Print Services or Promo Products – Which Are Harder to Sell?

I am flummoxed. I am frustrated, too. Last week, I quit blogging for Printing Impressions’ sister publication, Promo Marketing. This fine publication speaks to those who sell promotional products. I had been sharing some thoughts on how to grow sales in general, as well as why selling print was a good option for them.


Granted, that magazine’s readership is less than half of this one’s. But when it comes to conversation, the silence was deafening and I don’t understand why.

Blogging, in general, can often feel like you are shouting into the abyss. You’re not always certain that someone is reading you, based on the frequent lack of Comments posted in reply. But this little venture was particularly quiet and it’s got me thinking:

Is it harder for a promotional products salesperson to sell print or vice versa?

Either way, at the center of the sale is the relationship with the customer. You’d think that once you’ve sold yourself and have built a rapport with someone that you should be able to sell them anything. That’s how it works on paper anyway.

So why then is it so difficult for a promotional products sales person to sell print? Companies that sell to the trade, such as, offer some excellent online educational resources to draw upon. Free!

And while I’m on the subject, if you sell print, why in the world are you NOT selling promotional products? You, too, have the relationship already built and I believe you are the vastly superior salesperson compared with what would be your new competition. How tough is it to ask your contacts what else they buy or whom at their company might by the tchotchkes (a word that I’ve come to learn promotional products people hate)?

Well, a significant part of my 2012 business plan has failed, so I need to go and retool. Give that question from three paragraphs ago some thought and let me know what you think. In the meantime, you print salespeople should go over to the Promo Marketing site and see just how easy it is to increase your sales by expanding your product offerings.

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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  • Wendy Sherrod

    Bill, I have sold both. I began my career as a print salesman and then opened my own promotional product business. I sold both for several years until my children became more demanding and I decided to sell only print. I am still with BPI Media Group and we now sell promotion products along with print and numerous other services. It is easy for a print representative to sell promotional products but the transition is not so easy the other way around. There are too many details in printing and they can be very costly if not done correctly. Printing is constantly changing, if you don’t work in it everyday you will get left behind. I am not saying it can’t be done, they just need to do their homework. Perhaps working with a printer who sold promotional products and slowly learning the print side would be a good option.

    Wendy Sherrod
    BPI Media Group

  • Dan Frey

    I agree in some ways with Wendy and disagree in others. I think if there is anything that is constantly changing and full of details to sell, it’s promotional items. Really successful promotional sales requires knowing whats hot, where the best suppliers are and having a strong enough relationship where your buying power gives you the best chance for margin. Sounds familiar doesn’t it.

    If you are super successful selling print, the odds are you are average selling promo and vice versa. However, all that being said I think a printing company has to offer promotional items or they are leaving opportunity on the table and risking that their customer will find a relationship that does both.

    I think it is best have specialists in each area that work together to serve the client. This guarantees the customer has no compromises in support or expertise. On that note, let me know if you know any good promo product sales people looking for work in Atlanta. :) Good luck and good selling.

  • Joe

    Hey Bill,
    we’re out here, and reading, keep up the good work man!

  • CanonKelly

    You know what’s REALLY a hard sell? Convincing your two year old that she doesn’t need ice cream EVERY DAY! But in all seriousness, they both have their nuances and i am always a fan of partnering with someone smarter than me when the situation fits. Eventually, you will learn enough by osmosis and experience to be successful!

  • Chris

    Much rather manage and sell print because the desired result of a customer’s print product is greater…(training, marketing, sales, promotions, awareness, etc)…There is only so you can do with a branded pencli…..