Why Sales People HATE Selling Digital Printing

Sometimes, I don’t get what people don’t get about digital printing and VDP. Like when it first came out and Charlie Pesko et.al. ran around the continent yelling their “Emperor’s New Clothes” message, challenging anyone who didn’t see that vision. Now that those pie charts and graphs of yesterday have been downsized to reflect reality, we are faced with another “Don’t get it” moment: I don’t get why no one else but me sees why their sales reps won’t sell digital printing and VDP.

Imagine being in a sales meeting and the owner walks in. He’s jacked up and wears a smile from ear to ear. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he begins, “This is a big day in the history of our company. Today, we install the new Xerodigomapress 3000, a device that will put us in the race to capture digital and variable data print. Here to describe what your sales future looks like is our new digital sales savant, Bill Nevergonnahappen. Bill?”

“Thanks, Dick. Sales reps, this new device is going to push you from your comfort zone. You will no longer be calling on buyers, but instead, a whole new breed of potential clients. These people are in Marketing and Product Management. They’re owners and C levels. So, immediately, you are going to feel discomfort. Eventually, you will come across the IT Department. They know a lot more than you do, so prepare to feel stupid. Also, selling digital and VDP takes time. In fact, know that if the selling cycle for traditional print is 3-6 months, the selling cycle for digital and VDP is twice that. Plus, you can expect the average order size to be in the hundreds of dollars, meaning that according to Dick’s current sales compensation plan, you will see commissions in the tens of dollars (pause for dramatic affect).

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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  • http://Kelly Kelly

    Ahh.. If only the sales managers and owners were that honest. Mostly they talk about how awesome the technology is and how EASY it is to sell. With very little training to back it up. The ones who make the most money selling digital are those who can sell it on a program (translation – MEGA repeat basis) like Web- to-print sites for major companies. If salespeople had more positive support and more training on how to make that transition from commodity selling to solutions selling – lots more people would be making a lot more money!

  • http://JohnHodgman John Hodgman


    Great article on the obstacles to selling digital printing, but I don’t get what the solution is for getting salespeople to sell digital printing (I am kinda slow).

    Is the answer to pay them more money to sell digital?

  • http://Harvey Harvey

    Selling digital without commoditizing the product usually means creating a whole new business model. You can’t sell a sheet of paper for $1 and expect to make $.20.

    You have to get involved in the development process of the entire campaign, the setting up of the files, acquiring and using data, incorporating PURLs and QRs and most of all, changing the dull, tired formats that your competitors are peddling. Now you will be able to lock the client in for constant orders and then clone the process over and over again in different market segments within your area.

  • http://MJacklich M Jacklich

    I enjoy following your articles. This one does point out the problems, and an encouragement to approach it differently. As follow up article(s) it would be nice to see specific techniques in the solution(s).

  • Richard Peck