Is Your Sales Staff Ready for Managed Print?

So managed print seems like a great business opportunity for your company. You’ve researched the market, received queries from existing customers and prospective clients about managed print services, and you are eager to launch your service offering.

But are you really ready for managed print? More specifically, is your sales operation ready for managed print? Among the biggest challenges of launching a managed print services business is getting the sales staff up to speed.

“It’s absolutely critical that the sales team be up to speed” on managed print, says Mike Parmet, executive vice president of Parmetech, a Havertown, Pa., company that provides full-service printing and imaging solutions. “They not only have to understand managed print, but they really have to be fluent on a customer’s current environment and on what the tipping points are” for a move to managed print, Parmet says.

The issues you might have to deal with include:

  • Training the current sales staff to sell contracts rather than just equipment
  • Coming up with incentives to get salespeople to commit to the generally longer sales cycles
  • Deciding if you need to hire new sales representatives with the right experience in selling services because you don’t have enough in-house expertise

How a company handles these issues—and how prepared its sales force is to sell managed print—will likely determine whether the company succeeds in the market.

A New Mindset

One of biggest challenges with MPS is transitioning the mindset of the sales team from a product-oriented approach to a consultative sales approach, Parmet says. “With MPS, the sales team needs to approach the customer with a focus on understanding the current business environment—key objectives, challenges, current infrastructure, costs—and developing a long-term strategy to meet those objectives, reduce costs and streamline infrastructure.”

Parmetech has been in the print and imaging business since it started operations in 1991. The company, a Xerox partner since 2004, took its first steps into managed print in 2006 when Xerox announced the PagePack program.

By 2008, Parmetech was a full-service provider of managed print, and the company focuses mainly on procuring larger contracts to manage customers’ entire fleets of printers. While it works in many industries, Parmetech has key clients in healthcare, higher education, construction and retail.

Experience Pays Off

Parmet says having a sales staff that is well-versed in managed print is essential to getting prospective customers to understand the value of managed print. In November 2011, Parmet and two of his top salespeople visited the IT manager at a prospective customer in the higher-education sector. “He said, ‘All I want is for someone to fix our printers right now,’” Parmet says.

The team from Parmetech explained the concept of managed print services and the potential benefits to the manager and suggested that he consider making the solution provider a regular part of his organization’s print management processes.

“We told him he currently had no view into his print environment, or the service history of the machines,” Parmet says. “We were trying to get the message to the customer, and having the sales guys up to speed and conversant with the client was vital. The three of us all had points to make.”

In addition, Parmet had his technical sales manager meet with the IT manager at the higher-education client to discuss issues such as printer security and the reporting of usage information.

The upshot is that the organization hired Parmetech to handle break-fix for its printers, and the IT manager plans to meet with his boss, the CFO, to discuss the possibility of having the solution provider conduct an assessment to see if a move to managed print makes financial sense.

“The biggest challenge we’ve faced is getting clients to understand what the total cost of ownership is for print over a three- or four-year period,” Parmet says. When the key salespeople recognize the value and can clearly demonstrate that to clients, there’s a much greater chance of getting a foot in the door, he says.

The Right Questions

The company has several people in sales who have been with Parmetech since it launched its managed print offering, so they have a strong understanding of all facets of the market.

“Getting new team members up to speed is more of a challenge,” Parmet says. “They have to learn to ask specific questions of the customer, such as what else are you considering” as a solution to managing the print environment.

The salespeople also have to know how to protect the interests of their own company. That includes making sure prospective customers understand that the assessment reports Parmetech provides contain intellectual property that is not to be shared with other solution providers.

Finally, the salespeople have to learn when to walk away from a prospect because it’s not worth the time. “We recently had an RFP from a quasi-public entity,” Parmet says. “We read the RFP and we asked the sales staff to read it and write down a percentage number for what they thought the chances were of us getting the sale. Everyone wrote five to 10 percent.” It was agreed the contract wasn’t worth going after.

On the other hand, many contracts are worth going after, and it’s critical to have a sales staff that understands every aspect of managed print.