the customer.



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