Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Managed Print Services - Today's Lightning In a Bottle

"MPS has had it's false starts over the last 8 years or so..."

"I have over 100 sales people, who typically take orders. I can't get them to sell MPS..."

"The owner of my company, really doesn't understand what it takes and how long it takes..."

"This is a lot to digest..."

"It's like trying to drink from a fire hose..."

These statements are just some of the "off-line" comments I heard while attending the Synnex, Managed Print Services, "Windows of Opportunity" seminar.

I was very happy to attend the Synnex/PrintSolv sales training seminar held in "Surf City", Huntington Beach, California.

Point of interest: the venue was spectacular - right on the beach, across the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). The waves thundering, and a cold breeze whipping in, it was nice to be near the ocean once again.

About 60 or so people attended - and Steven Power, the ex-copier sales guy and current sales trainer extraordinaire, conducted the two day event.

I had attended one of Steven's sales training classes years ago in New York and remembered him to be a strong advocate for Value Add and a staunch opponent of Transaction based sales.

In the copier industry, this is a tough row to hoe - "...on the first of the month we all sell solutions, by the 15th, the manager wants to know how many boxes you can move by month's end..."

So I was looking forward to seeing how Power adjusted from copier sales to MPS Expert.

To give you a hint, sales is sales, as long as you are not selling transactions, any industry, niche or market can use Consultative Selling.

My colleague was just as anxious to attend as I, yet I warned him, "...we probably have forgotten more than what most of the students in the room know about MPS..." - not to be smug, facts are stubborn things.

I was very interested in seeing how others were faring in the MPS space. What questions would be asked. Questions can be more interesting than answers.

The majority of attendees seemed to be from the IT side; with a few printer, supplies and more than a few "copier guys" in the mix.

I was impressed with everyone there - statements were direct, their passion seemed to be in the right place, and some expressed a feeling "drinking from a fire hydrant".

Steven Power presented great, excellent material.

I highly recommend anyone working with Synnex or interested in getting into MPS or just starting out, to get with the folks over at Synnex and arrange a meeting - Managers should get owners to attend.

Some of the take-aways-

- When first getting into MPS, start with customers who know you and will forgive you some mistakes.

- Start with small assessments - 10 to 20 machines.(This is great advice, we started with 500-1,100 unit assessments, ouch)

- Establish a process from qualification to proposal, one that is defined and repeatable.

- As much as MPS is about "consulting" everything is selling - qualify and trial close often, getting commitment at each turn.

-Getting into MPS takes commitment and a new way of thinking and doing.

Some of the "challenges" I observed:

- Four or five days of material are covered in just two

- Power was preaching to the choir. Few "owners" were in the "house"

- Naturally, most define MPS from their position in the industry

- MPS, or anything new, usually acts as a magnifying glass, re-affirming the good things about the existing systems and exposing the bad

MPS 2.0 - already?

While doing some very basic research on the web, I ran into MPS 2.0 from Digital Gateway. A full blown, dealer oriented MPS program utilizing E*Automate as the backbone.

It looks pretty good and appears to be a "soup to nuts" strategy for dealers and resellers who want to sell MPS - as is the offerings from Synexx.

So, 18 months into it, with over 5800 machines surveyed, I still feel like we "are making this up as we go..." stumbling and fumbling. And just when I think we have it figured out, somebody goes and initiates a "2.0" upgrade.

The Hybrid Dealer -

In a nutshell, the folks in the room and those who see the MPS opportunities, will need to approach life differently - for instance, Selling.

Steven Power's training as I said is excellent - his process is built around the continuous "trial close".

And it is a process. A Selling Process. A process that builds up to a final, anti-climatic "close".

The close comes naturally.

The real prospect for MPS is one who looks for Value and Strategic Partners; not the lowest price and vendors.

So the Power process incorporates HEAVY and continuous qualification of your prospect. Always make sure that your prospect is engaged, one the same page and ready "to dance" - with you.

Much has been said about the "Hybrid Dealer" -

Ed Crowley from Photizo puts it, "...This (Hybrid) dealer combines the strengths of traditional copier dealers and printer resellers to position itself as the market leader..."

In addition to this technical combination I suggest a Hybrid Dealer dive head first into all the Solution sales and Strategic selling classes, seminars, retreats available - the more MPS focused the better.

It is all about selling.

An Hybrid Dealer has to be part copier, part printer, part IT - and all sales.

According to some studies, the MPS market will expand through 2012 - there are plenty of opportunities out there - lots of players getting in now, those who stay will be Champions.

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