Tony Winterbottom has been working in the sign and print industry for over 20 years. He is part of Robert Horne’s Digital Solutions team - comprising nearly 20 people, including dedicated colour specialists, technical support and installation staff - and has responsibility for sales of VuTEK superwide printers and Zund cutters throughout the UK & Ireland. The Digital Solutions team as a whole has an annual turnover of over £5m in hardware and digital media terms and continues to grow at a steady rate.
As national sales manager for Robert Horne Group (RHG)’s superwide products, Tony puts his success in the industry down to the fact that he is a ‘good operator’ rather than a ‘good salesman’. He knows exactly how the systems he sells work and what they can offer his customers in terms of applications and – crucially – what revenue they can generate.
Tony originally trained as a fine art and graphics artist. His first roles included working on drawing boards at Blackpool Pleasure beach and working within advertising agencies. However, the Mac computer was invented, the Mac revolution took over and Tony decided to retrain as a Mac operator.
By the late 1980s, he had joined Granthams and was working on the digitising of corporate logos. At this time, Grantham’s became a UK reseller for Flexisign software for Mac. In order to get a company car and one of the first brick-like mobile phones, Tony moved into sales!
Much of his early sales career was spent traipsing round Scotland and the North East with a car boot full of kit including a Mac computer, a scanner, plotters and various media. His sales tactic was pretty basic - set up the whole workflow and demonstrate the kit to potential customers. If he won the sale, he also then became responsible for the installation and support of the system.
With the advancement of PC-based computing, CADlink Technology then released a competitive PC-based software solution - SignLab. Tony moved to the Hitchin-based company and became responsible for setting up and maintaining the UK and Scandinavian dealer network.
As part of this dealer network, Tony appointed the Robert Horne Group as a reseller of SignLab. This led to a huge increase in workload and Tony found he spent most of his time with RHG. In 1998, he moved to RHG and set up its ‘Sign Solutions’ team.
On this appointment, he comments, “At first, I introduced Graphtec and Mutoh plotters combined with Signlab. With the introduction of Roland’s VersaCamm, we then started to sell full solutions.”
He continues, “I joined RHG to add value; to create and build lasting relationships with key customers. I’ve never been one for the quick sell / mis-sell and my customers trust me and stick with me for a long time.”
Tony focuses on applications rather than the technology itself. He explains, “I have a very hands-on approach. Before I go out to sell products, I like to understand them inside out. I have to know exactly what the kit does and what you can do with it before I am comfortable talking in front of a potential customer.”
“In the early 1990s, I saw the VuTEK printer for the first time at a show in Dubai and was stunned by it. I’ve now come the full circle and am responsible for the sale of VuTEK’s impressive range of machines across the UK & Ireland.”
RHG has fully committed to the VuTEK system and recently bought a GS2000 machine in order that employees can fully understand what they are selling. This big commitment from RHG pays dividends as customers return time and again. Key customers are supplying the likes of Formula 1 Redbull, Morrisons, Marks & Spencers and Body Shop to name a few.
The expected standard of service and support in the superwide arena is high. RHG has to take a holistic view. Tony explains, “We take full ownership of the solutions we sell. The moment the VuTEK machine leaves the manufacturing facility in the USA, it becomes our responsibility - up until the point that the customer is happy to take over. We install the complete end-to-end solution and even have our own electrician on hand. The solutions we supply are truly bespoke and come with PCs pre-loaded with the EFI Fiery XF RIP and colour management software.”
Most of RHG’s superwide printer customers have more than one superwide printer. According to Tony, “The volume is very much there in the commercial print sector. These superwide installations are designed to run 24/7 and are profitable.”
He concludes, “Ultimately, the sale of superwide format machines is all about applications. Applications and simple maths. A simple return on investment calculation is often the clincher.”