Komori and Screen have entered into a strategic selling agreement that brings together the two companies’ sales organizations.

Partnerships and joint ventures are a part of today’s business life, especially in the printing industry. But yesterday’s announcement from Komori and Screen takes this to a new level.

No, the companies are not merging, but in a truly unusual move, they have merged their sales forces! Komori’s Jacki Hudmon, Senior Vice President of Sales, shared some insight into the background for this announcement, saying, “Komori has long had significant R&D activity in inkjet but we have been waiting for the technology to catch up with our reliability and quality requirements. We have terrific brand image and awareness in offset, but we are admittedly lacking in infrastructure on the digital side. We could have hired people to fill this gap, but in light of the long history between Komori and Screen, this move made a great deal of sense. They have decades of expertise in data integration combined with brand-new inkjet technology that meets our core reliability and quality requirements in the Truepress Jet520 HD.”

Ken Ingram, Screen’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Americas, added, “We’ve had a lot of success over the last couple of years in the web side of our business, and three years ago, we began assembling a sales force consisting of solid, long-term and veteran sales people that I think is one of the strongest sales forces in the industry. At the same time, the technology has progressed from pleasing color to offset replacement quality. It just made sense to go to market as one organization, providing both offset and digital solutions in a consultative manner, driven by what the customer needs with a portfolio broad enough to address those needs. Komori presses and the Truepress Jet520 HD are great complementary solutions.”

This puts the combined sales force in a unique position with the ability –and incentive – to sell a full portfolio of offset and digital solutions. This was something that Heidelberg tried years ago with its Kodak Joint Venture, but perhaps the timing wasn’t quite right and the market wasn’t ready. Now, though, Komori and Screen are taking the bull by the horns in making this unusual move.

Hudmon comments, “If you think about a traditional sales process for a press, the sales people sell the press but don’t look to the left or right. Now in the digital world, it is more complicated. You have integration and post-press issues, and customers have an increasing need for hybrid offset/digital solutions – and a partner that can help them determine exactly what they need: offset, digital or a combination of the two, and to help them put together the kind of integrated, automated workflow based on Screen Equios that is required for success in today’s market. Our sales force has strong customer relationships and we have great market share, but we fell short in that area. Screen has a long history in the digital marketplace but much of that historically has been at arm’s length from the end customer with the company’s Screen OEM go-to-market strategy. Together, we have combined sales and support that can help us navigate a very different sales process. And we are presenting one face to the customer, which we believe is truly unique.”

Ingram cites a recent Screen customer engagement where the sales rep had a very positive discussion about the Truepress Jet520 HD, but felt that the customer’s lack of familiarity with Screen was an obstacle and that with the brand recognition of a company like Komori, it would have been an easier sale. “We think there will be a lot of that,” he says, “and that this joint approach to the market will make those sales cycles easier for both the customer and our sales team.”

Hudmon explains that the plan is to maximize the resources of both companies by jointly selling any future inkjet products as well. Our readers will recall that Komori and Konica Minolta are jointly developing a sheetfed UV production inkjet press that Komori is branding as Impremia IS29, and is also partnering with Landa with the potential to bring to market a nanotechnology press sometime in the future as well. She also points out that both companies bypassed toner printing technology and went directly to inkjet so they are not dealing with that legacy, which can often manifest as a box-driven rather than a solution selling approach.

Ingram says, “This is a global arrangement. Our combined sales force will jointly report to me and Jacki. Since most of the digital printing critical mass is in North America, that will be our initial focus, and we have already brought the teams together to begin the integration process. Conversations began in Japan more than a year ago, and we see a great deal of potential for future collaboration.”

According to Hudmon, the teams have embraced the arrangement and are already integrating. “They are really engaging with each other,” she said. “Often in these types of arrangements, sales people can have a lot of skepticism and get their backs up, but I am not seeing that here. Culturally, we are also very similar and speak the same language. We each have our own core competencies, and now we can present a coherent, integrated story. With a sales force that is firmly entrenched in both offset and digital, we will be able to find the right solutions for the broadest range of customer needs. No one else can say that.”