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An Eye On MPS Specialist Vs. Generalist

10 Nov, 2009 By: Steve Rolla, Pros Elite Group imageSource

An Eye On MPS Specialist Vs. Generalist

Dealerships who have entered any new market have wrestled with this question
since the introduction of 50 page per minute black and white copiers.  Should we
have a high volume specialist who handles this business and take it away from
the main stream sales force or should we let everyone sell it?  The conundrum
presented itself again with the introduction of facsimile and then in a much
more pronounced way with the introduction of graphic color products.  Today, we
hear the same question being asked about Managed Print Services (MPS). Should we
have a MPS Specialist or should we just let everyone sell it?  No one answer is
the right answer for every organization, however there is a right answer. That
answer is: Regardless of Specialist or Generalist, you need a Champion.

Dealerships that did the best job of selling 50 ppm volume black and white
copiers back in the mid to late 1980s and 1990s had individual(s) who had a
background selling high volume black and white boxes. Many of these individuals
were former sales employees of Xerox who learned and practiced methodical
solutions selling techniques that made them successful selling lower priced but
equally featured Japanese offerings. Some organizations chose to have a high
volume specialist while others chose to have that “expert experience” be the
guiding light to teach the entire organization how to sell high volume. What
both organizations had was focus; the focus brought on by a relentless champion
who knew the market was waiting for them and they aggressively pursued it. 

The end of an era

Facsimile, and to a greater extent Graphics color products, brought with
them a need for technical understanding beyond the initial capabilities of the
rank and file Sales Representative. Dealer Principals were smart to employ
specialists to function as the experts and champions separate from their rank
and file. This left Sales organizations doing what they did best, which at the
time, was to sell black and white copiers. Dealers who specialized recognized
unprecedented revenue growth from these products as the market demand for them
grew. They retained and grew their base of black and white copier sales and
facsimile and color equipment, and aftermarket sales became incremental
revenues. Ah, the good old days! 

As facsimile became more utilized and understood, it quickly became a product in
the bag of all Sales Representatives, where it resides today becoming an
obsolete standalone offering and a standard offering on almost all MFPs.  With
the introduction and rapid proliferation of B to C color, the era of the Color
Graphics specialist has begun to come to an end and the rank and file Sales
force is transitioning to selling color. 

The end of the era of facsimile and Color graphic sales specialists was
accompanied in many dealerships with the loss of the incremental revenues. The
loss of revenue became most realized in the decrement of the sheer number of
profitable maintenance contracts associated with facsimile, and the
deterioration of the aftermarket pricing of color and black and white copies.
The result:  Many dealers having flat revenues year over year for the past two

Entering the MPS arena

Which came first the chicken or the egg?  Was it the loss of the specialists
and their expertise that led to the end of the revenues or was it the loss of
the profitable aftermarket revenues that caused dealers to move away from
specialists?  Some dealers we have spoken to have reignited the fire under high
volume (segment 6) specialists and production color specialists in an attempt to
get growth. It is too early to tell whether or not this will have the desired
effect, but for sure, dealers must do something to arrest the deterioration of
the aftermarket revenues and the attendant loss of high gross margin aftermarket

Enter the savior, Managed Print Services (MPS).  For certain, these are
incremental revenues. Two years ago, only a handful of dealers were involved in
Managed Print Services. Now, 50% or more of all dealers, some with more success
than others, are entering this profitable arena along with some of the
manufacturers and other non-traditional sources such as CDW, a major technology
distributor. However, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
History repeats itself.

The most frequently asked question of consulting groups like the Print
Management Solutions Group is, should we have a specialist head up our MPS
program or should we turn this over to our entire Sales organization?  The
answer to the question is in the details; however the details are not located
where they used to be.  Managed Print Services delivers aftermarket revenues.
Building a solid MPS program begins by having a functional MPS financial service
model which has significantly different metrics than the financial model
associated with the MFP or B to C models. The Sales organization will have their
efforts and results entirely funded by the results of the MPS service function
and until a dealer has their MPS service function in position to fund MPS sales,
specializing or generalizing is not the priority. 

Champion to keep focus

Once the Service Model is in place we can begin to deal with the question
that still remains on the table. Should we “specialize” or “generalize” our MPS
offering?  We have seen success with both models and have come to the conclusion
that whether it is a Print Management Specialist or a Vice President of Sales or
a Sales Manager who understands the urgency to participate in this market space,
or the Dealer Principal who has the passion and the focus to make MPS work; all
of these models have one thing in common; someone in the organization is the MPS
champion who keeps the focus.

In addition to a champions focus, MPS sales require the maturity and ability
to sell to complex buying groups composed of IT professionals, financial
professionals, end users groups and, in some cases, traditional MFP contacts.
This is a skill that, in general, a specialist will have but it is a skill that
many MFP sales professionals sorely lack and desperately need, even if they are
not involved in MPS sales.

Larger MPS opportunities (50 printers plus) may require the expertise and
resources of an MPS specialist or Sales Management champion, however we see more
and more MPS transactions of 10 or less printers, coming from the dealer’s
existing base of customers. Many of our dealers are reporting that 50%+ of their
monthly MFP deals incorporate one of the MPS components in the transaction. 
These 10 or less printer transactions hardly justify the cost and time of a MPS
specialist, but they do require the ability to sell to a complex team.

Our recommendation is simple yet as always, the devil is in the details.  Get
your Service function prepared to deliver the new financial model for MPS
service so that you can fund your offering.  Determine who the MPS Champion in
your organization will be. If your VP of Sales, or a Senior Sales Manager or
even the Dealer Principal are willing and capable of spending the time to focus
on MPS; a specialist may not be a prudent investment. If no one in the
organization can give a champion’s focus to MPS, then perhaps a specialist is
right for your organization. 

I recently helped a dealer principal and his Sales Manager build the foundation
for a MPS program. This dealer principal felt that he could not afford a
specialist yet he also felt that he and his organization were stretched to thin
to have anyone become the champion. At the end of the day, his Sales Manager
said something that will last with me for as long as I am involved in MPS.  He
turned to his Sales Manager and stated, “We now need to become a MPS company
that sells MFPs.” I turned to the dealer principal and said, “Behold your

If you still are struggling to get your MPS offering up & running, help is
available from the Print Management Solutions Group.  MPS is the new growth
opportunity that facsimile & color offered, and like facsimile and color, the
organization that focuses on it will be the big winner.

Steve Rolla is a senior consultant for BEI Pros, which focuses on Operational
Excellence and Improved Profitability of Dealers’ Service organizations.  BEI
Pros has a joint venture with PMSG to support MPS initiatives. At 410-446-3032;

Visit www.beipros.com or

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