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How to Become a Printing Sales Rep

Printing and graphics sales is a dynamic but extremely competitive industry. Successful printing salespeople have a great deal of personal freedom and can spend a great deal of their work time outside of the office working directly with clients and prospects. Income is potentially unlimited and there is potential for substantial residual income, since most printers will credit the salesperson for a percentage of every job from every client the salesperson brings in. Those at the top of their profession have a solid understanding of printing and graphics technology, logistics and business management, along with a willingness to work hard, maintain their professionalism when disappointments happen, and serve their clients.

Develop confidence in meeting with and speaking to people. This is an essential ingredient in any sales career, since you will be routinely introducing yourself to complete strangers and asking them for an appointment to review their printing needs.

Learn basic business management skills. You will be selling to business owners and managers, and must therefore understand how to speak in their language and present solutions that will benefit them in terms that they will understand. You should be fluent with business terms such as "cost per unit," "return on investment," and "profit margins."

Research graphic design techniques and procedures. While the sale is made to the executive, you will frequently be working closely with the client's design and production staff to coordinate the details of any given print job. You should understand terms like "bleed" and understand the advantages and disadvantages of certain formats and presentations. You should also be able to coach clients through the creation of a mock-up that is actually printable.

Learn print operations. You should become familiar with the pros and cons of every printing technology, and be able to explain them to the client in a way that helps them see the logic of doing their printing with your firm. Learn the costs and tradeoffs of different kinds of paper, inks, color formats and varnishes. Work with the client on leveraging the capabilities of your printer firm to make your clients' products look their best and to make it difficult for competing printers to break in. One time-honored way to learn the trade is by taking employment in the production department of a printing company and learning on the job. Some specialized colleges also offer coursework on printing operations.

Subscribe to industry trade publications such as "Print Solutions" magazine and "Printing News." These publications can help you stay abreast of the latest technologies in printing and logistics and the best practices for approaching and signing new clients.

Approach a printer directly about handling accounts in your area. Some printing companies operate on a territory system, meaning they will give you exclusive access to all businesses and individuals in your zip code. Others allow a more wide-open sales management structure. Look for a company that is willing to help train you and invest in you for the long haul.


Jason Van Steenwyk has been writing professionally since 1998. A former staff reporter for "Mutual Funds Magazine," he has been published in "Wealth and Retirement Planner," "Annuity Selling Guide," "Registered Rep." "" and "Senior Market Advisor." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in humanities from the University of Southern California.