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MARKETING DIGITAL SERVICES--Selling One-to-one

February 2001
BY SCOTT POLK


There is an old saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That adage can also be applied to commercial printing. A company may have state-of-the-art equipment, a CTP-enabled prepress workflow and veteran press operators, but if its sales staff is unable to sell the finished product, the whole chain will collapse.

Of course, this is not to imply that salespeople are the weak link of a printing operation. On the contrary, since the success of a company is generally judged by sales figures, the importance of a winning sales team is obvious.

One of the biggest challenges for salespeople in any business is to market products and service with which neither they nor their customers are familiar. Newer technologies, such as on-demand digital printing, fall into this category.

Digital printing first burst onto the scene at PRINT 91 when Heidelberg exhibited its GTO-DI direct imaging press. Indigo followed, in 1993, with the introduction of the e-Print 1000, which was touted as the industry's first fully digital, four-color offset press.

According to Louis Nudo, vice president of sales for Old Forge, PA-based Panel Prints, the past decade has seen tremendous expansion in the digital printing segment.

"The digital, non-film type of printing is becoming the every-day type of situation, where a couple of years ago it was the new process on the block and people were still using film to create pictures," Nudo notes. "Now, more and more printers are using digital information instead of creating film and negatives. That's run across the board in all markets, from the P-O-P industry into just about every other industry. More acceptance of this process is causing a much bigger influx in the digital part of printed materials."

Nudo has seen the explosion first-hand. He reveals that Panel Prints went from about 10 percent digital work in 1999 to 60 percent to 70 percent currently.

Digital Specialists
As such, this rapidly changing market requires a flexible sales staff, notes Mark Edgar, vice president and general manager of Corporate Direct in Landover, MD. Corporate Direct, a division of Corporate Press, went digital two years ago and has trained its salespeople to be "digital specialists."

"You need a different type of salesperson, or at least a different type of understanding and background," Edgar opines. "In most cases, you are developing a new market with your customers. We found when we started to get more involved in this, that most of our customers didn't understand what we were talking about."

 

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