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President, Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference

Connecting with Print Buyers

By Suzanne Morgan

About Suzanne

Suzanne Morgan is president of the annual Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference (www.printoasis.com) and Print Buyers Online.com, a free educational e-community for print buyers and their print suppliers (www.printbuyersonline.com). PBO has more than 11,000 members who buy $13 billion a year in printing. PBO conducts weekly research on buying trends and teaches organizations how to work more effectively with their print suppliers.

 

Print Buyers Give Printers Failing Grades in How They Differentiate Themselves from Their Competition

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Print buyers said that when it comes to creating differentiation from themselves and their competition, most printers get failing grades. Over 72 top print buyers rated print suppliers in last week’s Print Buyers Online.com Quick Poll. When asked “Please rate how effective you believe print suppliers are at communicating meaningful differentiation from their competition”, respondents were critical with 54% rating printers as “fair” and 21% as “poor.” Only a quarter of the respondents were more positive about printers’ efforts with 10% saying “very good” and 14% saying “good.” Only 1% of buyers said that most printers are “excellent.”

From the print buyer’s point of view, sales representatives bear the burden of communicating differentiation, although a printer’s brand and marketing efforts (or lack thereof) do play a major role. One buyer shares his frustrations with sales reps with this comment:

”Print sales folks seem to all have learned from the same textbook. They are stuck on the ‘we pride ourselves in giving the best service, quality and prices—just give us a chance and we’ll prove it to you’ message (or variations thereof). Ask them to tell how they are different from everyone else that says that, and they’ll list a bunch of customers who they say think they are better—and funny how the same companies show up on almost every list! Their idea of explaining how they are different seems to consist of expecting me to give them some work so I can find out for myself. Figure out some REAL answers to the question, people!”

Another buyer concurs by saying, “I think most salespeople fall short in this category, which is why trying a new vendor is often an unnerving experience.”

Pat Benson, Print Production Manager with Ingram Book Co. sums up the complaint of many print buyers by saying, ”The majority of salespeople don’t have a good grasp of their own plant’s capabilities and so they are unable to really project their strengths in light of the competition. Every company has good people, good equipment, and is committed to excellence. So what? Tell me what’s different about the company and why should I purchase printing there?”

So what’s a printer to do (or in the end does it really just come down to price)? What should salespeople, and management, being doing to set their companies apart in the marketplace? Please use the “Post a Comment” feature below to join the discussion and share your thoughts.

