by John Giles July 14, 2003 -- Selling printing is hard, and if sales people are pushed outside their comfort zone, the task gets more difficult. Uncomfortable sales people usually cut prices to get a job. That just results in having to compete on price and quickly makes what's being sold a commodity. They may win the job today but lose it--and a lot of future business tomorrow. Today's printing salesperson must be comfortable with selling digital services. This means they will have to learn a few computer tasks and wrap their heads around the technology to increase their value to the customer and expand their comfort zone when selling. Here's what they need to know: * The company's digital standards. The salesperson must understand what software the company supports, what formats are supported, and how files should it be packaged for the printer. They also must understand your preferred requirements for color and graphics. * The packaging procedures for the major software applications. Quark's Collect for Output function, Pagemaker's Save For Service Provide plug-in, InDesign's Package feature, and Microsoft Publisher's Pack-and-Go are critical tasks customers must perform when submitting files. Salespeople should have printed instructions available to provide customers when they wish to use one of these programs. Ditto for having customers create PDF files for printing. * How to find and save fonts with a file. Salespeople must know how to show customers where to find and gather fonts that might be required to print the file properly and how not to break copyright laws doing it. * How to submit files to the company via the Internet. Salespeople are always telling their customer to send a file by email, FTP or directly to a printer's web site. Be sure the salesperson has sent a file his or her self and knows how to use the procedure. * How to load PostScript drivers and create Postscript files on both the Mac and PC. PostScript is the foundation of Acrobat PDF files and most digital printing equipment. Sales people need to understand the value of PostScript and how to teach customers to prepare PostScript files properly. * How to load a custom Job Option in Acrobat on the Mac and PC. To help make sure customers with distilling capabilities create proper PDF files, printers are creating a custom Job Option (usually renamed with the printer's company name). When the customer creates a PDF file, he selects the custom Job Option rather than one of the supplied Job Options (Press, Print, Screen and E-book). A salesperson needs to know which folder to place the Job Option and where to find it. Any normal operations that the printer requires of the customer should be taught to salespeople. The prepress staff can usually do this training. The salesperson should be given the time to learn the tasks and then be able to demonstrate his or her proficiency. In addition to the training, salespeople should have support materials and "cheat sheets;" instructions on how to perform the different tasks that are part of their sales toolkit. When a customer needs to learn how to make a PostScript file or find a font, the salesperson can give the customer printed instructions. These same instructions can be the step-by-step instructions used to train the salesperson. You can't expect salespeople to remember every digital detail. They need printed resources to help them get the message to the customer. Have the same information available on your company's web site so customers can download it as needed. Salespeople who understand the basics will be more comfortable when dealing with customer questions about digital files. Now when the salesperson begins to move outside his comfort zone, he'll know it is time to bring in the digital specialist to work with the customer.