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Conducting Managed Print Service Business Reviews – Part I

There are probably as many ways of preparing for and presenting business reviews as there are sales managers.  Often appraisals are modeled after past experiences or are presented in a ways that have been done over the years; yet each has its own style.  It would presumptuous of me to assume my way or for that matter any presentation method is the right way.

Therefore the goal in this post is NOT to offer guidelines  or define steps “one to twenty” and sub-headings “A-Z”.  Rather, I hope to suggest topics the reviewer can consider so a methodical approach can be developed and used in the preparation of future reviews.

Examples will be included and assumptions will be made.  Relevant suggestions can be applied and unnecessary information may be omitted; at the least many readers will find some information of value.

The Review Timeframe

In a former position, I worked for a company that had its sales managers attend high level quarterly reviews in a round table setting.  Each of us demonstrated portfolio performance, drilling down to individual accounts and describing to the group what measures we were taking to maintain positive trends and correct the negatives.  Sales data was available on a monthly basis so it was pretty easy to prepare quick summaries.

Each manager was assigned 30-45 key clients, and like many organizations our focus was on the top and bottom 20% of each account group.  Essentially we each discussed our involvement with 12 to 18 accounts — and a few others that would move into and out of each review cycle.  We all knew each other’s strongest and weakest performers and together could offer great insight and suggest improvement ideas to our peers.

With our combined efforts an action plan would develop and in the subsequent days and weeks each of us took actionable tasks into the field.  I would listen to clients and learn how they thought we could do better, and then offered suggestions from the review process plans to help them achieve business their goals.

A business machine review for a preferred customer is no different.  Data is needed from a variety of sources for any plan to develop.  While the timeframe may not be quarterly as in my example a business review surely can be done twice, or at a minimum once a year.  To be effective reviews should be portrayed as something good for the customer and in the end good for the dealer as well.

The most difficult reviews will be at locations where one has never been done before.  While no review will be truly “easy”, the least challenging will be at locations where the dealer has shown a regular presence.  It might be suggested that the first reviews be completed for locations in the later group.

When conducting the review, it is also a good idea to set benchmarks … a sort of timetable to conduct the review.  It will not do to provide stale data several months after it is collected; making recommendations from the information presented.  Reviews should be timely events.  Likewise, review frequency will be dictated after giving the first one and a second review may be nothing more than a follow up to the first.

The End-user Does NOT Know Everything about Printing or Their Imaging Fleet

A bold statement to be sure, but think about it … Company CFOs buy machines, toner and other supplies from whoever they perceive is providing the best value because someone is telling them they need printed documents.  CIOs contract service from providers in the much the same manner.  Supply managers purchase tone to fill an immediate need.  Nobody knows or should know the imaging business like the MPS provider.

At the end of the day, people want their copiers to copy, MFPs to copy, fax, print or scan and printers to provide a document every time an icon is clicked or button ”mashed”.  Equipment users don’t care that machines are complex mechanical devices with thousands of moving parts.  It is the obligation of business machine dealer, value added reseller (VAR) and/or IT provider to give the business exactly what they want.

In order to do that, education must take place — from both the dealer’s and end user’s perspective.  Few dealers walk in on a Monday morning, pick up a ringing phone and fulfill a multi thousand dollar transaction from a new customer and never hear from the caller again.  There is a period of discovery … a give and take if you will … in order to put the right product into the hands of the buyer. So when first suggested, a business review may be met with skepticism and objection.  It is in the dealer’s best interest to present the review idea as “what’s-in-it-for-the-customer”.  Any other way would be viewed as self-serving and any real benefit of the exercise for the customer would be lost.

Assumption: the Business Review is Being Done for Established Customer

Certainly business reviews are done every day for prospective customers and many readers would appreciate a set of guidelines to employ when bidding the next request for proposal.  This post does not focus on this type of review, however a solid foundation for any future review can be built on the included information.

Creating a business review for an established customer also helps minimize the pressure.  The salesperson has already established rapport, the techs are already well received and often liked, the business owners are likely friends, and best of all people at the customers’ location already enjoy the products and services employed.  Beginning with a customer who has a solid position in the portfolio helps build confidence.

Preparing and completing business reviews for “the best” customers first helps providers become confident in their future presentations.  Content omissions can be overlooked and added and detail overstatement can be deleted in future reviews.  Bottom line – established customers are usually more forgiving. That’s not to say one should just go “willy-nilly” into the owners office and tell them what they need to do.  Cold hard facts help win the day and one should not go into any review without them.  Even when not presented, knowledge of an area of concern may help overcome objections in other areas.

Beginning the Review

The actual business review can become a daunting project, but when broken down to smaller tasks the final outcome will be manageable to most MPS providers.  The biggest challenge for most is answering the question, “Where do I start?”

Believe it or not, the collection software the provider is using can offer insight … And best of all the dealer can begin that right in their own office using the MPS software’s management utility.  Check the site settings.  Open the reporting options.  Look at the device mix.  Let the software expose the opportunities by providing answers to the following questions:

Who is the decision maker?

  • Who is the customer point of contact?
  • Is the point of contact the right person with whom to discuss an assessment?  If not who is?

What does the technology indicate?

  • Where is the software installed?
  • How many branches/offices does the customer have?
  • Has the software had challenges with reporting or staying installed?
  • Are meters being uploaded in a timely fashion?
  • Have devices dropped off since the initial installation?

What about device status detail?

  • Are toner/supply alerts activated?
  • Are service alerts activated?
  • Are supplies and service being provided in a timely manner?
  • How many devices are currently in some type of supply or service need?
  • Are alerts being managed in an appropriate manner?
  • What could be done to enhance or improve the providers supply and Break/Fix service processes?

What imaging devices are in use at the customer’s location?

  • Are managed devices properly identified with location and asset tag detail?
  • How many devices are classified as non-managed?
  • Who supports and services non-managed devices?
  • Has a cost of ownership analysis ever been performed on the fleet?
  • What devices need special attention?
  • Are there devices that do not report toner or service detail?
  • Are there many non-reporting devices?
  • Are there USB (locally) connected devices in the mix?
  • Do USB devices report as scheduled?
  • Do USB devices have sufficient volume to warrant continued management?

Before even leaving the office, the dealer, VAR or IT professional already knows much about the customer’s imaging fleet and can began to form a plan for the rest of the assessment.  If reliable reporting is a challenge, they can look for way technology can used more effectively.  If alerts are not active, there may be a revenue or service opportunity.  If there are non-managed or non-reporting devices in the fleet, there are devices to be “found”.  There may even be opportunity for equipment reassignment, replacement or sales.

… In Summary

So, we’re off to a good start, and we’ve yet to leave the office!

  1. A decision to do a business review has been made.
  2. The team of individuals who will be conducting the review has been assembled.
  3. An existing business customer has been chosen (hopefully one that knows and trusts the dealer).
  4. The idea of a review can be presented in a way that shows there will be a benefit to the customer.
  5. Initial discovery has been done using data reporting from the MPS software’s management utility.

In future “Conducting Managed Print Service Business Reviews” posts we will “dig-in”, analyzing the information collected and set in motion ideas of how to convey the gathered detail in a meaningful way.  Please consider adding your “must include” commentary below.

Click here to read the next article in the series: Business Reviews – Discovery