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Sales Compensation – Is It Time for a Change?

Posted Monday, August 1, 2016 by Linda Bishop, President of Thought Transformation.

Not sure about your sales plan? Take a read & consider purchasing the 2016 Sales Compensation Survey for just $250! It is the only industry specific / peer contribution report out there.

alt textIs your sales compensation program getting you the results you want? Does it help your company get new customers, win new opportunities, and maximize wallet share at existing accounts?

Does it motivate your team to sell bigger solutions, as well as daily transactions to keep your plant busy?

What about profitability? Does your compensation program encourage your team to maximize margins?

Sales compensation is supposed to motivate salespeople to perform. Programs have many forms including:

  • 100% commission
  • Draw against commission with a set commission rate, sliding commission rate, or as a percentage of value-add
  • Salary
  • Salary plus commission
  • Salary plus bonus

The majority of sales people in our industry work under the model where there is a draw against commission. This model works well under the following conditions:

  • The salespeople at your company are money-motivated and are spurred to action by the promise of financial rewards—which is rarer than many people want to believe
  • Sales cycles are relatively short (90 days or less to a sale)
  • The pool of potential buyers is large and can be accessed with reasonable effort
  • The dollar amount of the transaction justifies the amount of time a sales professional will have to invest to make the sale

Back in the 20th century, this system worked well in the printing industry. For one hundred years, printing was a growth market because customers dedicated significant amounts of their marketing budget to printed communications. Buyers had plenty of pain points, such as inconsistent quality, and frequently shopped for better partners. Back in the good old days, offset was king which meant the sales dollars generated by individual transaction were larger, too.

During the last two decades of the century, the Internet changed the world and digital marketing was born. When the country experienced a major recession in 2008, shrinking budgets prompted marketers to shifted money away from printing to lower cost solutions like email marketing. Forced to compete for smaller slices of a shrinking pie, printers improved quality and service, eliminating many traditional pain points. Digital printing technology also improved, causing marketers to make the switch, cannibalizing business and reducing run sizes.

As a result of all these upheavals, today’s salespeople operate under the following conditions:

  • It takes 60 to 120 days to get an initial meeting with the customer, and you have to work a much larger list of leads to consistently get meetings with prospects
  • Sales cycles range between 90 days to 18 months
  • Customers often want larger solutions requiring a team effort and taking months to construct, with no immediate payoff for the salesperson

No matter what compensation system you use, the question to ask is, “Does my pay plan ensure that my sales force is working hard enough and performing the right tasks to drive growth?”

The right tasks include:

  • Getting meetings with prospects
  • Converting prospects into customers
  • Getting and closing opportunities
  • Maintaining existing business
  • Penetrating accounts to expand wallet share
  • Providing business value to customers by selling bigger solutions

alt text Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.” If you see weakness across a large segment of your sales force in critical areas, consider how changing the compensation plan could positively impact behavior and identify ways to improve.

Linda Bishop is the founder and president of Thought Transformation, a national sales and marketing consulting group. She is a subject matter expert on sales and marketing, writes regularly for Canvas magazine, and is a regular speaker at industry events. To drive revenue growth today, Linda believes companies must treat sales as a process, develop a core competency in business development, and provide marketing support for the sales team. She can be reached at

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Posted Thursday, July 14, 2016 by Jules VanSant.

alt text*From Lisbeth A. Lyons – VP, Government Affairs Printing Industries of America*

As Congress breaks for the presidential nominating conventions and summer campaigning, I wanted to provide an update on the status of PIA’s legislative effort to block the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) from implementing its proposed Rule 30e-3. This rule that would direct the agency to change its existing method of mailing certain printed financial information to investors – and instead essentially replace it with email instead. Many of you are familiar with the debate, so I will skip straight to the update. (For those who wish to review or learn more about this issue, please visit

The SEC has yet to indicate a date certain when it will finalize and implement this rule. As such, PIA and its allies in the Coalition for Paper Options (CPO) continue to leverage opportunities to raise concerns before the SEC. This week, the SEC Investor Advisory Committee held a forum on proposed investor modernization rules, including Rule 30e-3. Linda Sherry, a representative of Consumer Action (which partners with PIA and CPO), presented arguments against the proposed rule. Linda’s message that SEC should NOT move forward with the rule was very effective and was certainly noted by the SEC. I’ve attached her statement. Also presenting viewpoints to the SEC was the Investment Company Institute (ICI), which supports going to an email delivery system, and Broadridge Financial Solutions. PIA will certainly highlight Linda’s statement with lawmakers on Capitol Hill as well.

