Find the "What." Find the "Who." Get the Appointment.

Submitted by Bill Farquhars… on April 04, 2019
Bill and Kelly headshot

"Who buys your digital/inkjet print?" If there was one question that we would eliminate from your sales portfolio of opening lines, it would be this one. Why? Let's follow the scenario through and see where it leads us…

You: "Who buys your digital/inkjet print?"

Customer: "That would be me."

You: "I sell print. I sell digital and inkjet print, too. Do you have anything that I can quote on for you?"

Customer: "Sure. Give me a price for 5000 of these."

<<Insert musical interlude indicating the passage of time>>

You: "Here's my price."

Customer: "Sorry, your price is too high."


The problem with this sales approach is that it leads to the same ending every time. This should surprise no one. If your sales pitch is focused on the price of the printed piece, the basis of winning the bid is limited to being the lowest cost provider. By focusing on the clients’ print needs, you have limited your ability to sell profitably, effectively, and develop a loyal customer base. Surely, there must be a better way.

There is a better way (and don't call us Shirley). Before we get to it, let's take you back 83 years and remind you of the essence of sales.

In 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote a book we consider to be the authority on how to sell anything profitably. The book was called How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie's message was simple: "You could get what you want when you figure out what the other guy wants and help him to get it."

Translated: "You can sell digital/inkjet printing profitably and successfully when you examine and understand the customer's business needs and then apply a solution accordingly."

Their business needs? What are their business needs? The simple answer to this challenging question is, revenue. Every organization— for-profit or nonprofit— wants growth. There are only four ways to accomplish this goal:

  1. Mergers and acquisitions

  2. Get more customers

  3. Sell more to existing customers

  4. Go into new markets and serve a different customer base entirely

As we have nothing to do with M&A work, we can throw that first one out and focus on the other three. Applying this information with Dale Carnegie's lesson on sales, your challenge of gaining a sales appointment that does not end in the words, "Your price is too high," hinge on your ability to first determine how your potential customer is going to achieve growth and then couple it with your solution.

Assuming you are still following along with this logic, your next step is to do some research on your prospect. Fortunately, Al Gore saw you coming and he single-handedly invented the Internet (must be true. We read it on the internet) so that you can learn about the business needs, direction, and most importantly their plan for revenue growth.

This is the single most important skill a print/digital/inkjet printing salesperson can have.

Armed with this information, you now understand the Whats: What are their business needs? What are their growth plans? What is keeping them up at night? Subsequently, you can now advance to the next step, finding the Who, as in: Who is in charge of this issue/need I've discovered? That's the person that you want to speak to and given the approach you've taken, it is almost certain that you have moved upstream to a decision-maker and well away from the buyer.

Dale Carnegie didn't know it back in 1936, but he laid the groundwork that became the foundation for selling digital/inkjet printing profitably and successfully. Here we are 83 years later still celebrating his genius.

The fundamentals never change: Solve the problem, earn the order. Unless you have the lowest price on the block, it's your head that's gonna be on the block unless you learn to sell solutions. Learn to find your What’s through pre-call research. This will lead to the Who and eventually to a profitable digital/inkjet sale.

Ready to learn more? Register to participate in one of three thINK Virtual Sales Workshops.


Bill Farquharson and Kelly Mallozzi have sold digital print themselves and create a lot of content around the subject.  Their book, Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing is available on Amazon.