Posts Tagged ‘Sales Rep’

19 Excellent Reasons Why Print Brokers are a Godsend

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Print Brokers and search engines

I keep a close watch on the words and phrases that readers use in search engines to find this blog.  Questions about print brokers lead the pack. I guess I should have figured this out on my own because when I’m asked what I do for a living, and I say I’m a print broker, most respond by asking, “What is a print broker?” They wouldn’t do that if I said I was, for example, a stock broker, or even, as I saw on a television commercial recently, a shrimp broker. There’s something about the conjunction of print and broker that creates confusion, and often curiosity.

Why are print brokers attracted to the business?

I don’t know why others become print brokers, but I did because I wanted to provide better service for my customers. I reasoned that as chained print sales rep I was strictly locked into the capabilities, pricing, and business philosophies of the printer employing me. My customers, however, often needed either print production we couldn’t provide, or a redesign of their job to make it fit our capabilities. Either way I found myself in an awkward situation. What should I do, send them away or frankensteinize their project?

(Don’t bother looking up the word frankensteinize, it isn’t dictionaryized because I just created it, and neither is dictionaryized for the same reason.)

What services do print brokers provide?

In my experience a print broker typically performs these duties:

  • Consults with customers regarding parameters of the print order. Reviews and discusses any job particulars that will affect the outcome.
  • Suggests ways to decrease cost and/or improve quality depending on the requirements of the project.
  • Provides samples like paper dummies, paper swatch books, foil stamps, or any other visuals the customer requires to make informed decisions about the print order.
  • Aids the customer in determining and clarifying the specifications so that printers will bid apples-to-apples and identify production problems before they ruin the project.
  • Pre-qualifies printers or other providers to determine which is the best match for the job.
  • Submits bid specifications to qualified printers.
  • Consults with printers as needed to answer questions or address production concerns. This is particularly critical when the job is complex.
  • Gathers competitive bids.
  • Scrutinizes the submitted written bids to make certain the directions were followed, and nothing added or neglected.
  • Submits bid with specifications to customer. This gives the customer an opportunity to double-check the specifications at the same time as they receive pricing. The objective is to make sure all parties are in full agreement about the scope of the job.
  • Facilitates the transfer of files, or other art to the printer.
  • Works with both printer and customer regarding terms of payment and makes sure all conditions are met.
  • Arranges and facilitates all necessary proofing steps.
  • Attends press checks. Helps the customer understand the printing process and translates printerese into business normal.
  • Arranges for delivery of the product to the required destination.
  • Oversees and coordinates all parts of the job, this is especially critical if the project consists of multiple pieces.
  • Invoices the customer for the work.
  • Pays the printer. The customer writes one check and the broker takes care of the rest.
  • Most important–deals with problems that may surface during or after the job is delivered. The broker acts is a shield between the customer and the printer in the event of a disagreement.

What is the most valuable service print brokers provide?

The bottom line is that both customers and printers need brokers. Brokers provide the most valuable service of all, we facilitate smooth communication between customer and printer, and that in itself, prevents a whole raft of problems that could occur. Printing, as I always say, is not an exact science. The process, from creative idea to finished product involves so many steps and demands that every one of them be done right. It is a miracle anything turns out as planned, but despite the odds 95% come out great. It’s the 5% that keep us in the graphic arts industry awake at night.


If You Don’t Want to Get Cut–Don’t Walk on Broken Glass

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

What you don’t know about printing can hurt you. Not physically, although there are rare times when people have been hurt physically. Printing presses, after all, are unthinking machines. The rollers, just like those in old-fashioned washing machines will pull through just about anything they can grab. I once heard a story of a woman with long blond hair carrying a baby through  a printing press exhibit. The over-eager press salesman instructed her to lean over for a better look at the working parts. You guessed it, her hair caught in the rollers, and quicker than you can imagine she was pulled into the mechanism. The foolish salesman panicked and instead of either taking the baby, or turning the press off, went screaming through the display floor shouting for help. Cooler heads rushed over, turned the press off, and held the infant while the mother was painfully untangled. No serious damage was done, but do you think the young mother was disposed to recommend buying that particular brand of press, even after collecting her settlement money?

I could go on reciting injuries caused by presses or bindery equipment. I once came within a millisecond of losing a hand on the folder of a cold-web press. Fortunately, the lead pressman was alert and hit the big red stop button before the tip of my right index finger was totally smashed to a pulp. Yes, I got nipped and that nip taught me to respect the heavy iron.

The kind of hurt I’m referring to is more insidious. It isn’t like getting smacked by a baseball bat; it’s more like catching a virus. The baseball bat delivers immediate pain, but the virus doesn’t show itself until days or weeks later. By then you may wish you’d been beaten by a ball bat instead of having the flu or worse. In the case of print buying mistakes, results may not show up right away. It may be years before you discover that there was a better way.

