Johnson's World: Promises, Promises

I dedicate this column to all of those promising purveyors of equipment, service, and supplies.

May 1, 2014
Steve Johnson10912079

My company has purchased a lot of iron and a lot of electrons. Buying new equipment is one of the favorite pastimes of printers everywhere.

Considering a purchase? Meet your very own salesperson. This zealous individual will magically appear on your doorstep armed with brochures, samples, spreadsheets, and a pen. I dedicate this column to all of those promising purveyors of equipment, service, and supplies.

As always, the names have been removed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the just plain over-enthusiastic.

Are you an equipment sales representative? Please, do not, do not, do not, make the following mistakes to which your ilk seem so prone.

Don’t over-promise  Before the purchase we hear phrases such as, “best in class,, “wide range of capabilities,”  and my mos-detested promise, “offset-like quality.” After the purchase the terminology changes to “acceptable”, “as good as” and “reasonable expectations.”

I will hold you to your promises. Sell me what I need, but don’t over-promise! Your commission is only one check, but my dissatisfaction will be forever if the machine can’t do the things you told me it would.

If it aint’ fixed, don’t claim it is  One salesman was very proud of his machinery. He had many years in the industry, he explained, and he had been selling this particular line of digital printer for his new employer for six months. “Have they fixed the toner-adhesion problems?” I asked.

“Of course. That problem has been long solved.” He was stunned when I whipped out my pencil eraser and rubbed the image clean off the beautiful sample he had placed in front of me. He had no rebuttal.

Salesfolk, do your homework: Ignorance is no excuse.

Do what you say you will

Equipment specs and volume ranges aren’t the only things that are over-promised. When some big problems with a new piece of equipment became apparen,t a manufacturer’s vice president of service told me, “I’m going to phone you every day until the problem is resolved.” That was a month ago; I haven’t heard a word from him since.

He didn’t have to promise to call, but once he did he should have followed through. This doesn’t give me much faith in any promises he’ll make in the future.

Don’t tell me you can help me with marketing  First, I’m not in the business of selling your machines, or even the work your machines produce. I’m in a service business. My customers don’t care that I have your brand of machine. They care very much that their printing is delivered with the quality and expedience for which my company (not yours) is famous.

Second, any assistance you could give me you will also be giving to my competitors. Besides, you can’t even get accurate specs on your own brochures.

I’m the one in the marketing business. Just give me equipment that will allow me to efficiently and effectively service my customers. I’ll handle the marketing.

Don’t tell me you have software to help figure my costs I have my own cost accountants. I realize that many printers do not do their own cost accounting, or even know what cost accounting is. If that is so, your little Excel spreadsheet isn’t going to help them one bit because they won’t have the numbers to make it work.

Do your homework

Digital presses (or workflow, or modern bindery equipment) aren’t commodities. These are very complex machines, and the sales process is also complex.

Most digital press vendors have roots in the copy machine business and still ink deals for million-dollar presses using a generic contract form that they also used to sell fax machines.

In the course of the sales process, many promises are made about accessories, training, and service. It is up to you, the salesperson, to see that all of these promises are correctly documented in the contract.

If you make a mistake, own up to it  Mistakes do happen. When they do, acknowledge them promptly, and fix them. Want to earn my undying respect? When something goes wrong, fix it promptly, courteously, and to the best of your ability. That is, after all, nothing more than what my customers are expecting from me.