CPO champion Representative Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) had initially sought to add an amendment to the Financial Services appropriations bill that would block the SEC from funding and implementing this rule. While he did achieve solid support on his policy position, the chairman of that subcommittee, Representative Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), remained opposed and, rather than risking a losing vote on the amendment that may have damaged further prospects, Poliquin eventually withdrew from this effort. However, he did engage in a colloquy (a formal, on-the-record discussion between lawmakers) with Chairman Crenshaw on the floor of the US House. During the colloquy, Chairman Crenshaw indicated he believed it was important to strike a balance between the interests of investors and the mutual fund companies before the SEC finalizes the new rule. This was a positive development for CPO and puts the Chairman on record in support of modifications to the rule. He promised to work with Poliquin and the SEC to get this resolved. This discussion will be carefully noted by leaders at the SEC. (The specific discussion between Reps. Poliquin and Crenshaw occurs at about the 6:22:45 mark in this video:

PIA and its allies achieved the most significant success in the Senate. The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved funding for the SEC that included a provision banning the expenditure of resources to implement its proposed Rule 30e-3. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), who serves as co-chairman of the Senate Paper & Packaging Caucus, championed the language for several weeks (even highlighting it during his remarks at PIA’s legislative conference in June). Under regular order, this appropriations bill would next be voted on by the full Senate and conferenced with the corresponding House appropriations bill. However, it is all but certain that the Financial Services & General Government bill (which funds the SEC) will be rolled into an omnibus-type package of multiple appropriations bills in September or, more likely, at the end of this year. It will be PIA’s goal to ensure the Boozman language is not stripped from the bill during a future floor vote AND to ensure that it is included in any final appropriations package approved by both the House and Senate. While the provision has a long way to go in the legislative process before it carries the force of law, it nevertheless sends a strong signal to the SEC that the full Senate Appropriations Committee stands squarely against their proposed rule.

Next Steps
CPO will utilize the August recess month for strategic planning on legislative and grassroots plans that can be implemented when Congress returns after Labor Day. In the meantime, interested PIA member companies should monitor for updated information. PIA also encourages its member companies to follow CPO on Twitter (@PaperOptions) and to retweet the #SEC messages in order to create a larger voice in opposition to this rule. Finally, should member companies have an opportunity to attend a campaign or town hall event with Senators or Representatives, they are encouraged to let lawmakers know that this rule is of considerable concern to the paper and print industry.

Thank you, and please feel welcome to contact me with any questions or concerns related to this or other legislative issues. LL

*Lisbeth A. Lyons
VP, Government Affairs
Printing Industries of America
1001 G Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20001
PH: 202.627.6925

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Gone Phishin’:A fake account of real events – Understanding the Risk of Ransomware

Posted Friday, July 1, 2016 by Sarah Morris - Kirkpatrick Price.

See more posts by Sarah Morris with PPI Partner Kirkpatrick Price at . Interested In SSAE or other compliance? Check out our member savings on certifications.

Just an ordinary day in the IT Department

Molly walked in to the IT department at the regional hospital where she’s worked for the last four years. Some mornings are more hectic than others. She could tell it was going to be “one of those days” as the help desk buzzed with activity – users locked out, systems down, Internet outages – but today, these conversations seemed a bit more urgent that usual.

“Molly, come here,” said the IT Director before she could even open her laptop bag at her cubicle. Jerry was a good leader of the IT department. He was the one always appealing to management for the resources they needed for the never-ending expectations on system performance in the hospital. “We’re dealing with something major today. Our EMR system has lost access to the database. Everybody is calling in about it. Gary and Margaret are troubleshooting now, but I need you to get the backups ready,” Jerry instructed as he was heading out to give an update to the management team.

