Buyers’ Great Expectations —DanaFebruary 2011
This one's for all of you print sales reps out there. Consider it my kicking-off-2011 gift to you. Hopefully, you can make some of these suggestions your own and become a more valuable, more trusted resource for all of your customers.
If someone else were writing this column, they might write, "Print buyers expect you to give them perfect printing for free, overnight."
Sheer hyperbole! I don't like hearing that print buyers are demanding, unreasonable and focused solely on price. Says who? I've known hundreds of professional buyers since the late '80s. Most of them were—and are—reasonable, conscientious professionals with an eye for quality and value. They're no different from anyone else purchasing products and services. They do the best they can with the time and resources they have.
What Print Buyers Value
Let me tell you what print buyers expect.
Corporate and agency print customers have common expectations from the printing industry. Naturally, high-quality printing at a fair price is Number 1. I rarely see bad printing anymore. It's easy to get jobs done well. So, tuck that expectation in your breast pocket. It's a given, and if your printing stinks, you're in the wrong business.
Print buyers expect professionalism. This includes everything from how your company telephones are answered, to the quality of your e-mail messages, to the courtesy extended by your delivery staff. Plant tours should be conducted professionally, for example, with no offensive calendars or shoptalk assaulting customers. Employees should greet customers with a handshake and a smile. Sales reps should dress professionally (not to be confused with formally).
This will sound kind of weird, but print buyers expect honesty. It doesn't mean that they've been lied to. What it means is that they hold their printers to their word. Do you do what you say you'll do? If not, do you tell your customers and explain what happened and how you're handling it? Do you deliver on your promises? Can your clients count on you and, by extension, your company, to get the work done as expected? Through many surveys I've conducted with print customers over the years, honesty is the always the Number 1 quality they seek in a print rep.
Print buyers expect good communication from their printers. No, make that great communication. They want to be kept in the loop when jobs are in production. They don't want to have to chase you; they prefer that you share important information proactively—such as job status, date changes, etc. Be mindful of jobs in production and contact customers to fill them in. As your relationship with a buyer grows, you'll get used to what an individual wants from you, and how to deliver job status updates.