7 Things I’d Like Print Reps to Know

I often wonder about the training that printing sales reps get—or if some get any training whatsoever.

Is it more about training them in how to sell, or does understanding the customer enter into the equation? I sure hope the latter is the case.

I imagine a lot of reps get some informal training from their sales managers. The advice the get likely includes things like “go around the gatekeeper,” “they only care about price,” “promise them anything,” and “do a lot of cold calling—it works.”

But as a print buyer, I’d have different advice for reps.

1) Don’t you dare call me without knowing anything about me or my organization. If you DO call without knowing something about both of us, you’re wasting my time. I’ll remember you all right…and refuse to do business with you.

2) Make sure your company has a decent website. I’ll go right to your URL once you and I have a conversation, and I want to spend five to six minutes tops checking it out. If your site is dusty and dated, that’ll leave a bad impression immediately. Typos or bad grammar? You’re dead to me. And if it’s not immediately clear what you specialize in, you’ve lost me.

It should be easy enough, but why are so many sites dolled up these days? Can’t make hide nor hair of them.

3) I’m not sitting by my phone waiting for your call. (I haven’t done that EVER, BTW.) Our budgets are down, we’re printing smaller quantities, and I have a group of great printers I’m currently working with. You have to convince me you offer something I need. How you do that is your problem to solve.

4) I have no time to keep up with industry news and manufacturing trends. If you can provide that information, you get extra points.

5) Of course price matters; doesn’t it matter to you when you’re purchasing something?
So stop singing that same old tune and realize you have to be competitive in your pricing just to get your foot in the door.

6) Things that guarantee you’ll lose (or never get) my business include:

  • Lie to me.
  • Trick me.
  • Fail to tell me when a possible crisis looms (with my jobs).
  • Screw up an important job.
  • Be impossible to reach.
  • Make a politically incorrect comment.

7) There is no surefire sales approach that will guarantee you get my business.
You have to earn it. You have to know quite a bit about my organization’s needs and constraints when it comes to printing. You have to respect me. You have to listen to me.

Related Content
  • Robin May

    This is such common sense.

  • Linda S

    You’re right Robin – such common sense. Thanks to Kelly & Bill for reminding us of it. Interesting that when we’ve been in the business awhile – we really just need the reminders to help us keep moving.

  • Tara Cruser-Moss

    Prior to beginning my career selling print solutions in 1998, I was on the buying side of the fence (in the casino industry ). This article is spot on. One of the most frustrating and frequent things I dealt with was sales people who would DIVE hard into their pitch, when I was not the person who could or would buy their product. Asking a well thought out question, in my experience, is a very important key first step…. There is only so much homework you can do to obtain that information. I have found most people willing to direct and guide me, as I was when I was asked.
    Also when you get the correct person on the phone don’t ask "how are you doing today"? It’s a silly question to ask someone you do not know from Adam and it used to turn me off. A much better question is "Did I catch you at a bad time"? I appreciated people who respected my time. Plus it gave me a "clue" as to how much they understood about the position I was in.

    Print buyers and marketing people are even more busy today than they were 14 years ago. More venues of communication to manage (online and digital marketing efforts) coupled with slashed budgets and in many cases a smaller support staff, makes a buyers time critical.

    This step undoubtedly adds to the cycle of time (I believe it’s an average of 27 touches -phone calls, email, donut drops) that is currently takes to earn enough trust to get an opportunity but from my experience I would take that persons call again before I’d take the sales person who asked me "how you doooooooiiinnnnnnnnn". LOL

    I’ll end with saying I’m grateful that when I was on that side of the fence I was kind to sales people. In this industry (like many others I’d assume) it seems common for buyers to become sellers and visa versa… The golden rule served me well.I suppose thank you Mom.

  • Sales Rep

    Though common sense, this is definitely refreshing to read. Buyers don’t typically give you this kind of honest feedback. Hopefully print company leaders are reading this and recognizing that what we as sales reps have been "complaining" about is legit. It’s difficult out there and the lack of tools isn’t helping!

    Question to Mr/Mrs Print Buyer: what are some examples of when you’ve been convinced of needing something you didn’t have with your current printers?

