Dealers Suggest Factors to Weigh When Evaluating Production Print Foray

Analysts and pundits may sometimes give the impression that they believe the path to generating significant revenue for an office dealer’s bottom line is by simply adding high-margin product and service offerings. Ah, if it only were as simple as clearing a spot in one’s showroom and committing a spec sheet to heart, then waiting for the customers to break down the door.

Production print can be an expensive proposition; you need the talent behind the product, and specialists won’t come cheap. And then there are the clients. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: production print customers are a different animal, particularly print shops, where the print workflow wholly consumes their everyday work lives. They’re usually willing to sit down and discuss technology, but they can easily sense if a dealer rep does not have a strong grounding in the production field.

Josh Salkin, EDGE Business Systems

Herein lies the challenge. Educating the buyer, in this case, is not as important as solidifying in the client’s mind that your dealership represents an ideal choice as a vendor partner, according to Josh Salkin, a partner with EDGE Business Systems of Atlanta. For the dealer, onboarding production print is both a journey and a significant investment.

“Production buyers are among the most sophisticated in our sales cycle and can quickly identify if you’ll be a viable resource for their needs,” he noted. “Service margin is a tricky situation to navigate due to high page coverages and manufacturers driving down the click rates. If you’re not careful you can end up losing significantly on aftermarket.”

Engaging Sales

Richard Ostrowski, Docutrend

Developing a dedicated team to focus on production is important to enabling the success of sales reps when a dealer’s production platform is ready to launch. Sales’ role should not be completely overshadowed during the engagement, according to Richard Ostrowski, professional services manager for Totowa, New Jersey-based Docutrend.

“You must enable all your reps to be part of the sale process, as you will often see overlapping needs at your customers and prospects,” Ostrowski added.

Paul Archer, Automated Business Products

It’s long been said that a full commitment is necessary for dealers to reap the benefits of any offering of significance, and production print is no exception. But what does that look like? Paul Archer, president of Centennial, Colorado-based Automated Business Products believes it entails having the equipment in your showroom—an expensive proposition—along with extensive training and technical specialists.

“The partner matters,” Archer said. “Multiple OEMs have no production equipment, and the quality-price/value equation varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. We’ve had much more success selling Xerox production equipment.”

Stephanie Keating Phillips, director of solutions for Advanced Imaging Solutions, Minnetonka, Minnesota, echoes the importance of selecting an optimal manufacturer partner. “We are lucky to partner with some of the best in the production print world,” she said. “Understanding what their vision is in this area and making sure that they have the same goals as your business would be the most important thing I would consider.”

Stephanie Keating Phillps, Advanced Imaging Solutions

If she had to start from scratch, Phillips would definitely channel most of her investments into developing her team and focus on team member quality as opposed to quantity.

“I would suggest finding a highly skilled sales analyst that could work with your salespeople on how to sell in this environment,” Phillips said. “Empower your existing sales team with enough knowledge to give them the confidence to get into the environments that perhaps they would ordinarily bypass. Employing skilled technicians that can not only work in the break/fix world but also understand color and graphics would be a must. I would start small and grow as needed. A few talented people can make a huge difference.”

Setting Strategy

Identifying, hiring or cultivating a point person who can quarterback the production strategy is of utmost concern, notes Eric Strand, production print specialist for Fisher’s Technology of Boise, Idaho. The strategy should cover product selection, sales and service training, marketing strategy and existing opportunities.

“Don’t run straight to the print shops, as they are trained at grinding the dealers down to minimal profitability.” Strand cautioned. “Start by looking for light production opportunities and print centers within larger organizations, education, manufacturing and faith-based organizations.”

Ray Bullins, Systel Business Equipment

Ray Bullins, production print and business solutions manager for Systel Business Equipment of Fayetteville, North Carolina, underscores the importance of understanding the needs and expectations of production print customers. He recommends consulting with fellow dealers to get a better feel for what clients are anticipating.

“Production print customers are generally unforgiving, and you only get one chance to fail them, because once you do, you will never have another,” Bullins said. “Overall, make sure that you fully understand the level of expertise that is necessary to support a production print customer. Making a sale is the easy part, but taking care of the customer and maintaining that relationship can prove to be a challenge without the proper knowledge and resources.”

Chip Miceli, Pulse Technology

In addition to selecting the right vendor partner and a cracker jack production specialist, Pulse Technology President and CEO Chip Miceli believes that it’s essential to know the limitations of the devices. This is critical, as to not have a salesperson make promises that are not feasible. In other words, keep all surprises pleasant.

“One of the biggest mistakes a dealer can make is to make promises to customers that he or she can’t fulfill,” he said. “Know the limitations of the products you are promoting. Make sure there is a value-add to the product you will carry. Don’t overpromise; in fact, under-promise and over-deliver.”

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.