Let me give you another example. I was introduced a few years ago to a retail clothing firm specializing in the large and tall market. They had established friendly ties with a printer just around the corner. It was a good relationship that extended back some twenty years. The problem was the clothing concern had grown over twenty years and honestly, had outgrown the capabilities of the printer. It’s not that the printer was doing a bad job; they just weren’t the right fit anymore. It was like putting a 50 XXL customer into a size 48 regular suit.

It didn’t take me long to see the problem and I got bids from printers and mailing houses  better equipped for their current needs. They were shocked when the price came in $3,000.00 less and we cut the turnaround time by two weeks. It was difficult for them to say goodbye to their old printer, but saying goodbye was a no-brainer.

My customer was upset when they ran the numbers and discovered how much they could have saved over the years, but whose fault was it, really? The printer got the blame, but the printer didn’t twist any arms to get the work. There was an implied question; can the printer do the job? Of course, they could. Bucket brigades can put out a fire, but a modern pumper truck is more efficient. If all you have is a bucket brigade, and your living depends on the bucket brigade, you will do your best to meet the need. If what you have will get the job done, use what you have.

Broken Glass

Broken Glass

The bottom line is don’t trust your current printer to tell you if there is a better way. They have a business to run, press payments to make, and employees who need to put food on their tables, turning away good business runs counter to common sense. Don’t blame the printer if you don’t have enough business acumen to make better decisions. If you walk across broken glass barefoot, you can’t blame the glass when you get cut.

Is it Off with Your Head, or Here’s the Boot?

Monday, June 1st, 2009


In this economy everyone is vulnerable. Companies have to cut back and who gets cut first? Those they can do without. Are you invaluable, or removable?

What is your job? Are you a sales rep, in customer service, a manager, or an executive ? Those of us, and that’s everybody, who has to survive this struggling economy will have to make some changes. Companies cannot afford to keep anyone on the payroll who slows it down. It is the job of everyone to pitch in and make the company they work for a success or go find other work. If that is your strategy–finding another job–lot’s of\'re fired Pictures, Images and Photos

What if there was a self-improvement program that costs around fifty bucks a year, meets at convenient times, and is guaranteed to improve your confidence, your organizational ability, and make you more persuasive? You might think I’m not telling the truth. But I am. Toastmasters can do all of this and more. Later on in this blog I’ll give you information on how to contact them.

Toastmasters, for those who don’t know, is a club dedicated to providing education and a safe weekly forum for members to practice public speaking skills. You may have noticed that I used the word safe, why? Studies and surveys disagree with what constitutes man’s greatest fears, but all agree that speaking in front of a group ranks very high. Most would rather face a venomous snake than give a speech before a large audience.

We are taught in our Toastmasters clubs to be careful in our evaluations. The preferred method of evaluating a speech is what they call the sandwich. A suggestion for improvement is sandwiched between two compliments. It could go something like this, “You established excellent eye contact with the audience. Your voice, however was a little flat. Try to include more vocal variety. I noticed that your hand gestures perfectly punctuated your points. You are very good with your hands.” Did you see how that worked? First there was a compliment, excellent eye contact, followed by a suggestion for improvement more vocal variety, and then another compliment very good with hands. This method helps the club member to improve without beating them over the head with a gavel. It is safe.

Why do I even bring up public speaking in a blog about printing? It is because we are facing historical changes in the business of printing. I believe that those who can most clearly communicate with their customers, their employees, the community, and the industry will be the ones who rise to the top when all this shuffling is over.

I’ve written about Toastmasters in previous blogs:

  1.  Real Leaders are Hard to Find
  2. What Have You Got to Lose–Your Fear?

I’ll probably write about the organization more. If you need additional information you can check the Toastmasters International website, by clicking on this link or going to my sidebar and finding it under the heading Blogroll. Either way I encourage you to check it out. By-the-way, Toastmasters isn’t just a United States club, it truly is world wide. Once you are on the website you can enter your location to find out if there is a club near you. You’d be surprised, unless you are in a very remote location, there will probably be a club by you.

Why all the folderal about Toastmasters? There are many educational and training programs out there that require thousands of dollars and a big time commitment. Toastmasters, at least in my club, which meets for breakfast, comes to $1.65 per week, plus the cost of your breakfast. To my knowledge, a better buy dosen’t exist. You see, you not only learn to speak better, but you become a more confident person. I’ve seen new members come into our meetings so frightened that they shake. Their first speech is called the Ice-Breaker and is their opportunity to introduce themselves to the group. After that there are nine speeches they must prepare and give before they achieve the designation of CC (Competent Communicator). Here is where it gets interesting for me. Around the middle of the manual, say speeches four to six, something happens. It’s like the chicken breaking out of the shell. It is a magical moment to see someone who a few weeks before was inaudible, inarticulate, and scared, now stand tall, speak clearly and find their confidence.

Again the point of this being you need to make yourself a better employee and leader if you are to survive the changes in the printing business and the economy. In tough times companies, if they can, keep their best employees and jettison the rest. Make yourself fire proof.

When I became a broker I dreamed I could serve customers best by hand-carrying their jobs to a printer who was the best fit, instead of attempting to bend the job to fit the printer where I was employed.

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