7 Sales Secrets for Digital VDP
No one ever tells you the truth about high school and the fact that there is no “permanent record” that follows you. No one told you that the Apple stock your grandparents bought you would grow 5,000% in 15 years. While it’s too late for some things, it’s not too late for all things. Take digital printing, for example. There’s a few pearls you ought to know, seven secrets that no vendor will tell you about how to sell more variable data printing (VDP) digital jobs to run on their magnificent machines. Namely …
1. Your reps don’t want to sell it — Why not? Well, how excited would you be if you were in a sales meeting that goes like this: “Gang, today I have an exciting announcement. The company will soon take delivery of a new digital press.
“Now, you can call on a completely different key contact, someone with technical abilities greater than yours. The order size will be frustratingly small and, subsequently, so will the commissions paid. And while digital might be the perfect solution, your clients might be too scared to jump right in, causing a delay in getting the order closed.
“To summarize, you’ll take a long time to sell small orders, to people who speak a language that you don’t understand — all for a fraction of what you could make versus traditional commercial print. Who’s with me?”
See the problem? The truth is that digital represents a fantastic opportunity for forward-thinking salespeople. They can build an annuity of recurring business, their work is done upfront and the financial benefits, though small, repeat frequently and often do not require additional actions on the part of the sales rep.
Where do you start if you’ve got a large sales force of legacy reps? Find just one among them who shows an interest, support her/him with marketing and trumpet the successes. Soon, others will be looking over the fence, see that their garden is robust and want to know how they did it. Oh, and there’s one more thing you need to know in order to make this happen ...
2. You must overpay the reps — Remember this: Salespeople follow the money. Their interest in selling to any new piece of equipment is directly tied to what they can earn by doing it. Hearing, “What’s in it for me?” is not likely to make any owner happy, but in order to get what you want, you must understand and deliver on what they want.
Give cash bonuses ($100) in sales meetings for first-time orders, regardless of size. Pay out extra at specific annual sales volume intervals from the same customer (bonuses at $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 levels). If you want to get the reps to sell to your new digital device, use their wallets as your microphone. Oh, and it will help tremendously if you tell them ...
3. Digital and VDP requires an anecdotal sale — Before digital came along, little about print was exciting. What’s more, everyone understood what printing was, how it worked and when to use it. But digital is different. It allows clients to do things that even the equipment manufacturers couldn’t fathom when they conceptualized the machine. It requires … no … it demands a creative mind on both ends.
The digital sales rep needs to creatively tell the story, paint the pictures, describe the applications and do the customers’ thinking for them. And those customers need to creatively rethink what they do and how they do it.
Which customers? The right ones. The creative ones. It takes a creative mind to sell it and another creative mind to understand its potential. This means two things: Not all reps will be capable of effectively positioning digital/VDP; and not all customers will be capable of “getting it” and appreciating the fact that this is not a commodity. It’s a solution. Oh, and it is because of this requirement that …
4. There is no such thing as a quick, profitable digital print sale — You can have quick or you can have profitable. But both quick and profitable were on a ship that sailed a long, long time ago. No one is going to pass out and give you a blank PO when they learn that they can print directly from a digital file. The sales rep will need to find the applications, educate the clients and sit on the digital egg until it hatches.
Once upon a time — back when digital was called “on-demand printing” — it was possible for a rep to sell digital to software companies as a way to eliminate manuals. That was the low-lying fruit and reps (including the author of this column) were making a killing.
But that was at a time when having digital on the floor was a differentiator. Now, you need a new differentiator because everyone has digital. Oh, and that’s another thing you need to know …
5. Your equipment is beige and it uses electricity — What does this mean? It means that printing is only interesting to printers. We love our equipment and proudly show it off during plant tours like it was the town’s new fire engine. With few exceptions, the speeds and feeds of your digital device are of no concern to clients.
When you are marketing its capabilities, sell the sizzle. Create YouTube videos that bring success stories to life. Make it your goal to receive the phone call, “I watched that video on your website. I have a different but similar problem and wanted to know if that device could ...”
When you’ve accomplished this level of lead generation, you are attracting the right kind of customer. Oh, and it might surprise you to know ...
6. Digital printing redefines the “loyal” customer — Back before digital, the saying was, “If you own the plates, you own the customer.” That is, it is highly likely that repeat orders were coming your way since you had a financial advantage, having already spent money on going from negatives to plates, and the client was not likely to want to pay for another set. They were, in effect, loyal.
But digital has leveled the playing field. Now, the new definition of digital comes down to three things: the file; the file; and the file. That is, by building your technical superiority, you can help clients to manage their databases and understand their data so to better market their message to the best customer — in essence “owning” the file and reinstating that long-lost loyalty factor. Oh, and there’s one last thing you ought to know …
7. Vendors are the best untapped resources — Doesn’t it make sense that the equipment manufacturer would be able to provide some outstanding information on how to print money on the digital device they just sold you? And yet few printers press them for info.
Ask about applications and vertical markets and pricing strategies. See if they will go on four-legged sales calls with you, acting as technical liaisons. And find out if they have business development employees whose job it is to help you succeed. Oh, and remind them that it is in their best interest to help. After all, one successful device leads to another.
Well, now you know a few things about selling digital that you didn’t 1,200 words ago. Follow Ferris Bueller’s lead for tips on high school. Know that Apple is still a good buy. And go into digital having learned from the mistakes of others. It might not be new, but it is the future.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.