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Selling MPS vs. Delivering MPS (Part 1)

Have you become disillusioned with managed print services?  Has what you have heard differed greatly from what you have experienced?  What has caused this change in heart?

There is a lot of compelling evidence on the web and offered by peers that illustrates how managing the print environment makes sound financial sense … from both the dealer’s and end-user’s perspectives.  But the devil is in the details.  As dealers work through the many aspects of MPS they and their customers often stumble.

To succeed, questions need to be answered:

  • How deeply involved will my dealership be?
  • What can I do (provide, service, support, etc.)
  • How can I involve suppliers?
  • Can MPS be outsourced?
  • Do I have the right staff?  Can the people I have be trained to provide managed services?
  • What does a GREAT MPS program look like?

These questions matter, and what’s more, unless they are answered effectively, business could falter. In this series I will offer suggestions on how dealerships can develop successful print management programs.  The ideas come from successful people and dealerships that have shared what works for them.  Take what you will and discard the rest.

Selling Print Management is Easy … Delivery, Not so Much!

Any salesperson can paint beautiful pictures and make empty promises.  The first time people have to fix or backtrack possibly because of something said that was not clearly understood, the going gets tough.  Somebody ends up picking up the pieces when reality is far from the vision portrayed. 

Demonstrating how cost can be reduced is a key component in managed print sales.  Dealerships often find it challenging when they cannot deliver on this basic step.  It is important for business management to lay out a clear MPS direction by defining the MPS vision for dealership staff to comprehend and follow. 

Similarly, value added resellers (VARs) offering toner fulfillment need to define practices that are to be followed.  Including break/fix services to an MPS program adds another layer of support.  When supply and service fulfillment is combined with machine management, complexity intensifies to an even higher level.

Few businesses give much thought to their print budgets within and overall IT technology budget.  This often comes about because people don’t plan for printer maintenance or supply replacement and sometimes don’t realize this expense exists.  Dealers have to show their customers how they will save money.

Strong dealers prepare by writing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each facet of their offer.

MPS Standard Operating Procedures

First — There is no standard.  What works for “Mary” won’t work for “John”.  What doesn’t work for “ABC Value Added Reseller” works just fine for “XYZ IT”.  Each will have their own personnel, culture and values. Every dealership is different and every plan should reflect the needs of the business.

Caution – Do not fall prey to the “chicken and egg”.  Write print management SOPs before they are needed. Beginning an MPS journey and committing resources as they are needed causes challenges for both customers and staff.

Dealers must define how their MPS offer will be implemented.  In an earlier print management planning post I wrote “Before embarking on something new, solidify the current business model.  Successful dealers do not abandon what is working; they implement controlled and manageable change.”

SOPs built on established business practices are the easiest to implement.  MPS sales processes that dovetail with the business structure include dispatch and deployment procedures, data management and security control.  Coming together helps minimize the need for cultural changes as new practices expand.

To follow this line of thinking, a dealer might begin by writing down processes used in his or her business that relate to sales in a “Goals, Units of Measure, Objectives” format as shown in the following table:

Before Implementing an MPS StrategyWith an MPS Strategy
More office products sold
New prospects in the pipeline
Growing customer base
More office products sold
New and more prospects in the pipeline
Growing customer base
New profit center with better developed print management,
service and supply contracts
Units of Measure:Units of Measure:
Increasing sales
Increasing inventory placement
Number of customers / prospects introduced to MPS
Number of MPS proposals completed
Number of new MPS sales closed
Outside / Inside SalesOutside / Inside Sales
Customer and prospect development
Sales of product and contracts
Use of CRM and other sales tools
Training for sales team
Ensure CRM and existing tools accept MPS data
Review customer files / select MPS candidates
Check stock in customer supply cabinets
Fleet management
Sales SupportSales Support
CRM data entry
Proposal and sales generation
Sales brochures & materials in-stock
Demo room clean and ready for customers
Develop MPS proposal sales materials
Get MPS sales materials / documentation in stock
Prepare MPS demonstration formats
Prepare and distribute deployment procedures
Prepare and outfit the data analysis team
Public RelationsPublic Relations
Community involvement
Network / group / industry participation
Participation in industry shows
Business news releases
Secure customer testimonials
Review customer testimonials for MPS candidates
Prepare and present public MPS presentations
Show how print management saves money
Involve the dealership’s best customers
Promote / get the word out for the MPS offering
Develop Feedback Tools
Print management contracts
MPS sales performance tracking

The bullets above ought to be expanded to suit the needs of the provider.  All should be “fleshed out” to include program specifics as they relate to business needs.

While the list above is by no means complete it should be enough to trigger thought for dealers, VARs and IT businesses.  Each bullet identifies what may already be working in specific business areas and goes on to suggest what print management strategies might be implemented from a “sales” point of view.

For example, providers may struggle with how to approach customers when presenting the idea of MPS.  The supply cabinet is a good place to start.  Often customers are not aware of the tens of thousands of dollars in toner sitting on the shelves, much of it close to its expiration date.

After bringing attention to the challenge, the managed print discussion can happen.  Steps taken to expose the supply cabinet to customer management can be included in MPS Sales SOPs. Other areas for dealers to consider are processes used to drive customer efficiencies through reallocation of unnecessary devices … in other words putting efficient equipment in the right place.  Dealers helping customers cut the number of assets and/or standardizing on one or two manufacturers can often reduce maintenance and/or repair costs because components or consumables can be shared throughout fleet.

Similar MPS operating procedure tables could be created for other areas of the business:

  • Executive branch
  • Service and dispatch management
  • Quality control
  • Finance and operations
  • Order processing and fulfillment
  • Communications

The best SOPs get all dealership principles involved.  The CEO, President, owner, etc., the sales and service VPs as well as people involved with administration … ALL the PRIMARY decision makers should work together to develop MPS SOPs specific to their area of expertise.  Involving the group ensures the program fulfills business needs and can exceed the expectations customers have learned to expect.

… In Summary

Organizations who wish to provide MPS know they have to change.  Courage is always needed when businesses consider a transformation.  Challenges arise when change runs against business culture.  In the long run it is advantageous to align new business practices with the existing business model.

The trick is to improve business without losing momentum.  An incredible amount of assistance and experience is available to providers if they look.  Just type in a few key words in a Google search bar or check the various MPS groups on LinkedIn.

Organizations like the MPSA and others offer many ideas to help dealers deliver on customer focused MPS promises.  MPS software providers themselves hear what works and can share what their successful dealers are doing. But, like anything else it comes down to whether or not one has the fortitude to ask for help.

Managed print services and managed services in general are not new concepts.  Our industry has both good and bad providers. Unfortunately the bad providers tend to repeat the same mistakes when adopting new programs … Luckily there are good providers who plan ahead and are ready when challenges arise.

Senior management is responsible for making the right decisions to improve the business.  Organizations should put all the deliverables in place to BEFORE they go to market.   Why wouldn’t they or maybe the better question might be, why would any business choose to venture into a program without a plan?