Sales Management Leadership … Managing Your “MPS” Business

September 17, 2009

If you’re like many managers today, managing salespeople who are engaging a new or developing Print Management selling approach, then it’s probably easy for you to understand what I heard from a sales manager in one of our recent Sales Management Leadership in the 21st Century programs. To quote him, “This ain’t the old copier business anymore… is it?”

Change is inevitable… winning is an option!

He was right. Things have changed. We think for the better! At Print Management Solutions Group, we’re convinced that selling managed print services is better for the dealer and the customer. The dealer gets to retain more market share and more profitable, continuous reoccurring business while the customer gets the strategic business support they’ve always wanted to maintain an effective imaging environment. And yet, the frustrations that managers like the one I mentioned are expressing are very real. Everyone seems to agree that in order to create and sustain an effective print management business model requires a higher level of initial selling engagement, multi-influencer decision coordination, a more consultative selling approach and more “hands on” employee and deal management and coaching. So what is an effective, professional sales manager to do?

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

Here’s the good news. Even though the print management marketplace approach is relatively new and the proven process for selling the MPS solution is definitely new, effectively managing the people and process of your MPS business model can be simplified by utilizing tried and true sales manager strategies and techniques.

  1. Process Leadership: For the best short and long-term success of any print management selling approach you need a defined, completely understood and consistently followed selling process. As a sales manager the most important first questions you should ask yourself are:
    1. What process do we use for selling Managed Print Services?
    2. How are we monitoring, measuring and coaching the process?
    3. How can our “real time” experiences help us improve the process?
  2. Activity Management: When managing selling professionals who are selling managed print services there aren’t years of historical data to use as activity management benchmarks. And yet, the old concept of motivating, measuring, analyzing and coaching to generate effective activity is still a good one. The challenge for many managers today is, “with no historical activity information to use as a comparable reference, which and how many activities should I reasonably expect from my salespeople?” Based on collected best practices from successful dealers in the print management business, realistic expectations for activity generation and development should begin with this proven formula for print management success.
    1. 20 Voice to voice contacts with the C-level decision maker should generate…
    2. 7 Appointments with C-level decision makers which should generate…
    3. 4 “Quick View” print environment evaluations which should ultimately generate…
    4. 2 Closed print management contracts.

    By utilizing this print management best practice activity generation formula, managers can begin to measure, quantify and identify areas of both developmental opportunity and success reinforcement which are critical to a selling professional’s ongoing improvement when selling managed print services. We would recommend that sales managers connect with every employee daily to review their daily activity plan. Make sure that the planned activities for each employee will best complement and achieve the productivity goals created by the employee and company. Also use this meeting to identify areas of possible improvement or reinforcement and develop an individual selling improvement plan for the sales person.

  3. Account Management: Unfortunately, the historical understanding for account management appears to be two questions asked by sales managers, “What do you have in your pipeline? And, where are we in your “forecasted” accounts?” Even more unfortunate is the common accepted salesperson response of, “I feel really good about it!” In order to help salespeople learn and utilize effective account management strategy as well as develop into a selling professional who can manage and win account opportunities of ever increasing size, each manager should review with every sales employee (minimum twice monthly) their top 10 actively pursued accounts.
  4. “Funnel Velocity” Opportunity Management: Sales managers should expect sales people to come to this “account review” prepared to answer all of the questions the manager may have about the current dynamics, decision makers, influencers, critical and compelling decision criteria, challenges in the account and any go-forward commitments made by either the selling or client companies. This expected preparation by the salesperson should provide the manager with all of the information needed to understand exactly where the salesperson and the customer are in each of their respective selling and decision steps. Strategizing with employees on each account will not only improve accountability but also improve their ability to close.

    Some of the most useful and relevant questions being asked by successful managers in these print management account review meetings are:

    1. Where is the client decision team in their decision process?
    2. Where are you in your selling procedure?
    3. What are the critical and compelling decision criteria you’ve uncovered so far?
    4. What are the client’s company goals and how can we help them accomplish them?
    5. How many “sponsors” have you created in the account and how do you know?
    6. What successes do we hope to help the client company achieve by utilizing developed and suggested print management solutions?
    7. What is the prospect’s compelling reason to move forward with our solution?
  5. Managing and Motivating Optimum Selling Success: After almost 2 decades of managing, training and coaching sales managers, we’ve uncovered what we believe is the most realistically true statement about managing and improving employees in the workplace.

It worked so well… we quit doing it!

When rolling out, reinforcing or continually improving any process, especially a process so critically important to the future of your company as selling managed print services, it is imperative that we identify and consistently utilize the employee development strategies from which great managers continue to receive tremendous value and benefit.

  1. Daily brainstorming sessions and role-plays.

    Managers should designate “role-play” partners for all employees and ask them to role-play daily the most difficult question, objection or situation they encountered on the previous day. Monitoring this activity will help managers uncover coaching opportunities for employee and process improvement.

  2. Posting questions, objections and improvement suggestions.

    Each manager should have a designated “posting board” where customer questions, objections and process and/ or selling improvement suggestions can be posted daily and reviewed at minimum once a week in team meetings. Open discussion of possible solutions, role-plays and improvement discussions will be helpful in proactively preparing salespeople for the re-occurring issues they face as well as leverage improvement opportunity discoveries into greater and more pronounced selling success.

  3. Showcasing and celebrating success.

    Sales managers need to keep a vigilant eye out for those salespeople who do the right things, for the right reasons at the right time and then tell the story of the salesperson’s efforts and successes. Let’s celebrate these successes. Don’t lose sight of the fact that salespeople are being asked to work differently when selling managed print services than they were expected to work in the past selling boxes. If a manager wants the “whole” sales team on board and wants them productively and happily producing results based on consultative solution driven selling, then we can’t afford to overlook any opportunity to reinforce all examples of a salesperson doing what they’ve been asked to do and doing it well.

    The most successful print management selling organizations have realized that in order to generate the highest possible level of positive results it takes a committed cultural shift from the old “box-centric” mindset and work habits to a more 21st Century solution focused MPS model. This new culture is perpetuated by the stories we tell. Make sure to identify great success story telling opportunities and reinforce good selling behavior by telling the story as often and as energetically as possible. If you do, others will want those stories told about them and go out of their way to duplicate these important and useful print management selling behaviors.

Kim D. Ward (Director of Training and Development) and Tom Cooke (Founding Partner) for Print Management Solutions Group share the same responsibilities for Learning Outsource Group based in Ormond Beach, Florida. For additional information or education information please contact us at 800-403-9379 or or