  • Was A Sales Rep

    This is common sense, yes but one must learn it the first time from someone… That’s why mentoring is such an important element missing from society today. In 1991, I was promoted to Sales Executive after 8 years as a CSR at a major big three printer now part of the "Big Q" (And your young "Mr. Nick" doesn’t think CSR’s are important…). Well, if it wasn’t for my CSR training, I would have failed miserably because the sales training I received was zero. I was successful in not only attaining my sales goals well past five million a year value added but exceeded them to the point they took my business away and gave it others so they could make their own numbers. Never gave me back the clients I worked from stone cold but I persevered. The people they gave my work to could not do what I did to repeat the same business. When the marketplace went sour back in the mid 90’s, nobody remembered what I pushed through the pipeline and I was let go and the guys that fed off my hard work stayed. Never sold another page of printing and broke my spirit to sell in the process. The only lesson I learned in sales was never trust another salesperson. To all you sales leaders and executives reading these posts, train, recognize and reward those who do the heavy lifting and the hard work. When you look at a person’s resume, don’t ask me where’s my book of business. Ask me what have I been successful at in the past. What I could have brought to the table may not have been a book of business but my historical potential and proven track record along with my depth of knowledge of the business. But, all you wanted to know is my list clients I was bringing with me and most applicants are going to BS you anyway. Nobody wants to give you a chance to succeed these days, no time to cultivate yourself or some success. They are looking for the white knight to save the company or their job of course. I would have loved to sell again but I ran the other way every time someone offered. Once bitten, twice shy. Went into operations, did real well and retired at 51.

  • Another buyer

    Good article! I would add one: If I told you before, we don’t have any work for you, we really don’t. Feel free to check back in a few months, but please don’t call me every week and send me emails. Or if I told you we are under contract for three years, I don’t need your call every week. Did you forget? As for those who are telling this person to chill out and take a vacation, (s)he is being honest. Some salespeople are wonderful to work with, but others are liars and cheaters. Think of the salespeople you meet–ever bought a car? We deal with this every day…

  • “Print rep”

    Frankly it sounds like this author either hates his job or hates people?! I am a print rep and I take offense to this persons tone towards print reps! I take great pride in what I do and how I do it! If I were to run into this clown out in the market there is no doubt I’d say to myself "is it REALLY worth doing business with this person? Tons of headaches ahead"

    I’m not one to turn down business…but it has to make sense for BOTH sides…. not just theirs. I’m interviewing THEM as much as they are me. So lighten up my friend.

    If anyone would like an article on the 7 things print buyers should be doing, feel free to email me.

  • Print Goddess

    A few more "Don’ts":
    Don’t cold call me on Fridays (after 3 especially), I’m trying to wrap up my work week, write my notes for Monday, check in with my crew and building reps. If you’re that unthinking, I won’t work with you.

    Don’t call on me after one of my independent reps has placed work in your plant. It’s unethical, puts me on the spot. I won’t work with you.

    Don’t ask me for other people to call.

    Don’t call people and say I told you to call them. I freely share info with my network of buyers, they would call you if I recommend you.

    Don’t call my CFO, my CEO, my marketing folks as an end-run around me. I will never do business with you.

    Think before you do anything. I buy very little print these days, I have a few great vendors who get my business. If I need something different, I ask buyers in my network. Drop me your contact info via email, I’ll check out your website. I’ll call you, or the other sales rep who has called before you did, if I need other info.

    I’ve done this for a long time, if you bring fresh thinking to the table and want to make me look even smarter than I am, we can talk. If not, call somebody else.

  • aspireforbill

    Great comments, gang. If you have any specific questions for our Ghost Blogger you can ask them here or email me separately (bill@aspirefor.com) and I will get you answers.

  • Jim Savage.

    The 7 Don’ts ….
    As a Sales Manager of a printing company I can assure you Bill that printing sales reps do get trained. " Go around the gate keeper " " Promise them anything " would not be part of that training 98% of the time. By the tone of your comments it sounds as if you are entertaining the other 2%.

    Your comments do make sence Bill, not only if you want to sell someone like you printing… But in every day life. " Don’t Lie to me"….No one likes to be lied to under any circumstances. "You have to Listen to me"… Everyone wants to be heard when they speak. " Politically in correct comments " Who likes that ? …I think most of your comments could be viewed this way.

    Typically, I do not give advise unless asked but I feel compelled.
    1 – I think you should weed out a few crude sales reps.
    2 – Take a vacation

  • to old to put up with….

    Sales reps has got to remember they are my advocate in their shop. I don’t want excuses or defenses. If I have a tight deadline, a tough project, they need to work for me internally in their shop to make it so…