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Bill Farquharson

The Sales Challenge

By Bill Farquharson

About Bill

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."


Why You Need to Get into VDP

Do you bank online? I resisted for a long time but finally gave in. My first concern was security. After all, there are tens of dollars in my account and some Serbian computer hackers could fill an entire CD with iTunes songs if they ever got their hands on my money. But those fears were calmed once I saw the padlock icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the bank’s Website. Gosh, that made me feel SO much better.

Having overcome that issue, I began my online banking experience. Now, the benefit of managing your money this way is primarily the ease of paying bills. No more stamps and check writing and addressing envelopes.

Nope. An invoice comes in, gets entered and a pay date is set. That’s it. Voila! I don’t have to think about it again.

But that’s on the other end of this process. In order to get there, I had to endure a lot of data entry. Data. Ugh! Sure, I do business with Sprint and Verizon Wireless, but where did I keep the copy of that last bill? I need it because it has the address and the all-important account number. I have only about 30 vendors, but the experience of entering all of that friggin’ data can be summed up in three words.




Off and on, it must have taken me two hours to enter all of my information. OK, my Dyslexia didn’t help, and why do companies insist on using “O” and “0” in the account number? That’s just cruel.

But after a week or so of preparation, I was ready to send my first check. Cool! Verizon Wireless. $133.85. Due October 20, 2010. Enter. Done!

OMG! I love this! I won’t ever go back to traditional bill payment. Despite the awkward and annoying setup process, I can honestly say that my bank has me locked up. Man, I don’t ever want to go through that again! For now, there are no fees but even if they added them, I’d still hang on. Yup, they own me because they own my data.

[Dramatic pause.]

Get it? Do you see why you need to get into variable data printing? You just endured 357 words of my telling a seemingly pointless story. Hopefully, you can see the connection between it and the point I am trying to make. If so, skip to the witty ending. If not, let me ’splain it for you, Lucy...

The biggest issue with VDP is the data. Companies typically have horrible databases. They are either outdated or just plain wrong. (Case in point, I received a letter addressed to an employee who worked for me during the Bush administration. That Bush, the father!)

Massaging and correcting those files would certainly be a lot of work. Getting them to flow into a printed document successfully adds an additional challenge and more time. But after all that is said and done—and the customer sees the power of printing to the needs and preferences of the individual and gone through the headaches of trial and error—after all of that, they will not want to go anywhere else for their printing. You now own their data. You now have staked out the intellectual territory of being THE Expert in their minds. You now own the customer.

The process of, well, processing variable data printed piece is tedious and time-consuming. The vendors lied to us when they said there was an untapped market. I began talking about it in 1992 and I knew that it was going to take a long time to catch on. Here we are 18 years later and it is still like sex in high school—everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, but in reality not many are and those who are, aren’t doing it very well.


Those who are have an advantage over those who aren’t and this, too, can be summed up in three words:




“Own the printing plates, own the customer.” is now “Own the file, own the customer.” The future of the printing industry belongs to the technically superior. I know you love your presses, digital or otherwise, but let me clue you in to something: It’s not your iron that makes you different anymore. It’s your ability to handle the digital file.

You want to keep convincing customers that they need to handwrite checks to do business with your company, be my guest. But your checks can’t do anything that the other guy’s checks can’t. By teaching your clients the value of online banking, you’ll lock them in as a customer for a long time. That should keep the bank manager happy.

And just think, you didn’t have to give away one toaster!

Witty ending delivered.

Bill Farquharson and fellow PI Blogger Kelly Mallozzi have a “Hot Markets” webinar coming up on October 27. Check it out at

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