Print Management: OK, I Get It. Now How Do I Build It?
Does a $20,000 a month contract sound appealing? How about $300,000? Do you want to take advantage of the opportunity print management holds?
- By Matt McLeish
- Dec 01, 2008
More than 50 dealers attended the highly-interactive World Expo forum sponsored by Parts Now! called “Print Management: Ok, I Get It. Now How Do I Build It?” Panelists Lee Rummage, Director, ImageWORKS at RJ Young Company and Frank Topinka, President and CEO of Page After Page, offered candid, real life examples about the challenges and the rewards of print management. Matt McLeish, Director of Parts Now! Managed Print Solutions, served as moderator. Following are some of the challenges you’ll face, the pitfalls to avoid and the rewards ahead.
Parts Now!: Tell us about your organizations and where print management fits in.
Frank: I’m with Page After Page. We service the greater Boston area. We run from Boston to Hartford, Conn., to Providence, R.I.. We’re a print management company. We’ve been doing it badly for a long time; we’ve been doing it well for a year and a half (laughter). It’s been a long learning curve to really get up to speed to understand how to do this thing. We do print management exclusively. We use modern, current technology with our own, homegrown system for doing assessments, verifications and strategy reviews and proposals. I think there’s a lot to learn about print management. Many of you may know parts about it or very little of it and we’ll be happy to discuss some of the problems that we’ve run into and how we’ve solved those problems with our customers. Our first big deal was a year ago. It was a $20,000 per month deal and that company just renewed with us again and is very happy with the program we’re doing. They have five locations: Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and New York City and we provide service to all those markets. They are all print management deals.
Lee: I’m Lee Rummage, the director of ImageWORKS, at RJ Young Company in Nashville, Tenn. This year, RJ Young Company will have about $74 million in revenues and 350 employees in five states. We’ve been in business since 1955. Today, we are a copier company only and we are trying to figure out how to transition a copier company into print management. When you get right down to it, that’s pretty much what we all have to do is to think we’re a print management company. We have to change the mentality from sales and service of hardware to print management because that’s where everything is headed: print management. So far, our biggest deal is one we did at the beginning of this year, $672,000.
Frank: I might add that I am not a copier company. My role is to displace all the copiers I can find as quickly as I can (laughter).
PN: You can see why I like them as panelists.
PN: Frank, you mentioned you had started your program a while ago but have only been “doing it well” recently. What was it that helped you see the light?
Frank: I think the “aha!” for me happened two years ago. The realization that this was a bigger event then just cost-per-page billing systems came about when I met some people who were involved at a high level in print management. I realized we needed to make a change, to focus more seriously on optimizing the print infrastructure, that this was a lot more complex. So we put together all the materials, systems, the collateral material, all the training that needed for the sales guys to make this happen. And it is a very complex sales cycle. It takes four or five months at least and sometimes even nine months. You might get one sooner than that. I’m still working on deals that started at the beginning of the year and they’re still alive.
PN: What was your biggest hurdle when you launched your MPS program?
Lee: The biggest hurdle was changing the mindset of the sales force – teaching them to do a deep assessment of the entire print infrastructure. And you need to recognize upfront that your sales reps are afraid of the longer sales cycle.
PN: How are you compensating your sales professionals?
Frank: We pay them on revenue – a percentage of client revenue. It’s very straightforward. We pay 6 percent commission and a base. And they get to keep it for as long as they can keep that customer. It’s very exciting for the sales reps that “get it.”
Lee: In our model, what we do is we pay the rep the first month of the supplies and maintenance plan (SMP). For multiple year contracts, we add a multiplier. With a current customer, the multiyear multiplier may be as high as 200 percent. For a new account with new clicks, the multiyear multiplier can be as high as 400 percent. We don’t do any percentages on supplies and service, we just pay for the supply and service total click.
PN: What are the major things that you emphasize in your proposals? What are the features and benefits of the proposal?
Frank: Our proposals start with service objectives. These are objectives that we have found in the current situation and where we think we can provide an improvement. We do not talk about improvement in terms of cost savings. We approach it as an identification of where the costs are and how to control them in the future. We certainly want to show the customer their current costs and what the investment with us is going to be and that’s sometimes difficult because one of the things that we have found is that customers don’t know how many printers they have and they don’t know how much they spend on documents. So in this process, you’ve got to get a good idea about what they’re spending now. And then at the end of our proposal, of course, we tell them how good we are, we tell them about the features of our program. Then we show what the next steps are long term, which include consultation, redeployment of printers, refreshed program, so we want to set the stage for that within the proposal itself.
Lee: Unfortunately, coming from the copier world, the only thing that some people understand is making things cheaper. When you go in there with a proposal that has a $20 difference compared to their current spending, the customer has no reason to make a change. If the sales reps dig in deeper and start revealing all the hidden costs, it makes a totally different value proposition. When we’ve done that, we’ve been very successful.
PN: Describe your sales and support structure. How is your sales team being supported inside from an IT perspective or a service perspective?
