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Increase Revenue with Production Print Sales

27 Jul, 2012

In today's economy, providers look at many options and offerings to add more profit to their business. Adding a production print team is one of the most notable ways to increase revenue dramatically and add net margin to a reseller’s bottom line. Choosing a sales and support staff is one of the most important steps to success. You can’t just simply “promote” a top sales representative, color specialist, or even an application specialist into the production print role.

Selling and supporting production print requires skill sets that take years to develop. One challenge to overcome is the fact that these skills are not typically developed in a traditional MFP environment. Rarely will a dealership find a successful production sales specialist rise from its rank of sales account executives. By successful I mean a representative that creates a consistent pipeline of sales opportunities, closes 20-25% of the opportunities and drives between $300,000 - $400,000 a month in sales revenue.

Some of the most successful production print resellers have certain qualities that stand out. Without these qualities a production print program is sure to suffer or fail. Production sales and support skills are learned through experience, training, and study. If these skills cannot be found within a reseller’s current sales and service organization, they must go to the open market and acquire the new talent. In this article we’ll take a look at some of these qualities, how to hire a high performing production sales specialist, and some pits falls to avoid.

Qualities of a Good Production Print Leader

If possible the first hire should be a team leader, whether a sales director or vice president, this person must have a significant and successful sales leadership background in production. Simply giving the “responsibility” to your current staff without someone to drive the program is a recipe for disaster. Here are some qualities for which to look:

• Leader/mentor who can guide sales and support teams to prospect for opportunities and architect complex hardware/software sales solutions.
• Strong major account background for hunting down new accounts.
• Intimate knowledge of government and education sales cycles.
• The ability to get in front and guide the RFP process.
• Relationship building and ability to sell the C-Suite.
• The ability to patiently manage long sales cycles.
• Good project management skills.

Technology Skills Required for a Production Print Specialist

Strong contenders will have some form of information technology prowess. A sales leader doesn’t need to be a systems analyst but they do need to understand the technological needs production print environments require. Several areas to question candidates in are below. If you’re just launching a production program you won’t have someone on staff that can qualify a candidate in these areas. In that case, hiring a consultant or engaging a successful production print manufacturer’s representative is a good option.

• A strong understanding of digital workflow and the software and support needs of corporate reprographics departments.
• A strong but general understanding of date center workflow including knowledge of mainframe and host based printing processes.
• Color management, workflow, and process control, including G7.
• Paper, Paper, Paper (and other odd substrates).
• Offset lithography and/or publishing processes.
• Web2print, forms and database printing, and document make ready.

Misconceptions and Pitfalls to Avoid

Many dealerships see the sales, service, and aftermarket revenue that production print provides, and jump in with both feet, only to find that their staff doesn’t have the skill set to swim in the deep end of the pool.

Consider these common misconceptions and pitfalls:

• Creating a business plan based on traditional MFP sales and service plans.
• Thinking production print is a two-legged stool comprised of sales and service.
• That you can “promote” someone into a production sales representative.
• Using the same hiring criteria for production print sales, support, and service staff as for MFP and major account representative.
• Using a headhunter that doesn’t specialize in production print to find candidates.
• Relying on manufacturer’s district sales manager’s to guide the program.
• That good production print specialists come cheap.

Studying Original Players like Xerox, IBM, and Siemens.

One piece of advice for an organization desiring to build a successful production print program is to study how Xerox, IBM, and other long-standing production providers have built theirs. Interviewing corporate and commercial prospects and then providing what was required is how the DocuTech/DocuColor, InfoPrint, and Siemens production programs were created. This is still a best practice today. If fact, IBM Global Services goes to such lengths as to include a quality control (QC) teams that interview customers after a solution has been implemented. This QC team documents best practices, issues, how the issues were fixed, and how to avoid them in the future. This information is then shared throughout the organization, and incorporated into their operations. Whether or not the Ricoh owned InfoPrint division would continue this practice is yet to be seen. Another piece of advice worth re-stating is to hire a proven production print leader who has demonstrated the business acumen to manage and drive production sales, support, and service as well as the marketing of production print products.

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