www.PrintBuyersOnline.com

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COMMENTS

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Most Recent Comments:
Mark - Posted on October 29, 2007
It would be great to know exactly what the Print Buyer is looking for but in a lot of cases there just isn't enough time. This of course would require some very real in-depth conversation with a Sales Rep. Yes a Print Sales Rep can offer suggestions to the product, but not until they are told that exceptions to an RFP are allowed. In many cases exceptions are the nemesis of sales and estimating in that we use up that precious commodity called time trying to put together a very comprehensive pricing package for the Buyer to review.
The knowledge card about the printing process and business has to be present on both sides of the fence as well. If a buyer isn't familiar with the printing process in the market they are looking to buy from, it can cause more questions than answers when the RFP is submitted, again time wasted. Print companies are pushing their sales forces more and more to fill open hours and the real losers are the eventual customers because the Buyer doesn't have the time to really put together a comprehensive RFP that truly will compare the various vendors in an apples to apples comparison, thus the Sales Rep doesn't have the time and then the Estimator doesn't have the time and so on and so on down the line, hence the estimate that is worth $18,000 becomes the invoice that's worth $52,000 because nobody seemed to have the time up front to get it right in the first place.
Let's face it, most printers all do the same thing to a point. If a Magazine is being bid you will get pricing to print and distribute that magazine and in the initial bid response there is very little opportunity to be different when an RFP is sent out electronically or by mail, the amount of time that can be devoted to a Sales Rep being able to differentiate themselves and their company virtually disappears. As I see it time is a common factor is Buyers getting what they want and need and the Printer being able to make the differentiation the Buyer is seemingly looking for.
Bob - Posted on October 28, 2007
Guilty! I too have that book and subscribed to that sales approach that service, quality and competitive price is my company's strength. Knowing that story is old, repetitious and boring, and what buyers are looking to hear about from me, I will be informing the buyers I meet with what we do inside our plant that separates us from the rest of the pack. And there's plenty to tell!
Suzanne Morgan - Posted on October 23, 2007
The following is Suzanne's response to the question below about what print buyers want to know about their suppliers:
There are a couple of important ways that print buyers differentiate between print suppliers. One way print buyers evaluate print suppliers is based on their equipment and capabilities. Most sales representatives have a tendency to claim that their company can meet all of the print buyers needs, from a small batch of business cards to a one million count catalog run. Print buyers far prefer knowing which jobs a print supplier is best at and if they offer any specialty types of printing. Print buyers also want to know what unique value a print supplier can provide to the print buying company. It is important to print buyers to be able to identify how a print supplier will contribute to the overall effectiveness and profitability of the buyers’ print promotion.
Julie - Posted on October 22, 2007
I like to think a potential buyer will form an initial opinion based on my actions more than words or promises. How complete and accurate was the quote? Were any suggestions made to save the buyer money or make their job easier? Was is completed in a timely manner? Did the rep follow up or just throw it out there for the buyer to act on? Any print rep can SAY they care about quality and service, but their actions will speak volumes. Truly great service begins before a project is secured.
Tim - Posted on October 22, 2007
Very interesting article, not to mention a sad one as well. As a new print sales person, it's a bit disconcerting along with a optimistic view from my point. The question is, what does a print buyer really want to know about the differences between print suppliers? I would love to know that as well. Any insight?
Click here to view archived comments...
Archived Comments:
Mark - Posted on October 29, 2007
It would be great to know exactly what the Print Buyer is looking for but in a lot of cases there just isn't enough time. This of course would require some very real in-depth conversation with a Sales Rep. Yes a Print Sales Rep can offer suggestions to the product, but not until they are told that exceptions to an RFP are allowed. In many cases exceptions are the nemesis of sales and estimating in that we use up that precious commodity called time trying to put together a very comprehensive pricing package for the Buyer to review.
The knowledge card about the printing process and business has to be present on both sides of the fence as well. If a buyer isn't familiar with the printing process in the market they are looking to buy from, it can cause more questions than answers when the RFP is submitted, again time wasted. Print companies are pushing their sales forces more and more to fill open hours and the real losers are the eventual customers because the Buyer doesn't have the time to really put together a comprehensive RFP that truly will compare the various vendors in an apples to apples comparison, thus the Sales Rep doesn't have the time and then the Estimator doesn't have the time and so on and so on down the line, hence the estimate that is worth $18,000 becomes the invoice that's worth $52,000 because nobody seemed to have the time up front to get it right in the first place.
Let's face it, most printers all do the same thing to a point. If a Magazine is being bid you will get pricing to print and distribute that magazine and in the initial bid response there is very little opportunity to be different when an RFP is sent out electronically or by mail, the amount of time that can be devoted to a Sales Rep being able to differentiate themselves and their company virtually disappears. As I see it time is a common factor is Buyers getting what they want and need and the Printer being able to make the differentiation the Buyer is seemingly looking for.
Bob - Posted on October 28, 2007
Guilty! I too have that book and subscribed to that sales approach that service, quality and competitive price is my company's strength. Knowing that story is old, repetitious and boring, and what buyers are looking to hear about from me, I will be informing the buyers I meet with what we do inside our plant that separates us from the rest of the pack. And there's plenty to tell!
Suzanne Morgan - Posted on October 23, 2007
The following is Suzanne's response to the question below about what print buyers want to know about their suppliers:
There are a couple of important ways that print buyers differentiate between print suppliers. One way print buyers evaluate print suppliers is based on their equipment and capabilities. Most sales representatives have a tendency to claim that their company can meet all of the print buyers needs, from a small batch of business cards to a one million count catalog run. Print buyers far prefer knowing which jobs a print supplier is best at and if they offer any specialty types of printing. Print buyers also want to know what unique value a print supplier can provide to the print buying company. It is important to print buyers to be able to identify how a print supplier will contribute to the overall effectiveness and profitability of the buyers’ print promotion.
Julie - Posted on October 22, 2007
I like to think a potential buyer will form an initial opinion based on my actions more than words or promises. How complete and accurate was the quote? Were any suggestions made to save the buyer money or make their job easier? Was is completed in a timely manner? Did the rep follow up or just throw it out there for the buyer to act on? Any print rep can SAY they care about quality and service, but their actions will speak volumes. Truly great service begins before a project is secured.
Tim - Posted on October 22, 2007
Very interesting article, not to mention a sad one as well. As a new print sales person, it's a bit disconcerting along with a optimistic view from my point. The question is, what does a print buyer really want to know about the differences between print suppliers? I would love to know that as well. Any insight?