Frank: When it comes to assessments, the sales guys will initiate the assessment. Their job is really to get the page counts. From there it goes to our sales support team who will put together the analysis and do all the backend work from then on. They’ll do proposals, we’ll price it internally, and give it to the sales guy to go back out and make a presentation. The entire behind the scenes work is done in-house. The sales guys don’t set pricing. They can’t put together the proposals, these are very complicated proposals. For long-term success, you really need to understand exactly what’s going on in your client’s environment. Because it doesn’t just end with the deal. You’ve got to go back to the client 90-120 days later and give them an update about what’s going on. The only way to do that is to give them good data and the only way you can do that is to come in with a good document that you can go through with the customer so that they think you’re adding the value that you’re paid to do.
Lee: Doing an assessment just basically on the network devices doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the customers. Collecting that data and running out the door is not really an assessment in my opinion. When the reps get us involved in an assessment, we have one of my guys do all the heavy lifting. We go in with the sales rep. We are both looking for different things. You’ve got the sales rep looking at it from the sales standpoint. You’ve got one of my guys looking at it from the technical standpoint: what’s the equipment look like, what’s it doing, where’s it at? They look at the page counts and verify everything. So going in and getting insight and talking to the customer is probably the most important part of the assessment. There’s a lot of other opportunity besides print management. You may get inside and find out the client needs document management, workflow improvements, etc. Just building the relationships will help you discover more opportunity. Then my team comes back and we develop a document.
PN: You had both mentioned software. Obviously there are a lot of features in the various software programs out there. What are you currently utilizing?
Frank: We use the Rapid Assessment key from time to time to do the beginning assessment and the walk thru. And we also install the piece of software that collects the data ongoing. So we do it both ways. If our customer will let us put the software out on the network we’ll do that right away. And that gives us a lot of rich data to draw upon, to create a really nice look at what’s going on in the environment. So that’s how we do it. As far as the proposal itself we don’t talk too much about that. We don’t name the company we use to do this. We leave it to the end. If the customer doesn’t want to talk about it too much, that’s fine with us. Because we don’t want to get objections to putting something on the network. So that’s how we approach it.
Lee: We generally try to get to that collection stage as early as we can, as soon as possible in the assessment process. The thing about taking along the key is you get that snapshot, and then you go back and get another snapshot but there’s a lot of stuff that happens in between – like taking their volumes, graphing that out, showing where their volume’s happening and what time of the month it’s happening at – all of this helps us to modify the program.
PN: What size firm or number of devices is the right one to start with? What size environment are you looking at for an MPS program?
Frank: We start with at least 20-25 laser printers, hopefully all attached and hopefully all HP. The smaller they are, the higher the risk that you’re going to run into problems. So we’ve moved off of offering it to all customers.
Lee: Same here.
PN: Do you do quarterly or annual reviews and what does the review look like?
Lee: Yes, that’s probably one of the biggest things that you can do. You always want to circle back to the customer. It is unusual that we don’t find something we can make better. Customers appreciate that. It’s quite often that it’s another piece of equipment.
Frank: I think reviews are a basic part of the package. You tell the customer upfront that this is an ongoing assessment and that you’re going to do a quarterly review. And you need to be good at it. You need data. You need to understand the data and interpret it in a way that the customer can understand. They don’t want to see lots of numbers. I’ve done a lot of quarterly reviews recently and we’ve cut each one way back to make it simple. We do have numbers to support what we say but they are at the end of the document. We do everything else in chart format. We walk through the charts for the top five printers, most-volume printers, and percent of call issues throughout the month. It’s a standard approach. Right now our customers are amazed and overwhelmed at what we can do with this. Plus, we’ve been doing it for two years. So we can take this document and show them updates that they never even thought of. We use PrintFleet, as Lee does, and the reporting features and mechanisms help you pull some of that stuff out and use that in your quarterly reviews. But if you don’t do quarterly reviews, sometimes the customer doesn’t know how good you are, or that you are adding value to their application. In our quarterly reviews we show how many service calls we’ve made, how many toner replacements, how many fusers, etc. so we do a little bit of tooting our own horn during this review process.
PN: You both have successful print management programs, you’ve made the transition and your teams are all aligned. Reflecting back on the whole process, what are some of the things that you would do differently today?
Frank: Start sooner.
Lee: What I would do differently is that I would get somebody from my billing department involved at the front end. We should have spent more time with the billing department up front.
PN: Are there any more questions from the audience? Then I’d like to just end with one last question: What’s the single, most helpful and informative piece of advice that you could give to someone starting a print management program?
Lee: Find someone that’s doing it well and pick their brain. Don’t try and go it alone. There are a lot of people in this room, a lot of people at this event, so you can find someone who can give you a helping hand. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
Frank: I would agree with that. Possibly, consider bringing in a consultant. And don’t give up. Stay with it. Because you’ll learn. Print management is the future of this business, that’s how you’re going to survive. If you’re in a major market, you should be in the print management market soon. I think there’s still an excellent opportunity to position yourself as a print management company.
PN: Frank, Lee, thank you so much being a part of this panel, I appreciate all of this and thank you, everyone for attending.
This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of Recharger.