Sales Reps for Printers Are Out of Control
In what has become comedic in its regularity, the stream of unwanted solicitations from sales reps of commercial printers has become a regular part of the daily grind. Some like to call, some like to visit and some like to send elaborate gifts. Whatever the case, they all like to talk about their “state-of-the-art” printing technology.
NOTE: This post is old, and I don’t agree with myself anymore. I sound like an ass and I’m sorry I ever wrote it. Judge me for the person I was in 2006, not today. I’m leaving it up for posterity.
In my day job at an in-house creative department, I have the enviable position of dealing with production vendors for the design department. This includes promotional companies, t-shirt manufacturers and my all-time favorite, professional printers.
Long story short, we print a lot of shit. And it’s not so much that we print volumes of material (no single piece ever gets run in quantities of more than 10,000); rather, we have a broad catalog of brochures, case studies, direct mail, folders, trade show materials, training guides and more. In addition, we print on good paper, occasionally produce custom die cuts, always run 4/4 plus a flood varnish and will pay extra for critical color matching. These add up. While we’ll never be the crown jewel in any major printer’s crown, our $300,000 print budget makes us a very desirable target for the Jackals of the Creative Industry, printer reps.
Let’s recount some fun stats of the past week. I am not making these up.
- Seven different print vendors cold-called me. How they got my name and number is beyond me, but I suspect our membership to the local Kansas City ad club compromises our anonymity.
- Three reps stopped by my building wholly unsolicited. After I refused to meet with them, each left a giant package of samples, all of which looked exactly the same in quality. The wonderful front-desk ladies don’t even call me anymore when these guys manifest; they just collect the print samples and shoo them back out the door.
- One of those three actually sent me an e-mail thanking me for taking the time to talk with him! It’s a good thing my robot clone is fielding these guys for me, otherwise I’d never get any work done.
- I received a gift basket from Dean and Deluca, a nice travel mug, a book on a local art museum and a big desk calendar. (I gave all the gifts away and shared the food with the rest of the department.)
- No less than three employees e-mailed me saying they had a family member who worked with a local print company who does good work and would I have the time to meet with them? Here’s the fun part: one of those messages was from our CEO. Ugh.
The reality is that almost every printer sales rep is a low-rung, soul-sucking mouth-breather who will sell his left testicle just to take you out to lunch to talk about their “state-of-the-art” printing facilities. And by “state-of-the-art,” they mean the rundown 6-color Heidelberg from 1986 operated by a guy in overalls named Bert. I’ve toured enough facilities and seen enough overalls to know that 99% of printers are packing the same old-school firepower.
Since I’m such a nice guy, I’m going to give these reps some small advice from a regular print buyer.
- Don’t offer to take me out to lunch. I really don’t have the time, and when I do, I don’t want to spend it talking about your “solutions.”
- Leave your samples, but don’t expect them to be examined or even to get them back. Nothing personal, but sometimes the circular file is the most efficient storage system.
- Don’t tell me about your 6-color monstrosity, or your 200 line screen technology. If you want to get my attention, you’d best be prepared to compete with my current printer’s 450 line screen capability, color-critical workflow and virtual proofing system.
- Don’t call me. I’ll call you. Really, I promise.