An assessment of a prospect’s printing environment should be part of every MPS proposal. Done properly, it will show where an MPS program can bring value and properly set expectations. Infrastructure providers offer help in this area, too. Another advantage of an assessment is that clients often don’t understand the complexities of their own environments. Without that understanding, it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation about MPS.
Part of that complexity is the diverse mix of device models and brands you find at a typical customer site. Sales will want to get as many of those devices under contract as possible, but it might not be practical for the provider with some units. This is especially true for dealers who need to support brands they don’t carry.
To successfully sell MPS, dealers have to understand and shield the customer from the complexities involved with servicing fleets that likely include disparate models from multiple manufacturers. “Manufacturer dynamics is a key challenge for many resellers,” said Sarah Custer, director of services and solutions at Supplies Network, which offers services infrastructure to dealers. “As our market matures, aligning with the right manufacturers is more important now than ever. Resellers have to balance a lot of requirements and knowledge of lines that they carry, requirements that are very different in A3 versus A4. They are trying to put together one cohesive program for end users. Resellers that can balance all of that and make one seamless solution will be the ones to come out on top in the end.”
“We are brand agnostic; we don’t care what they have,” said Kevin DeYoung, president and CEO of QualPath and the current president of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). “That’s important because of the varying definitions of MPS. We’re not in the business of ripping out a customer’s fleet. We’re in the business of leveraging its current fleet, finding transactional methodologies that are easier for the prospective account to understand and justify.” When selling MPS, DeYoung believes you need to have empathy with the decision maker. In other words, if you were in the decision maker’s place, would you agree to the proposal in front of you?
Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS) has been selling MPS services since 2004, and it recognized early on the need to support brands other than its own, which presents challenges. “The real value of MPS is to take a burden borne by the end user—selecting, managing, and the care and feeding of a heterogeneous fleet of device—and outsource that to a provider that can do that with greater expertise and with a pricing model where customers paid only for print that was consumed,” said Bill Melo, chief marketing executive at TABS.
“The struggle today is that when you put that offering on paper, it looks the same across different providers,” said Melo. “The point of differentiation for us, or anyone who does it well, is the quality of the tools we use to assess the customer’s fleet, the expertise of those doing the work, and the willingness to support products not of our own manufacture.” Since the beginning, Toshiba has relied on and continues to develop its Encompass application, which Melo believes to be the most complete and robust tool in the industry for documenting the customer’s scenario and allowing a professional services person to collaborate with a customer in real-time to evaluate different scenarios for optimizing a fleet.