Be Specific on MPS Sales Education

December 11, 2009

Quote: A comprehensive toolkit includes a minimum of 26 very specific tools…

By Kim D. Ward and Teri Dunn

Here is a comprehensive look at a best practices print management engagement process and the skills needed to ensure long term success for both sales professionals and the dealership as a whole.

First, imagine you are a dentist and one day you receive a phone call informing you that a loved one has been taken to the hospital and in critical condition. Upon your arrival you find your family, friends, and even some of your most valued employees having arrived and are anxiously waiting to offer their concern and support. When you and your group speak with the attending doctor you’re told your loved one can be saved but will need immediate surgery. A choice must be made. Who will perform the surgery? The doctor recommends a local colleague who she feels would be competent. One of your family members suggests a doctor they’ve used in the past as a competent referral. Your employees collectively suggest that a specialist with credible credentials can be flown in from a nearby medical facility. So what should you do?

You obviously want to do what is best. You want to do what is right. You’re concerned and afraid that if action is not taken immediately the patient may not even survive! So what do you do now? Do you slowly turn to the group of supporters and decidedly say, “Don’t worry! I’m going to perform the surgery myself”?

Of course, you would never consider making such a decision. And yet many office technology dealers and businesses are already making similar or threatening business mistakes.

Just as being a dentist is very different than being a surgeon, selling managed print services is very different than selling individual MFP’s and printers. To be successful, it requires a different mindset, a different process, different skills, a different point of contact, the ability to manage a complex buying team with multiple influencers, and it also requires a different set of tools to proficiently accomplish the job.

Many dealers have already discovered that simply “repurposing” legacy salespeople and expecting them to, on their own, successfully sell MPS, can produce dreadful consequences, including non-profitable contracts, unfulfilled commitments to customers, very few sales or worse – no sales at all!  Some business owners or managers have now realized that even though they may employ very talented and historically successful salespeople, these employees are still going to need a little more help to become truly successful in the print management arena. Along these lines we offer some considerations and strategies which will help companies to begin taking better advantage of the available market and customer share when selling print management solutions.

Seek Expert Help

There are two ways to learn how to do something. You either learn through trial and error (which can be extremely painful) or you can find someone who already knows how to do it and simply do what they do. Over the last few years many resources have become available to dealers who want print management selling advice and help in the form of educators and consultants. Caution: Seek expert help but be “mindful” of your choices. Seek out a resource that will provide:

  1. Training and support that offers a proven, scalable & repeatable process which focuses on the buyer and their decision procedures.
  2. A complete and easy to use “toolkit” to reference.
  3. The educational expertise to drive learning and create the compelling desire that salespeople need to change their selling methodology and process.

Utilize a Print Management “Specific” Selling Process

As many have already discovered, selling MPS requires a different selling process than the historical “box centric” approach. As one example, we must consider the necessity of “C-Level” buy-in for:

  • Researching their environment and data collection
  • Engaging positively multiple decision influencers
  • Proactively avoiding all of the other possible “pitfalls” which can slow down or destroy the salesperson’s solution development efforts

A recommended best practice approach for determining which process would be best for your company suggests that your chosen or created process should, at a minimum, include:

  1. Gaining “C-Level” access
  2. An agreement of Technical and Process Expectations with the “C-Level”
  3. Performing print environment reviews to include costs & data collection
  4. Validating and analyzing findings
  5. Designing a proposed solution which meets or exceeds tangible decision influencers’ expectations
  6. Presenting proposed solutions
  7. Closing and implementing the agreed upon print management plan
  8. Monitoring and measuring progress
  9. Performing continuing print environment reviews
  10. Conducting regular formal account reviews

Prepare Your Selling Team with Strategies and Tools

Successful MPS companies agree that salespeople must be proactively prepared by first supplying them with current and effective strategies and tools. By our best practice calculations, a comprehensive toolkit includes a minimum of 26 very specific tools, training & education, a go-to-market strategy, continual role playing and practice, and a commitment to managing a new process. At the same time, sales must be in sync with your service and operations departments. Implementation guides, check lists and informed decisions can assure a smooth transition.

The backbone of these strategies and toolkit should be a comprehensive “print management procedure checklist” which will:

  1. Guide the salesperson through the complete process
  2. Effectively engage the salesperson, customer, service & operations departments
  3. Provide a mechanism for leadership to monitor, manage, coach and teach

The minimum toolkit should include selling aids like:

  1. Procedure Checklists
  2. Contact/ Appointment Setting Aids
  3. Branded Selling and Support Materials
  4. Questioning and Talk-Track Recommendations
  5. Influencer Questioning and Coordination Strategies
  6. Print Environment Data Collection Information Documents
  7. “Best Practice” Selling Strategies
  8. Cost Calculation Aids
  9. Proposal and Floor Plan Generation Aids
  10. Implementation Communication Checklists

Identify, Coach and Develop Effective Salesperson Competencies

When selecting, training and coaching salespeople to be most successful in the print management marketplace, it is imperative that our benchmarks for competency alignment and development include these predictive profile components:

  1. Uncovers & Develops Sales Leads & Opportunities
  2. Effectively Qualifies Opportunities
  3. Commits Time and Effort to Insure Success
  4. Maximizes Results as a Customer Advocate
  5. Adapts Approach to Buyer Motivations

Some of the most important observable and measurable activities which can be used to identify competency coaching, development and support opportunities are:

  1. Promotes Sales Success and Customer Retention by Soliciting Feedback
  2. Increases Business Through Continuous Customer Contact
  3. Develops Product and Application Knowledge to be a Credible Resource
  4. Effectively Manages a Complex Buying Team

Focus Your Team on the Customer -while You focus on the Salesperson’s Daily Behavior

The most successful MPS salespeople are no longer focused on the close. They are focused on helping the customer to do what is best for the customer’s print environment and business. They have become truly “customer-focused” or “customer -centric” in their approach, activities, competencies and behavior. If our selling intention is to help the customer do what is best for them, then the “trusted advisor” role they allow us to play speeds up their decision process, as well over time, provide your business with “pull through” selling opportunities which would otherwise never be realized. Focusing your MPS sales team on what’s best for the customer and then monitoring, managing and coaching the daily selling activities and behaviors that will best support your new selling methodology, will begin to reinforce your intentions to change your company into an effective MPS selling and servicing superstar.

Most importantly, a personalized action plan specific to MPS that is evaluated against the sales consultants day-to-day actual activity becomes a more critical component than the typical month-end forecast discussion of, “What will happen by the end of the month?”  It is this management and leadership behavior that will clearly identify to your team that you, the business owner, have embraced MPS as a critical component of your organization’s future.