By Terry Nagi June 14, 2005 -- Every good sales person knows that asking questions is the key to understanding a prospect's or customer's business. What follows are great digital questions and "comments" (in italics) used by successful digital print sales representatives to assess whether or not an individual is a good prospect for digital printing, what solutions and benefits should be offered, what current print products are best candidates for digital conversion, what new products can be suggested. Questions about the Document Do you seek to improve speed to market, reducing shipping time and freight costs? Is it difficult to predict future demand of the document? Are there frequent revisions and updates to the document? Is the document used for a regulated industry (i.e. utilities/health care) where updates need to be quickly updated? Is the document content time sensitive (i.e. new product training to support an upcoming product introduction)? Are there last minute changes to the materials? Digital production reduces the number of steps in the creation process. Changes can easily and cost effectively be made up to the last minute, providing maximum flexibility. Are there issues with inventory obsolescence? POD (Print-on-Demand) = just-in-time, not just-in-case--only what is needed for immediate consumption. Are unused documents discarded? Just-in-time, print-on-demand means not having any goods in storage, leaving nothing to throw away. Does the documentation require reprinting on a regular basis? Print-on-Demands means printing documents only when needed, where needed, in the exact quantity to be consumed. Is there a requirement to produce multiple versions or customized versions of the document? Digitally created and produced documents don't require plate changes for creating different versions. This significantly reduces unit costs. Could the content be more effectively communicated using color versus black ink only? Shorter runs may make color affordable. Is the document part of a fulfillment kit with multiple other items? Using a combination of digital production devices, documents and components can all be produced on demand. Are documents or kits delivered to different parts of the country? Does the document ever have to be used by customers or employees outside of the country? Digitally created files can be sent electronically to a production facility nearest the point of consumption, even overseas. What is the quantity typically ordered for each document? How many months supply does this typically represent? Based on quantity, this may be a good candidate for just in time, print-on-demand: reducing storage, distribution and management costs. Using just-in-time, print-on-demand will reduce storage costs, carrying costs and costs associated with obsolescence. Is the document being printed and warehoused? Using the total cost of ownership, let's look at space, storage, carrying and obsolescence costs. Are there frequent revisions and updates to the document? Where and in what format is the artwork stored, is it digital? Where? Who has it? Is there a problem with inventory obsolescence? Are unused documents discarded? Using the total cost of ownership to capture any obsolescence write-off in the past year. What was the prospector's write-off for documents in the past 12 months? Does the documentation require reprinting on a regular basis? What are the normal reorder quantities and what is the lead-time needed for revisions? How many months supply does this typically represent? Using the total cost of ownership, determine the benefit of using a smaller quantity. Is it difficult to predict future demand for the document? Questions to Understand the Client's Needs What follows are ideas for possible great questions to ask the print buyer or influencer in a first-time, in-person appointment for better understanding of what the client does, possibly needs, and would like to know about variable or short run printing. How is print used to communicate with clients, prospects, employees, and stockholders? How important is up-to-date information? What quality is required? How often are revisions made? How is print distributed? How is text/graphics created? Are PostScript files used? How much is thrown away? How fast does print become obsolete? How much is warehoused? Is print converted to other media? What one thing would make print more effective and productive? Questions Concerning Total Cost of Ownership These questions, which should be asked of various manager or director level people help identify the real cost of a document or the Total Cost of Ownership of a printed piece. Cost of freight? Time lost in delivery? Time lost in getting to market? Is the product right for the purpose? Does it generate the desired response Can the document be scanned and effectively imaged? How are versions managed? Point of replenishment? Questions about Personalization Awareness of personalization and customization is rising, but many companies are unsure of how to take advantage of this awareness. To help them, some suggested personalization questions include: What is the purpose for this piece? What is its audience? Do different recipients have different interests? What value could be gained from segmenting your audience and customizing messages? Is this piece meant to generate a response? If so, what is your response rate? What would a higher response rate do? Questions for Exploring Digital Requirements Other suggested discussions, comments and question can help discover a prospect's possible digital requirements: Does the company use short run color printing (500 copies or less)? Is the company using target marketing? Does the company use larger volume digital color laser printing? Requirements for fast turnaround? Need for frequent revisions? Desire for reduced obsolescence? Mailing and/or fulfillment? Multiple versions for more personalized approach? Print directly from electronic disc? Document management philosophy? Current or planned use of digital printing? Questions for Specific Print Products For specific print products, here are additional possible questions or discussion items: What is the purpose for this piece? What is its audience? Do different recipients have different interests? What value could be gained from segmenting your audience and customizing messages? Is this piece meant to generate a response? If so what is your response rate? What would a higher response rate do? Most important attribute desired? One thing should be changed? Metrics or goals established? Concerns for more frequent revisions, reduced obsolescence of print, less thrown away, faster turnaround, fewer inventories, print from disks, more color and more excitement, print and proof match, more frequent updates? Questions for Current or Proposed Print Piece Discussions to initiate and questions to ask regarding a specific current print requirement or possible new variable or short run piece include: What is its objective? How is it created? How is it distributed? How frequently revised? Desire to revise more often? Significant inventory? What one thing improves the product? Add more color and excitement? Changes expected in the future? Multimedia, Internet, Intranet? Familiarity with digital printing? Review product's advantages? Provide suggestions of enhanced productivity and value? Who owns the document? What are the current response rates? What is your current cost per response? What information do you have about your clients? Does the needed data exist? Is the data clear? Is the data physically available for interfacing? Is the data "sociologically available"? A great digital sale begins with an understanding of the current practices ands needs of a prospect/client, their goals and objectives in the future (specifically as they relate to their overall expenditures for all media), and where they are dissatisfied and how they fell personalized or short run digital printing may assist in obtaining greater productivity out of their print expenditures. The digital sales person should examine this complete set of questions, select the most appropriate for each interview, revise as necessary to fit their own style, and capture in writing during a sales interview. Next month we will examine the numerous benefit statements that can be used with prospects/clients in further advancing the utilization of digital short run and 1-1 printing.