If you’re in the market for a new commercial print partner, a little bit of pre-planning is a smart thing. Don’t approach a first meeting with a sales rep as a haphazard, 20-minute, unscripted interview. The bigger your print budget, the more you should prepare. Too much money is at stake to screw it up – but if you don’t ask the right questions, you could easily do just that.
Have the rep come to your office. Do some homework ahead of time. Go to the company website to see what kinds of printing and related services they offer. Request their equipment list (this presumes you know what you’re looking at as far as presses go). See if you can determine what industries they serve. Look for the names and contact information of key management personnel.
This website visit will tell you a lot about a printing company. How current do they appear to be? How professional is their site? Do you like what you see – in particular, do they appear to have what you need?
When you meet with the print rep, have this list of questions handy:
1. Tell me about your company. What products and services do you offer? Why should I work with you and not your competitors?
2. Can you give me the contact information for 3 current customers? (If they’re in your industry, so much the better.)
3. Tell me a bit about your professional experience. How long have you been in the printing business? How long have you been with this company? What can I expect from you, as my sales rep? What are you really great at? What would your customers say about you? It’s nice to work with a rep who’s been with the company for a long time, as they may have more clout when schedules are tight, but don’t automatically dismiss those who are fairly new.
4. How do you keep current with industry trends and technologies? Listen carefully to the answer. You definitely want to work with someone who keeps up with changes in print technology and media trends in general.
5. If we work together, will I be dealing primarily with you or a customer service rep? If the latter, tell me about him/her. Ask to meet the CSR or at least get the person’s phone number and email.
6. What’s your communication style? You want a rep that’s available and responsive to your needs. Do you prefer to communicate by phone? Email? Text message?
Try and listen more than you talk (be warned: a good rep will take this same approach!). Get a sense of the rep’s personality, because marketers tend to work with the same printer for a long time, developing good business relationships. Is this a person you want to speak with and/or see regularly? Will you get along? Or is it someone you just can’t stand? (It happens.)
Do you get the impression the rep is a person of integrity, someone who seems honest and genuine? Surveys of print customers have shown that honesty is the #1 quality they value most when it comes to print partners.
You want to work with someone sharp enough and forward-thinking enough to bring you new ideas as well as someone who seems assertive enough to get your work done in the plant. Yes, you want a go-getter. A mopey, too-quiet, Caspar Milquetoast of a person is not going to do well by you.
Bottom line: the sales person represents your company to his or her printing firm. You want someone you believe will get the job/s done, no matter what it takes. Personality matters. Experience matters. Assertiveness matters. Look for someone who’s professional.
All print reps are not the same. Follow these easy guidelines and you’ll make smart choices.
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