Printbuyers Online

Interviewing Print Suppliers

Written by Suzanne Morgan, President/Editor, Print Buyers

Interviewing new print suppliers can be an overwhelming and time consuming process. In our unique industry, there are so many critical factors to consider when deciding upon who is or isn’t an appropriate print supplier for our specific needs. Choosing the right (or worse, wrong) vendor for a job, can directly impact our project’s delivery time, print budget and the quality of our company’s image to its customers, among other factors. The best way to interview and select new print suppliers is to do your homework, meet with your rep face to face and finally, do a plant tour of their facility. Below is a comprehensive checklist of how to prepare, what factors to consider and what questions to ask during the vendor selection process.

Interviewing Print & Graphics Suppliers

  • Have a formal procedure for your interviewing process and go through the steps with each prospective supplier so you can clearly see who fits and who doesn’t.

  • Before the face to face interview, be sure you request the following from all:

    1. Company profile - so you get a sense of whether they fit within your printing needs.

    2. Equipment list – find out up front whether or not they have the right equipment for your print jobs.

    3. Phone interview – this will help further qualify a supplier before you invest the time to meet them and do a plant tour.

  • Be sure to take notes as you interview suppliers. This will help you remember what you did/did not like about them at a later date. It also allows you to easily pass information along about them to others you work with.

Supplier Qualification
Pre-qualify by phone

  • Find out the location and type of printing company

  • Why did they contact you? Why do they think they would be a good fit for your business?

  • What kind of printing do they do MOST often? What do they want to do more of?

  • Discuss your "must-haves" upfront. All buyers and buying companies have unique needs/requirements. Let them know yours. This will help you get a sense of whether they have systems already in place to meet your specific needs.

  • Are you interested enough at this point to ask for samples of their work? It provides false hope and is misleading to ask for samples just to get a rep off the phone. They will appreciate your honesty about whether or not you would be seriously willing to consider them.

Once face-to-face:
Questions to ask:

  • How do they differentiate from the competition? What makes them unique?

  • Who is their competition? This can help you figure out what type of shop they are

  • Do they have a quality assurance program?

  • How interested are they in your business? Will you be a big or small fish for their shop?

  • How many sales reps do they have? How much printing do they sell annually? This will help you know how big their shop is and where you fit in.

  • Can they supply you with references or a client list?

  • Do their samples pertain to you and the type of printing you would be buying from them?

  • Do they track the percentage of on-time deliveries?

  • Ask them to describe a recent problem and how it was resolved.

The Print Buyer "Hunch"

  • Trust – Do you have a sense that you can trust this rep and shop?

  • Personality fit – does your rep (and the company itself) mesh well with your company’s personality?

  • Instinct – Print Buyers have an amazing instinct for what "feels" right. After you have done the research and footwork, trust your instinct about each print supplier.

The Details - Other issues to talk about:

  • Pick up and delivery capabilities

  • Proofs - what kind, how much?

  • What is done in-house? Outsourced?

  • What are their credit & billing policies?

  • What is their customer service system?

  • Do they respond to industry trends? Keep up with technology?

The Sales Representative is Key!
These questions can help you determine if a rep is the right fit:

  • How knowledgeable is the sales rep?

  • Did he/she research your company or simply cold call you without doing any footwork first?

  • How available are they? Do they have a CSR or secondary contact point for you in their absence?

  • Do they follow up?

  • Frequency of contact. Do they contact you too often for no specific reason? Not enough?

  • How does he/she respond to your requests?

Trying out a new print supplier can be a very scary process when you and your company have so much at stake. Once you have completed these steps in qualifying the prospective suppliers, you will have an excellent sense of which ones best fit with you, your company and your buying styles.

   © 2016 Print Buyers, Inc.