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Dealing with customer files

Apr 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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Quick Printer

You don’t have to turn a salesperson into a computer geek to handle customer-created files. A little education for your sales staff will go a long way toward training customers to properly construct files.

Salespeople have to be comfortable talking about digital files with customers. They don’t have to be able to run a program, but they do need to know the printing company’s digital standards for accepting customer files. It is the responsibility of a printing company’s technical staff to educate and train the sales staff. Beyond training yours sales representatives, you also should give them printed documentation for easy reference.

Finding the answers
If sales representatives understand these basic digital functions, they should be comfortable in almost any selling situation. Specific questions relating to a particular software application or procedure can be directed to the printing company’s prepress staff. Today, it is just as important for a sales representative to know where to find the answers as to have them memorized.

When in doubt, print it out
You can’t expect sales representatives to remember every little detail. They are seeing different customers with different demands each day. They can forget. The printing company’s technical staff needs to provide printed information that provides the details for each of the functions I’ve described. The printed information will become a guide for customers as well as a reminder for the sales staff. Rather than reciting the instructions, salespeople can provide customers with step-by-step directions to handle common situations.

The printed instructions become the basis for the sales staff’s training program. If the salespeople can follow the printed directions, they should be able to help customers complete the tasks. Each sales representative should demonstrate to the technical staff his or her understanding of and ability to complete each task.

The printed instructions should be available in electronic form. PDF files of the instructions can be posted on the company’s Web site and available in text form so they can be pasted into an e-mail to a customer.

The sales representative is the primary communicator with the customer. If the salesperson doesn’t understand the digital process and isn’t comfortable with computers, the proper sales message isn’t going to be delivered.

The 9 essentials
Here is a checklist of digital information sales representatives and anyone who has contact with customers should understand.

  • What digital files does the printing company support? Industry standards require printers to support Adobe InDesign and PageMaker, QuarkXPress, Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Office. The sales staff must understand that accepting files outside the standards can be done, but will require additional time and cost to the customer.
  • How about the customer’s file formats? PDF and PostScript (PS) file formats are critical in most print shops’ digital workflow. Sales representatives should know how to load a PS printer driver and create PS files on both Mac and PC platforms. They should also know how to load a custom Job Option for Acrobat Distiller so customers using Acrobat can distill a PDF file properly. Software applications that are not on the printing company’s standard support list can always be saved and accepted as a PDF or PS file.
  • How to create a PDF file. The sales representative should know how to create a PDF file using either Acrobat Distiller or an automatic PDF file creation program, if the company has one. The sales representative also should know what customers must avoid when creating a PDF file.
  • What graphic formats are supported? Printers need artwork and photos saved as either EPS or TIFF files rather than native application files. The sales representative also must be able to explain to the customer how to convert fonts to graphics by outlines or paths, to avoid font issues. He or she should also know the standard for image resolution.
  • File submission procedures. InDesign, Quark, PageMaker and Publisher include a special application that gathers all the file elements the printer needs to print the file properly. The sales representative should be able to direct the customer to the feature within the page-layout applications.
  • Gathering the customer’s fonts. The sales representative should be able to identify and find on the customer’s computer the fonts that were used in the file. The customer might need to supply the fonts for the order to print properly, if font licensing allows.
  • Sending a file to the printing company’s Web site. Because attaching files to e-mails can create file problems, most printers have developed file transfer abilities via a Web site. The sales representative should be able to explain the process to a customer.
  • The proper color models. Printers require the color in digital files to be identified as process (CMYK) or spot color (Pantone). Sales representatives must understand the different color models and teach customers that the RGB colors they see on their computer screens aren’t the same as the CMYK ones used on a printing press.
  • How to use the printing company’s online ordering and proofing system. Many companies have online ordering and proofing available on their Web sites. It is the sales representative’s job to explain the importance of this function to the customer.

Peer group for smaller printers
Are you an independent printer looking to learn from your peers? Crouser Professional Performance, Cprint (Certified Printers Intl.) is a group of more than 100 independent printers from throughout North America.

According to Tom Crouser, president, CPrint is a new networking model that allows printers to achieve financial and personal success using a combination of professional business advisors, peer-based board meetings and applied educational programs.

Typical affiliate print shops in CPrint have 20 or fewer employees; most are in the four to 12 range. Sales are anywhere from $200,000 to over $3 million, but typically in the $300,000 to $1.2 million range. "All of the shops we work with are owner-managed, and most have a single location," Crouser says.

None of the CPrint affiliates are competitors. Crouser explains, "We can share freely and openly and train our people together. This lets us deal with the real issues of our business and family lives."

For more information, visit or call (304) 965-7100.

John Giles is an industry consultant who specializes in digital issues for quick and small commercial printers. He is the author of Digital Directions—a digital workflow guide for customer-created files—and the Digital Original CD focused on teaching customers to create PS files as well as the other functions required to get a file to print properly. Giles also is the director of CPrint (Certified Printers Intl.) ( Contact Giles at (304) 586-3548 or