Sales Strategy Variation: Managed Print Services Matures and Forges Change in Sales Tactics

“If you’re not reinforcing what you’re doing with that particular client, you’re in jeopardy every day.” — Mike Greenberg

As the market for managed print services (MPS) starts to mature, changes are under way in the managed print sales tactics. It’s becoming clear that best-in-class managed print providers share some key characteristics that differ from their peers’ sales strategies.

So, what key sales techniques and practices can up your managed print game?

Recently the Institute for Partner Education and Development (IPED) decided to take an in-depth look at managed print sales practices to answer that exact question.

“There’s no such thing as one simple sales message that will win every customer on managed print services. Your ability to customize the value proposition to individual customers makes all the difference to your prospects,” says Ryan Morris, Practice Director with IPED.

Segmenting the sales message

What IPED found is that best-in-class managed print providers carefully segment their sales approaches. Who you sell to and how your sales approach differs matters — a lot. The main two approaches can be split between those made to existing print customers, and to net new customers (with whom your organization does not currently do business), according to IPED research.

For existing customers (who have not yet implemented MPS), the sales approach that works best is to explain that MPS is the “next logical step.” For clients who already have implemented managed services in other IT areas, managed print makes sense as the next step in a continuum of services that cut costs and provide quick ROI.

Key to making this approach work is the opportunity presented in the quarterly business review.

“Using the quarterly business review cycle as the logical and obvious platform for introducing new services, is by far the most effective strategy with existing install base customers,” says IPED’s Morris.

Mike Greenberg, president and CEO of Denver-based PrinTelogy Inc., agrees: “The quarterly business review is an absolute must-do.”

Greenberg’s company, a Xerox partner, serves the “front range” area of Colorado (from Denver to Fort Collins) and has about 14,000 installed printers and devices under management. Greenberg estimates that “about 90%” of PrinTelogy’s business is managed print services.

During quarterly reviews, Greenberg says, PrinTelogy uses the opportunity to have discussions “about tools available to (customers); we talk about customization and right-sizing their options. It’s just a much better way of assessing what their needs are,” says Greenberg. “We try hard not to lead on price because sometimes its price that’s not the reason we propose an MPS solution. It’s often about folding printing into the IT network.”

With net new customers, IPED’s research finds that managed print services is a great “foot in the door” strategy to start a conversation with a potential client.

“It isn’t asking customers to take on a responsibility that they’ve never had before. You’re not asking them to innovate on technology or do something that’s unproven,” says Morris.

The managed services influence

In fact, the rise of managed services in general has helped to “prepare the ground” so to speak when it comes to starting discussions about managed print services. Managed service providers who also sell managed print services have a distinct sales cycle advantage over non-managed service providers, according to IPED research.

Mike Greenberg of PrinTelogy says that the increasing use of managed services in all areas of IT has influenced how his company sells managed print.

“Our approach now is always with the IT department. It is key in making (managed services) decisions anyway,” says Greenberg. “I think early on it wasn’t necessarily that way. Most of the time, however, it comes down to a decision within the IT department.”

There’s another change in the managed print market that Greenberg says is affecting how his company sells managed print. “It’s really interesting how many (potential customers) are claiming they’re doing a managed print assessment internally. We see end users collecting their own internal data — a lot more than before.”

Greenberg says, however, that customers who do their own assessments can present challenges. The customer’s staff performing the internal assessment may not be well versed in understanding the true costs of their printer fleets, and they may be looking at cost values that aren’t accurate or even true.

“At some point you have the discussion that goes in the direction of: in order for us to be effective, we need to follow (our assessment) process. If the customer is still resistant, claiming they have their own data, then many times we do walk away,” says Greenberg. “Without understanding all the associated costs, we can’t really help them.”

As surprising as this sounds, it’s not so unusual. Readers may recall a similar comment in the last Transformation Study article, “If You Could Tell a Friend One Thing About Managed Print.” Thomas Csanky of Chatsworth, Calif.-based Necomp Systems Inc. says that his company now insists on accurate assessment data with clients “or we can’t do an accurate assessment.”

Another key to optimizing managed print sales, according to IPED, is to understand that competition in the MPS space is heating up. If you’re not ramping up your managed print sales, you’d better hurry — more MPS players are entering the space every day.

In fact, IPED research conducted earlier this year on the managed services market shows that nearly one in four managed service providers are already starting to provide managed print services. Another 26 percent are planning to implement managed print services over the next year.

PrinTelogy’s Greenberg says the increasing competition has made his business more focused than ever on quality of service.

“At the end of the day, this business isn’t about toner or machines. It’s a service business,” says Greenberg. “That’s why we drive home the quarterly reviews. It’s as important as anything else you do. If you’re not reinforcing what you’re doing with that particular client, you’re in jeopardy every day.”

* View the recent video “Optimize Your Managed Print Services Sales Process” to see a presentation on IPED research findings.

* To read more about Neocomp Systems Inc.’s managed print experiences, read “If You Could Tell a Friend One Thing About Managed Print.