Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Managed Print Services (MPS) business isn't Rocket Science

There’s been so much talk about “Managed Print Services” (MPS) over the past couple of years, I decided that I’d take a few minutes to share with you my thoughts about the “MPS Business”, for whatever that’s worth (probably, not much, but, whatever….)

The first think that I’d like to say about the MPS business is that, although some would like you to think that the MPS business is like rocket science (in other words, that you have to be a genius to be in, or do well in, that business), it definitely “ain’t” rocket science. From my perspective, having been heavily involved in the “FM” (OnSite services) business during both of my previous careers in the reprographics business and having done pre-sales analysis, proposals, sales and implementations of staffed FM’s and unstaffed FM’s, the MPS business, which is not much different from the FM business (if, in fact, there’s much of a difference at all), is certainly not rocket science. Any reprographer can get involved in the MPS business (or the FM) business. It’s not all that difficult! Brings to mind the old saying, “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

Every day (except when closed for Holidays and weekends), reprographers operate their stores and production facilities; those stores and production facilities are filled with computers and reprographics equipment; the equipment requires maintenance, the equipment requires consumables, rules are established for which jobs should be done on this and that. Using work-orders, output is tracked by order. So, in essence, how is operating a reprographics facility any different than operating an MPS business at a customer-site? It’s not all that different. Frankly, the reprographics business is a lot more complicated than the MPS business.

I’ve always viewed “sales” in the reprographics business as a “consultative” sales process, rather than a hard-sell process, the latter being typical for selling copiers (at least it was, years ago) or for selling cars. My brother, who is in the car business, will tell you that the key to selling a car is to get the customer to fall in love with the vehicle. Once that’s done, the sales job comes down to price (at least it does for most customers.) In the reprographics business, it is very important to determine the scope of services each specific customer will benefit from having, and, of course, it is important to be knowledgeable about the customer’s business, work-process, work-flow and how that customer interfaces with other project participants who are working at other firms. And, it is important to be knowledgeable about reprographics equipment options, document management software and processes, and I.T. issues that relate to that (there are other things I’m forgetting to say as I write this post, but I trust you get the drift). When you – the sales representative – and your company have that base of knowledge and are committed to doing “the right think” for your customer, you are in a position to be a “consultative” salesperson. When you think about that, have not reprographers been doing “consultative” sales for years and years, well before anyone coined the terms “FM” or “MPS”?

What prompted me to write the above paragraph was that I recently came across an article on the web-site of the Photizo Group (this article also appears on the web-site of the author who wrote the article, I’ll give you a link later on), and the title of this article is “Throwing out the ABC’s for a New Generation of Sales Reps”. After reading that article, I found myself thinking, “what, this guy must have come from the copier sales/leasing business?; evidently, he did not have, like I had, the good fortune of working with reprographics sales reps who know that consultative selling (which is my spin on how he characterized what’s necessary to sell MPS) is necessary if you’re truly going to build trust and target solutions that are highly beneficial to the customer. To me, the greatest compliment an FM/MPS customer can pay you is to say, after an FM/MPS service has been implemented, “thank you for bringing this business model to our attention and for working with us to develop an excellent solution for our needs. It’s great - we should have done this years ago.” We received compliments like that, as far back as 1984! I’m sure that most reprographers who’ve gotten involved in MPS/FM’s have heard that as well. So, reprographers, trust that you and your sales reps probably know more about “consultative” selling than most of the players in the MPS business who evolved from copier sales.

About the article I mentioned above, this next paragraph is the Photizo Group’s lead-in to that article…..

Throwing Out the ABCs for a New Generation of Sales Reps

“A pioneer in the MPS industry, Brian Stevenson, former president of LaserNetwork and president of footPRINT Managed Services, discusses the lessons he learned while building one of the largest independent MPS providers, as well as what a successful MPS sales rep is really about. Read this article and more at MPS Insights Pro.”

You can also find that same article on Brian’s company’s web-site;

I don’t know anything about Brian’s background, except what was said by the paragraph on the Photizo Group’s web-site. Presently, he is the President of “footPRINT Managed Services” and was formerly the President of LaserNetwork. Both of those companies are in the MPS business, in one way shape or form. Did he sell LaserNetorks and then, sometime later on, start up a new business? Apparently, Brian’s new company, footPRINT, offers consulting services – to companies who want to be in the MPS business and to prospective MPS customers who want to go with the MPS business model, but who aren’t exactly sure how to go about it, or what it’s all about.

Anyway, after I visited footPRINT’s web-site, I then proceeded to the web-site of Brian’s previous company:

I was very amused when I read this particular paragraph on LaserNetwork’s web-site:

The COST PER PAGE® program, pioneered in 1996, includes on-site support of all printing and imaging devices and networks, management of all printer and imaging fleet assets, and provisioning of all printing supplies, everything except paper and power, for a pre-determined, fixed cost per page fee.

Pioneered what?! Heck, as far back as 1984, our first company, Rowley-Scher Reprographics, was offering a “staffed FM” service for customers where “all costs” (equipment, equipment maintenance, consumables AND labor AND PAPER) were included in set, firm prices “per print” (for small-format output) and “per sq. ft.” (for large-format output), and we were providing “cost by project information” (or cost by department) information as well. 1984, more than a decade before LaserNetwork “pioneered” its COST PER PAGE® program. And, Rowley-Scher was certainly not the first reprographer to offer a “per print, per sq ft”. National Reprographics (NRI) in NYC and The Louis Frey Co in NYC were both doing that, years before Rowley-Scher started doing that, and there were several other reprographers doing that in other areas of the U.S.

Okay, I gotta end this post, and I’m going to end it by saying that, if you are a reprographer and are not in the FM or MPS business (or whatever you want to call it), then you are missing out on a very profitable piece of the pie, and your customers are “up for grab.” As I said, it “ain’t” rocket science. All you’ve got to do is “just do it.”

One last comment: at the recent ERA convention, a reprographer, who is not in the FM/MPS business, asked me how you come up with a cost-per-print – and a selling-price-per-print - for an FM/MPS program. He said, “I know I’ve got to consider equipment costs and maintenance costs and supply costs, but there’s no way to know the volume of output that’s actually going to be done.” Reprographers, think about that question. Then, think about your reprographics business, your store, your production center. If you cannot figure out how to come up with a cost per print and a selling price per print for an MPS/FM program, then how in the world did you determine what your list and low prices would be for the services you offer out of your store / production center?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!. My daughter and son-in-law are both chefs. This afternoon, we’re going to have an incredible, multi-course, gourmet Thanksgiving dinner. Not at my house, but at another relative’s house. My only “hope” is that I don’t have to clean up!; if you have any chefs in your family, you know what I’m talking about.

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