Print Salesperson – Guy Keen from Mail Boxes Etc.




How did it start?

Why did you choose print sales as a career?
I got into this eld because I was a print buyer so you could say I am “poacher turned gamekeeper”. As a print buyer I saw rst-hand that what people “wanted” wasn’t necessarily what they “need”. I see my job as providing a customer something they need, rather than what they think they want.

How long have you been in print sales?
6 1⁄2 years, and 4 years as a print buyer before that.

Have you always had an interest in print?
The advent of the internet has had a massive impact upon the print business, with over 2/3 of all print companies going bust in the last five years. It has really driven prices down, and turned print into a commodity. We specialise in the quality end of the market, mainly to SMEs and this really keeps the work interesting and varied. We like to o er added value with free marketing advice to other businesses to enhance their business.

Tell us about your careerguykeen

What do you like about being in print sales?
It is really different and varied. One day it might be something traditional like some business cards and the next it might be a lea et for a phone app shaped like an Apple iPhone 6. I particularly like helping my customers achieve their goals through their print.

What is your biggest achievement to date?
Developing a product for Wolseley Group. They needed a label to a x to every gas main installation that was both waterproof and tear proof. We have this material called “Nevertear” which fitted the bill and led to repeat orders to a total of £11,200.

As a senior member of the team are you involved in more strategic areas of the business too?
I decide on both the overall sales and marketing strategy. I find my best source of clients is networking, with BNI being a great source of business.

Do people make assumptions about your industry?

Sometime the choice of printer is based purely upon price, with the advent of the internet this is even more so. How does Mail Boxes Etc. compete with the online printers?
Firstly, we are available. You can pick up the phone or come in and see us, whatever is suitable for you. We want all our customers to be delighted with the print we produce, so in the unlikely event that something were to go wrong, you know where we are so we can help to put it right. Secondly, we offer free advice about how to get a printed item right first time. We o er a free artwork check to avoid any spelling mistakes or fuzzy images; we don’t just print what is given to us. Thirdly, we only make promises we know we can keep. We never promise a delivery date just to get the work, we will only say we can do it, if we can do it. As part of this, wherever possible we o er a guaranteed delivery.

How does the industry work?

How has the internet impacted upon the print market?
It has had a massive impact. The days of the traditional work being letterheads and business cards is long gone. We still do a lot of business cards, but print has changed into a lot. Our business has changed, into areas that a lot of people might not think of when they think of printing; such as training manuals, academic journals, HR Handbooks, self-carboning pads etc. There will always be a market for these no matter how much the internet takes over.

Do you find print sales a rewarding career?
Definitely. There is nothing better than seeing a happy customer walk out with a finished quality job, and then coming back for more. That’s how you know you’ve done a good job, they come back again and again.

What qualifications or experience do you need?

Did you study to become a print salesman?
No – although I did study to be a buyer. This provided a surprising amount of knowledge about the sales process and the techniques that sales people use to “sell”. I have been on a few sales courses, but in general I use my eyes and ears to listen for what the clients wants to achieve. Based upon this, I am able to advise the best solution. Of course if a customer has definite views about what they want, even if you know it is not the best solution for them, ultimately you have to give them what they want. They are the customer after all!

What advice would you give to someone who is considering print sales as a career?
Get a good knowledge of print and marketing. Be customer focused. If you know what can and can’t be done, and have a sound marketing knowledge then you will do well. Don’t make promises you cannot meet. The ability to listen actively and to provide a solution to a customer’s problem is key.

What does it take to be successful at print sales?
A drive to want to succeed. Organisation, attention to detail and above being results focused. The one thing that stresses me out more than anything is being late. The ability to listen is key and coach your customers; customer are very willing to tell you what they want, but rarely tell what they want to achieve. A good print salesperson works with the customer to provide a solution.

Is print sales something you can get into after already carving out a career?
The hardest bit is learning the knowledge about the print industry. There is a lot of technical stuff to learn, as well as a lot of jargon. This can be done though; before I became a print buyer I knew zero about the print industry. Anyone with good sales skills can get into print sales as the skills are pretty much transferable.

Taking things forward…

Why do you think Mail Boxes Etc. differs from your competition?
We concentrate on the small SME market and don’t go after the large commoditised end of the market like pizza menus. We o er a quality guarantee, a delivery guarantee and have a right first time attitude with our free artwork check. We want our customers to be delighted with our product so that they keep coming back time and time again.

What are the plans for the business in the next 12- 18 months?
I am looking to increase our turnover in print sales by 50% over the next 18 months. We don’t want to be the biggest, but we will be the best; gaining a reputation for service and quality at an a affordable price.

How do you see your career evolving?
I want to continue to expand my network, and consequently expand our client base. Our focus will continue to be on quality, without sacrificing on delivery and expanding into less traditional areas of print.