How Well do you Strut Your Stuff? By John Giles April 2, 2007 -- A technically savvy printer in the northeast recently lost his number one customer. The customer told the printer that he had made the move because the new printer would provide him with a special portal for online ordering so anyone in the company could place orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The first printer was shocked and told the customer, “But we can do that.” The customer said he was sorry, and if he had known he wouldn’t have made the move. Now he felt obligated to order from the new printer because all his files were now uploaded and ready for ordering. This happens to a lot of printers. They invest in technology to get a competitive advantage and then fail to tell the customer about the advantages. This happens to a lot of printers. They invest in technology to get a competitive advantage and then fail to tell the customer about the advantages. They sit back and wait for customers to ask about the service rather than telling them it is available. New technology can help a printer grow his business. It can make it easier for customers to buy printing. It can provide a customer faster turnaround. It will work, but printers have to tell customers about the service. Printers have to stop being order takers and become proactive sales people. You can’t assume that the customer will know about printing technology if you never tell them. One reason that customers don’t know about technology is that the sales people don’t know about it. Print owners invest in new technology such as web2print, portals, PURLs and VDP, yet they never take the next step and train their sales people in the advantages. Many printers have bought PDF workflow solutions yet have failed to train their staffs about how to create proper PDF files. One reason that customers don’t know about technology is that the sales people don’t know about it. It all begins with training and printers are going to have to take training seriously if they expect to compete in the coming year. In a recent podcast, NAPL Chief Economist Andy Paparozzi predicted there would be an economic slowdown that will directly affect printers. He says there is a minority of printers who will be successful because they have prepared now for the changing economy and have trained their staffs. The first thing to do would be to train the sales staff. Have they actually used the new tools? Have they sent a file through the company’s website? Have they placed an order on through a customized portal? Have they ordered a product on the web2print system? Can they create a high-quality PDF file for the PDF workflow? Make a checklist of the services you provide using technology and make sure that sales person can demonstrate knowledge in those products. It is sad to say, but at this point, a printer may have to recruit new sales people. The new technology is solutions oriented. It can fill a customer need and make ordering easier. If the sales person isn’t able to grasp the concepts or understand the technology, he may have to be replaced. The industry is in transition and our sales staff will have to be able to learn and communicate the new technology. They have to stop being order takers and become facilitators for the new services. NAPL Chief Economist Andy Paparozzi says there is a minority of printers who will be successful because they have prepared for the changing economy and have trained their staffs. Once the sales person can demonstrate product knowledge, have him prepare a script that outlines the features and benefits of the products. The sales person has to be able to tell the customer how the technology will benefit the customer. What is in it for the customer? A well-crafted script will make it easier for the sales person to explain the benefits “in English” to a customer. Then the sales people can go see their top customers and prospects and tell them about the services. A printer doesn’t want to lose a major account just because he assumed the customer knew about all the services that were provided. The new technology does give a printer the chance to differentiate him or herself in the market. Don’t lose the competitive advantage because you just didn’t tell anyone about it.