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Digital Sales Compensation : Neither Fish Nor Fowl

April 2010 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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THE BEAUTY of digital printing is the seemingly endless list of possible applications it affords. It can be particularly rewarding to the people who are sufficiently creative and intelligent to ferret out new marketing methods in which one can be blown away by the result.

After all, digital printing as a craft is not the value-added differentiator that is digital printing as a concept. A great multi-level marketing idea can keep a digital printing account in-house longer than the unwanted brother-in-law living atop your garage; there will be no incentive to go elsewhere.

Who wants to sell digital printing? Certainly those folks residing in the corner offices, which is incentive enough. But simple math and common sense will dictate that for printing salespeople toiling for a business that offers both digital and offset printing, the natural motivation is to sell a $30,000 web job as opposed to a $1,500 digital job. Though some would point out that the razor-thin margins of offset printing today mean it is not quite a slam dunk.

Harris DeWese, chairman of Compass Capital Partners in West Chester, PA, sees the prime digital sales candidates as being younger, with an inclination toward IT skills. From there, it would be simpler to train them on selling digital jobs and identifying the types of accounts that could lead to more desirable contract work.

"It's not very profitable when a customer wants 150 flyers printed digitally," DeWese says. "The margins may be OK, but it takes a hell of a lot of them to make any critical mass. The primary issue for companies producing digital work is to do a better job of training their people to sell digital."

DeWese notes it will take a while for a new digital salesperson to build a decent base, before they're able to earn commissions in excess of their draw and make it into the sweet spot of 7 percent to 10 percent commissions. "If you're smart, hunt down established accounts where you're doing some sort of fulfillment or regular customer communication that can't be moved easily," he advises.

DeWese isn't alone in the belief that cultivating your own digital sales professionals is the preferred route. Kate Dunn, president of Digital Innovations Group—a sales and marketing strategy firm in Richmond, VA—contends that printing companies tend not to hire the best sales reps.

 
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