A Seminar-Stopping Question on VDP

It happened during a presentation that fellow PI World blogger Kelly Mallozzi and I were giving. The subject was, “How to get your sales team to sell digital and VDP.” and it was going pretty darned well. Kelly and I were yin-ing and yang-ing well, as ever. Nary the head of a dozing participant had hit a desk. We were cruising.

Kelly was talking about stimulating interest for digital and VDP with clients and prospects when a hand went up. Near the back was a self-proclaimed “oldest man in the room.” With the calm of a 50-year print veteran (or maybe he was just beaten down…hard to tell), he asked a seminar-stopping question:

“Why is this so hard?”

Excuse me?

“Here’s the thing. We’ve had digital on the floor for a while now and have tried unsuccessfully to generate any lasting business. What are we doing wrong?”

In case you’ve never been a Presenter in a seminar, let me clue you in to something: There are some questions that you answer quickly, others that open up rich new areas of conversation, and even some that you don’t know how to answer so you say, “Let’s talk off line.” That say you don’t have to admit you have no idea.

This one was unique as it cut to the heart of the seminar. Unfortunately, we were already running late and we needed a lot more information to answer the question. Here, then, are the questions I would have liked to have had the time to ask in order to do the necessary forensic work and give this gentleman the answer he sought:

  • What have you tried so far to generate interest?
  • On a scale of 1-10, what is the interest level of your sales team?
  • Have you tried focusing on any verticals?
  • From 1-10, how would you rate your company’s technical skills?
  • What is your digital marketing plan?
  • As company president, have you tried reaching out to any prospects or clients yourself?

As this is a one-sided conversation, I don’t have the answers to my queries and thus the subject dies here. I urge all other frustrated digital/VDP providers to go back over each question and come up with your own answers.

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."
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  • E Saturnus

    I’d like to hear from the gentleman who asked the original question and follow that to its conclusion.

  • John

    Argh……. because you don’t sell "digital printing" or variable data printing. For crying out loud, will no one learn that we sell what the customer wants NOT what we think he/she needs because some blogger writes "sell this or die"

    Why do you think our industry in such upheaval and disarray? We spend hours telling ourselves how this new thing is going to be a game changer- only to find out the customers really don’t give a damn. They want a solution- and they want a solution that is cost effective- not some BS ladened nonsene about back of the envelope calculations of ROI, yada, yada, yada.

    Hey- here’s a suggestion. How about telling sales people to actually ask the damn questions instead of answering them for the customers. And to the guy at the seminar- it’s not hard. What’s hard is being disciplined about asking how we can help- instead of telling how we can become the MSP of the world.

  • Paul

    I Don’t fully disagree or agree with John, However…I do think the big box makers, the Xerox’s and the likes are pushing this new toy down printer’s throats, and they are buy hook line and sinker. Now, everyone is out, trying to sell the same thing in a slightly different way. There’s nothing proprietary about this really. After the uniqueness of it wears off…which won’t be long in this day and age and market, it’ will just be another tool or service to sell to your customers. I do agree that you need to sell what the customer wants, and the customer needs to be fully informed about everything you do, and understand the value of VDP, along with everything else most printers can do. Part of the problem is this industry has had demand destruction for years, and this is not the only saving grace out there, but one of many. Differentiate yourself in the marketplace, learn to do more with less, start thinking outside the box, or the inside the box along with the debt and payroll will kill you.

  • Kelly

    Leave it to you, Bill to inspire such a "spirited" discussion. I think everyone makes some valid points, but the takeaway is, give your customer solutions that help him/her exceed his goals; not put clicks on your machine. If you are the vehicle for growth and profit, you will always be viewed as a resource. Digital is a valuable tool, and one that can be had affordably AND profitably. Lean on your equipment vendor; convince them that you are a partner and demand that they help you succeed. Great post – and I hope that original ask-er is in on this discussion! THANKS!