Attack of the Ransomware

Michael had delivered a well-placed phishing email to someone in accounts payable at the regional hospital the day before. Disguised as an invoice, the attachment contained malware. This type is known as ransomware, meant to encrypt files, rendering them inaccessible until the hospital pays a fee for the decryption key. Overnight, the infected computer became the launching point for Michael’s plot to search out the hospital’s network for critical files. The more pervasive the impact, the more likely Michael can collect the ransom.

Three years ago, Michael became part of an organization that regularly orchestrates this type of attack. Back then, they used CryptoLocker and generated millions of dollars in payments. That paled in comparison to what they did with CryptoWall, which netted hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly from U.S. companies. Now, he mostly uses Locky ransomware to stay ahead of anti-virus detection. The group that pays Michael very handsomely has grown tenfold and has lately turned their focus to hospitals. “They have money,” Michael’s handler had said, “and their technology is weak.”Trouble with the Backups? Let’s not lose our composure…

It had just become apparent to Molly that something was wrong with the backup on the SAN when Gary shared the news.

“The database has been encrypted,” he stated in a defeated tone. “There’s a message on the server demanding that we pay in bitcoin in order to get our files back.”

Molly’s instincts immediately told her this was the reason she was having trouble with the backup files. Through their collaboration, they discovered that the Locky ransomware had found and encrypted the network-accessible backup storage location.

While discussing whether or not they had complete backups in an offsite location, Jerry was ready for an update. After a full debrief, Jerry knew that their options were dwindling. The hospital had upgraded to an expensive SAN last year to provide a networked storage option for the terabytes of data needed by the EMR system. Restoring that volume of data from their offsite media would take days. Although no one said it, everyone knew that they had not performed a full restore test in a long time due to being overworked in the IT department. Margaret volunteered Steve from the help desk to assist in containing the infection. Identifying and disconnecting the affected system would take some time.

Gone Phishing

Michael usually has dozens of targets on the line simultaneously. He uses a variety of delivery mechanisms for the ransomware. Sometimes it’s a phishing email but often it’s an infected website or a poisoned online advertisement. He enjoys the variety to keep the victims’ defenses off-balance. The splash page that he deploys on the infected system gives them a countdown clock to show them that they have 15 days to pay up. If they pay during the first 3 days, the fee is around $500, but every few days the ransom increases. It’s designed to put more pressure on the hospital to consider the cost in time and IT resources versus simply paying for a quick resolution. He recently was successful in his demand for $17,000 worth of bitcoin, where he had crippled a hospital’s operation. The proliferation of bitcoin has enabled their criminal network to anonymize the payment channel and avoid detection. He chuckles every time a target pays and he collects his share. The media says not many pay the ransom, but he knows better because in most cases, they are never publicly identified as victims. They don’t want the attention, so they pay the ransom to make the crisis go away.

Practice Makes Perfect. Initiate Incident Response Plan.

Jerry activated the Incident Response Plan. Never had they known so much about their backup software, disaster recovery procedures, and system redundancy. Everyone in the department couldn’t help but think they should have practiced these steps before today. Most stayed as late as they could the night before, working through the recovery plan. Some stayed all night. The countdown from the ransomware screen taunted them. Once the infected systems had been isolated, some members of the incident response team were tasked with determining what other systems had potential access to the affected hosts. This was an inventory job like no other. Others performed research to determine if this particular strain could be decrypted by any third-party utilities. No luck. Someone in finance researched how to set up a bitcoin wallet, just in case, and was ready to purchase the amount necessary from the broker site.

Jerry then advised management that they were down to two options…spend days restoring all critical systems to normal operation or pay the ransom. That decision was above his pay grade. But as his team was deciding to wipe and rebuild the affected machines, rather than try to remove the malware, Jerry was determined more than ever to get the time and funding allotted to his department for hardening the systems according to the NIST standards that he had previously recommended. Security awareness would also be one of his next steps, too. He had seen a Tripwire survey that said the #1 step to prevent ransomware attacks is for users to not click suspicious links. He knows that the hospital could be doing a lot more to educate employees about this threat.

