The Most Important Person in the Digital Print Shop

By Bill Farquharson
In December 19, 2013

I started selling digital and VDP back in 1992. I’d find the applications, open the account, and bring in Gary, the Technical Communicator. Gary would contact my client’s technical people and talk with them about how to prepare the files in a format that he could work with. I was very lucky to have him. I didn’t know a thing about pdf files back in 1992. Had Gary known how lucky his company was to have him, he probably could have renegotiated his salary. He was the most important person in the digital print shop.

How important?

Gradually, as time went on, I had less and less contact with my clients. The system Gary built between the plant and the customer ran itself: Orders would come in; Gary would print out a proof, I’d deliver it, the client would sign off and the job would be run. Soon, I stopped delivering the proofs and soon after that there stopped being a need for one. It came to be that sometimes I wouldn’t find out about a job until it showed up on my commission check!


One day in January, I was at the plant and walked by Gary’s cubicle. As I waited for him to get off the phone, I scanned some recent pictures that were on his wall. There he was in a Santa hat, smiling and toasting my…MY CUSTOMERS!!!! He was at their Christmas Party!

Wait. What?

When I asked him about it, he lit up and told me all about what a great time he had and then asked, “Why weren’t YOU there?” The answer was simple: He was now their key contact. I was just somebody that they used to know.

In the years that followed, I went on to write Xerox’ Marketing Partnership program as well as customer training curriculum for Indigo, Heidelberg, and others. I visited a lot of print shops in those years and came to realize just what a rarity the skill set of technical expertise and ease of communication was. In presentations, I’d proclaim, “If you don’t have this person on staff, don’t go digital!” and I meant it.

Although I no longer sell direct, not much has changed in terms of files working properly: The client still needs to be trained. Sales reps are still as dumb as rocks when it comes to talking the talk. Help is still needed and “Gary” is still the answer. The formula for digital/VDP is still the same:

  • Get yourself a great piece of equipment
  • Identify the application
  • Get a Gary

And don’t go digital without him!

Bill Farquharson

Epicomm Vice President Bill Farquharson previously served as President of Aspire For, a sales training and consulting firm in Duxbury, MA, and is a 30+ year sales veteran in the print and form industries. He has trained thousands of print sales representative, sales managers, and “selling owners” with a highly successful, no-nonsense “old school” approach. His unique training programs—The Sales Challenge, The Mobile Sales Club, and Tuesday eWorkshops—have become an industry standard for driving new business. Bill has trained and coached sales people from Xerox, Fuji Xerox, HP Indigo, Heidelberg, EFI, Konica-Minolta, and others. An active columnist and blogger for Printing Impressions magazine,, he also shares two weekly electronic eblasts each week with thousands worldwide: Monday Video Sales Tip and Friday Short Attention Span Webinars. Bill received a B.A. degree in Marketing from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and worked in sales at UARCO Business Forms, Advanced Form Systems, and Print Tec Network, prior to founding his own firm.

Leave A Comment