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Everyone is a Salesperson in Printing

[fa icon="calendar"] Fri, Mar 25, 2011 / by Andre Palko

cutterI'll never forget the day I almost made a grown man cry over a cutting job. He was a good customer who came in that day for a press OK. While there, he decided to see how one of his label jobs was progressing and I happened to be setting up the job on the cutter.

The labels were tiny and there had to be 47 lots on the 25x38" sheet. Every label was a different and oddball size, such as 1 3/32" x 3 1/16" and there were big warnings on the job ticket about accuracy. The copy on every label went right to the edge with no room for error. To add to the pleasure, the very old, and extremely worn, inaccurate cutter had no computer.

Mind you, my early bindery education consisted of about 2 hours of training on the cutter followed by "OK, now we've got to get these 20 skids of board cut for the truck this afternoon."

So in the early months I learned to be fast. Accuracy counted a little but speed seemed to be most important. This label stuff was a whole new ballgame. After spending a long, long time setting up the job, and feeling very confident, I put a big lift in the cutter while the customer was standing next to me. After all, he was in a hurry to get his job just like everyone else.

As the knife came up from the first cut it revealed a long row of pretty colors and lines. There should have been none. In a single swipe I had destroyed about 15,000 labels. The normally chatty and very friendly customer stood motionless and speechless. (The print brokers I knew were never speechless.) I swear I saw a tear in his eye. In hindsight I realize he was very kind to me when he simply asked "Why did you do that?" I think he asked me the exact same question two or three times as if in shock.

He told me he had a line at the bottling plant waiting for one of the lots of labels I had destroyed. If he was late on this he could lose one of his biggest customers. He had a family to take care of. He was visibly shaken by my mistake.

That's the moment I realized that everyone in a company is involved in sales, no matter what our job. At that very moment, the work I was doing represented my employer and our entire company to this man, our customer. He was mad at me and this could affect whether or not he would ever come back to our company as a customer again. It could conceivably cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That was over 30 years ago and it was an expensive lesson I never forgot. I vaguely recall it ending well; we managed to make up the shortfall with a quick reprint on press and he got the labels he needed to the customer. After that incident I treated every job as if that customer was there beside me. Whenever I found myself thinking about a shortcut, or about shipping something that I probably wouldn't ship in front of the customer, I didn't do it or I'd at least discuss it with my boss.

Even if you never see a customer in the course of doing your job, you still have an impact on the them and on the bottom line. Your actions on the job affect you, your colleagues, your employer, the customer and others you will never know. That puts you in sales and that makes your job an important one.

Andre Palko

Written by Andre Palko

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