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Finding the Profits in Your Customers Printing Fleets

6 Jun, 2013 By: Troy Harrison, Salesforce Solutions

Profit.  It’s not an ugly word.  I promise.  Your profits are under assault every day – and if you’re not prepared to defend them, you’ll lose them. And when you lose your profits, your business loses its reason for being.  MPS can be a great pathway to profits…IF...it’s sold correctly.  However, many times, it’s not, and usually it’s because of fear and a lack of good discovery on the salesperson’s part.

To understand how to build profits, you first have to stop thinking about MPS.  In fact, you should stop thinking about your services altogether, at least for now. We’ll get back to it; I promise.  80% of the selling – and 80% of your chance to build profits - happens before the last question is asked. 

I’ve been on a number of sales calls in the print industry, both in my previous life as a Vice President of Sales, and as a consultant.  I’m always amazed at how narrow the questioning is.  We ask questions about how much they print, what printers they use, how much ink and toner, etc.  But seldom do salespeople in print or any document imaging industry ask questions that dig deeper.  For instance, no print industry sales call should go without the question, “How do you communicate with your customers?  With your employees?”

The Role

We can’t do an effective job of selling any print program without knowing the role that printing plays in our customers’ communication needs.  Further, we need to take a step even beyond that and understand the overall direction of the company that we’re talking to, and the particular contact we’re talking to. 

MPS is a great fit for companies that are growing – it takes one headache off their plates, and growing companies are willing to spend money to outsource expertise (which is essentially what we are offering with an MPS program).  Companies that are less of a growth proposition are less so; they are in a penny-pinching mode to maximize their own profits.

To be successful in selling this type of program, you must begin with a tabula rasa approach.  In other words, start out by learning about your customer, and wait to present anything until you have properly verified and qualified them as a good, profitable prospect.  If and only if you have qualified them as ideal should you roll out an MPS presentation.  Value (the driver of our price and profits) only comes with a proper qualification, and real returns and positive results for your customer.

Fear plays a role, too, in giving away profits unnecessarily.  In our haste to win business, we can avoid being frank with our customers about issues that can prevent an MPS program from being successful and profitable for both ourselves and the customers.  Salespeople can sometimes avoid discussing issues such as equipment that really needs to be replaced because they are afraid that the customer will recoil and back away from the MPS program.  This, in turn, can lead to lost profits later when concessions must be made to the customer to deal with a problem that should have been part of the selling process. 

Bypassing both of these issues can bring the MPS sale down to a pure price proposition – and you’ll never maximize profits under this scenario.  Ultimately, what you sell in an MPS program isn’t the “print,” it’s the “management” – which boils down to the expertise.  If your customer doesn’t buy off on paying you for your expertise, don’t pursue the sale.  Hint:  deals that are sold at a very low price won’t get better and more profitable later.

The Test

Here’s your litmus test.  Any good presentation consists of three elements:  First, you must recap the current situation, and its strengths and weaknesses.  Second, you should discuss the recommended plan of action (what you’re selling).  Finally, you should present the result from adopting the plan, or the advantages and benefits of doing what you suggest.

Your result should be both significant and advantageous to the customer.  Before presenting anything, you should ask yourself this question:  “If I were the buyer, would I find this to be significant and advantageous?”  If the answer is “no,” don’t present.

If you really want to find profits out of your customers’ printer fleets, you’ll find that the answer lies in the selling – usually early in the process.  Unprofitable selling won’t lead to profitable programs.

Troy Harrison is author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and President of SalesForce Solutions, a sales training, consulting & recruiting firm.  For info on consulting, booking speaking/training engagements, or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call 913-645-3603, e-mail http://TroyHarrison@SalesForceSolutions.net or visit http://www.SalesForceSolutions.net

About the Author: Troy Harrison

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