Impact Networking and Novatech’s Best Practices for Selling Wide Format
Above: John Sutton, Novatech; Frank DeGeorge, Impact Networking; Todd Smith, Konica Minolta
Business discovery and detailed analyses are required for dealers looking to offer customers wide-format print technology. While there are numerous strategies for selling wide format, most dealers are consistently looking to streamline and refine how they identify prospects and identify what customers are seeking.
For Novatech, an $85 million office equipment and managed services dealer headquartered in Memphis, it’s all about customer retention and seizing a higher percentage of the print footprint. Executing with these goals in mind is exactly what the company has been doing as it has continued growing its business in the wide-format arena.
“We work with our sales representatives to push the concept of a team sale,” explained Novatech’s Sales Director John Sutton.
The company’s efforts are working with Novatech, which now ranks as the second-largest Canon wide-format dealer in the United States. According to Sutton, one of the pillars of the company’s success in this area comes down to a single word: education.
“We educate our reps on certain aspects of wide-format printing,” said Sutton, which sometimes includes putting together presentations for them. “They have to feel comfortable, so we help them sell it.”
At Impact Networking, based in the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois, sales-force education is one of the most vital components in succeeding in the wide-format business.
“Our people receive training to ensure the print devices are running properly, and that includes software configurations and media handling,” explained Frank DeGeorge, Impact Networking’s chief technology officer and firm partner.
The dealership employs a team of subject matter specialists who work with its sales reps. Some of these internal specialists are developed organically and promoted from within, while others with already established wide-format expertise are brought in from outside.
According to DeGeorge, one of the most unsettling factors in selling wide format for dealers who are new to it is a lack of baseline knowledge. With approximately 150 models of printers to offer, and that’s really the tip of the proverbial iceberg, gaining that foundation knowledge can be daunting.
“It’s not all cut and dry,” he said. “There are a lot of variables, especially on the graphics side of the business.”
Taking Visual Inventory
Brad Mittleton, Novatech’s wide-format specialist charged with training, explained that engaging with sales reps is key.
“Sales gives us the [wide-format] leads, and we take it from there,” he said. Mittleton encourages reps to keep their eyes open at customer sites and to take visual tours of facilities. “Simply look around for wide-format opportunities. We call it “˜stealing with their eyes.'”
Such behavior has led to sales in hotels and even in funeral homes for Novatech.
Middleton also acknowledged that most existing customers know Novatech as a solutions and copier company.
“We already have the relationships, but we’ve had to delve deeper into our customer base,” he noted.
He often tells Novatech’s sales reps to ask themselves one quick question: Does your customer print anything larger than 12×18 inches?
“If the answer is yes, that can be your foot in the door,” he recommended. Of course, the reps then need to follow up by asking where the customers are printing and what they are printing on.
Chris Cook, Novatech’s wide-format product manager, based in Nashville, thinks that simple word of mouth is the firm’s most effective technique in promoting wide format. Money talks, Cook said, “and there’s a compensation incentive for involving a specialist like Brad. The account reps are out there hunting [for business], and they now know that we can help them close it. Their closing ratios go up, and wide-format jobs can lead to [selling] supplies, software, other services, and equipment, such as cutters and laminators, and print upgrades down the road. The proof is in the pudding.”
Novatech has found that some 20% of its customer base does wide-format printing, and half are outsourcing those print jobs, rather than doing the work in-house. Novatech’s rule of thumb is that if a customer or prospect is buying more than $100 a month in wide-format printing on the outside, they should buy their own printing device.
“Many customers have told me they would have bought a unit sooner,” said Cook about his wide-format converts.
According to Middleton, that’s because “by analyzing ink and paper costs and production time, we show how they can save 30% to 50% on outsourcing.”
Impact Networking has been selling wide format since its inception 20 years ago, starting with KIP devices in 1998 and expanding into HP PageWide technology. However, the firm does do a bit of everything, including print and document management, business process consulting, and IT services, as well as design, marketing, and branding.
“Wide format rounds out our offering,” said DeGeorge. “It has helped us to get into the engineering and architecture print-on-demand markets.”
AEC and Graphics Verticals
Within the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) segment and the graphics market, Novatech’s Cook has found customers will pay a premium for wide-format print-on-demand. DeGeorge agreed, adding that most AEC customers seem to appreciate the wide-format print options available today.
“The expansion of color lines and the ability to achieve the speeds they’re accustomed to [with black & white] in color are big hits,” he pointed out.
For certain dealers specializing more in the managed IT and/or imaging space, there are some obvious applications for their print-service-provider (PSP) customers on the graphic-arts side: point-of-purchase (POP) and point-of-sale (POS) signage seems to be the bread and butter of retail and grocery stores. Of course, UV or latex technologies are now used for outdoor signs that are exposed to the weather elements and sunlight.
“There are so many different technologies out there from which to choose, especially if a dealer never has been involved in wide format before,” said Todd Smith, specialty and wide-format product manager for Konica Minolta Business Solutions USA. “It’s a well-saturated, highly competitive market with a lot of others selling out there.”
There are low-end, aqueous inkjet products in the $5,000 to $10,000 range such as the HP Designjet, as well as toner-based models from Canon and Epson. Then, there are solvent and eco-solvent printers from Mimaki, Roland, and Epson. There are also brand new offerings such as UV wide-format devices where equipment price points range from $50,000 to $100,000 per machine. Some of these devices can print on rigid substrates such as wood, glass, and metal.
There are certain parameters that dealers can use to track profitability: purchase price, consumables, repair parts and square-footage concerns all should be taken into consideration. Konica Minolta encourages its dealers to estimate the number of service calls, too. For dealers in the technical ( for example, AEC) vertical market, pricing structures are trending toward ink usage and a cost-per-squarefoot model, “almost like the pay-per-click model on the [copier] side of the business,” according to Smith.
With so many wide-format options to choose from and a broad range of verticals to target, as well as the cost of entering the wide-format space, Smith offered some final words of advice.
“That’s why it is so important for dealers to qualify leads,” concluded Smith. “They need to decide whether ramping up their wide-format investment is worth it.”
As dealers like Impact Networking and Novatech have discovered, it is.