Molly asked Jerry what would happen next. Would public relations go to the media? Would this incident qualify as a data breach and be reported to the regulators? Jerry just shrugged and said, “It’s in the lawyers’ hands now”.

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Benny's Abound for the PrintROCKS 2015 Winners

Posted Thursday, June 16, 2016 by Jules VanSant.

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PPI is pleased to announce the 2016 Premier Print Award Winners who were submitted into the competition at no additional charge from their wins in the 2015 PrintROCKS Awards. 52 submissions were awarded with 19 organizations recognized for their stellar work.

Our region’s showing only reinforces once again the tremendous work done by the greater print community in the six states we serve. Bonus for the entrants is that we saved them over $13,000 collectively in processing time, shipping and entry fees.

We will celebrate these wins at the PrintROCKS party September 16th in Vancouver, USA at the Downtown Hilton Hotel. The Premier Print Awards GALA will be held in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, September 25 in conjunction with GraphExpo. More information at

ALL 2016 PrintROCKS Entries awarded Honorable Mention through First Place will one again be submitted in 2017 for consideration at no additional charge. You too can get this 2+++ for 1 opportunity by entering PrintROCKS today! We’re open for entries and look forward to helping you promote your amazing work.


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Investing in Your Business: Is Now The Time?

Posted Thursday, June 16, 2016 by Gerry MIchael, Falco Sult LLC.

Changing production technology is a fact of life in today’s economy. For Graphic Arts firms that are just returning to financial stability after the Great Recession, these challenges are common. New capabilities and new technology to existing capabilities continue to present themselves. Those presenting these options promise greatly improved financial results and success for those firms that invest in these options. But all too often, the actual results may not be what had been hoped for.

Capital Budgeting offers a framework for evaluating these situations. Although it can be complicated in some cases, it ultimately comes down to a simple question:Is now the right time for my company to make a significant investment to acquire new technology, and if so, what return can we realistically expect?

While the question is simple, the answer is not. Too often decisions such as this use the wrong data and are based on unrealistic assumptions. Companies tend to place too much emphasis on potential benefits or technological improvements rather than the results the specific company should expect. This is misleading, which leads to bad decisions and bad results in most cases.

The correct analysis should use the actual financial benefits that a company expects to realize. All such investments must ultimately be paid for by improved cash flows to the business, which means that either your customers must decide to pay you for the investments by spending more on products and services, or you must be able to maintain revenues while reducing total operating costs.

So, what matters is what changes, and this is called “Marginal Analysis:’

There may be many other elements in the analysis, but in its most basic form, the only real question that matters is this:

Will the net cash flow produced by this new invest­ment, over its expected useful life, be more than the total cost of the investment, after considering the time value of the benefits and costs?

Key concepts here include the following:• What is the total initial cost or investment? This is not as easy as it appears. For instance, will the new technology require changes in other parts of the business, and what will those cost? Will your existing workflow support this change? Will staff training,or even possible staff replacements, be required? How will the investment in this technology increase investment in inven­tory? Will you need to inventory supplies or other consumables to support this invest­ment? These are all costs that need to be included.

• Is our sales/marketing staff knowledgeable enough to bring it to market? Will that involve additional costs or staffing?

• What does “net cash flow” mean here? Is it total cash flow, or just the difference that will result from this investment? Does it include growth in demand that we have no plans to create, beyond the investment itself? How will that growth be generated? Is this a “if we build it, they will come” strategy?

• What will the marginal costs of new sales be, if that is the goal for the investment? This cost is not the same as what you use for estimating or costing .. .in fact, it’s something you probably don’t have anywhere in your current information system. How will you estimate this?

• Are there ongoing indirect costs that will change as a result of this investment?

• What about the effects of how we finance this investment? Do they matter?

• What are the tax effects of this investment?

• How do we evaluate the benefits we expect to receive in the future with costs we incur today? Is there a way to estimate the present value of all cash flows, regardless of when they occur?

• Finally, how should we factor in risk when evaluating this investment? What risks will be involved?

Very few decisions are more critical to the success of your business than a decision about capital expenditures. Be sure when you face such a choice, that you use “best practices” when evaluating both the costs and the benefits.

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