Gaining Traction with Big Iron Experts from Marco and Pacific Office Automation
Expanding into production print is potentially one of the most lucrative and exciting ways to generate new revenue streams. Not only can this strategy connect dealers with new customers, it can also expand dealers’ offerings to current customers. However, if dealers are going to venture into the world of production print, they certainly need a clear understanding of the ins and outs of this endeavor. One key component is hiring people who know what they are doing such as specialists like Clint Dorgan, print production sales manager for Marco, and John Boyd, director of production print, regional graphics specialist, professional services, at Pacific Office Automation (POA). Both are veterans of the production print industry and have broad base of knowledge and expertise when it comes to considering making the leap into production print and what to expect once the decision to move forward is made.
Not for Everyone
We know, and you know, production print isn’t for everyone. According to our 2017 survey, only 47% of dealers were engaged in production print although we suspect the actual number of dealers selling true production devices might be even lower than that because of different definitions of what constitutes a production print device. Some of those might be selling light production, which is still a stepping stone into production. Even so, we believe dealers who are not involved in production print, particularly those with the financial resources to invest in the equipment and personnel to sell it, should give it more consideration than they may have to this point.
The Nitty Gritty
To sell production print, dealers need a comprehensive understanding of their territory. It’s not just understanding the ways existing customers could diversify their offerings with production print equipment. Dealers also have to learn to identify potential new customers, including businesses with consistent production print requirements, as well as those that may not be aware they could afford to handle most of their production print output in-house.
POA’s Boyd cites three factors required to sell production print. The first is technical knowledge, understanding how the equipment works. The second is sales skills, and the third is providing analytical or consultative services, conversing with owners and IT personnel about their concerns. He further emphasized a true production specialist is as much a sales person as they are a technical person.
“The key is to know not only what your potential customers need, but also what their hesitations might be about expanding [into production print] and how to address them,” added Boyd.
A production print setup is generally a major capital investment, but as Marco’s Dorgan has learned through experience, equipment doesn’t have as much of an impact on the bottom line as personnel considerations, and the right tool can reduce those costs, another important selling point.
“Elimination of touch points is a big thing these days in the print industry,” he said. “How can we do more with this equipment without adding real estate or without adding more people?”
Even a relatively simple production print job such as flat sheets may still require human labor to trim them down to get full bleed, but modern automated finishing attachments can also accomplish this, freeing up workers for more valuable tasks.
“A lot of what we try to do is help commercial print customers get more done in a day or in an hour, making their jobs more efficient without adding more expense,” said Dorgan.
A production print specialist must keep current on new technology. Both Boyd and Dorgan spoke of the importance of regular visits to their manufacturers to acquaint themselves with the latest models. However, those transitioning from traditional printer sales to production will need to prepare for the depth and breadth of technical expertise involved, as technical issues their customers face won’t always originate from the machines themselves.
“Everybody thinks because a file displays correctly, it should print correctly, but that’s not true at all,” said Boyd. “You’ll talk to a lot of customers who say, I don’t like PDFs because the quality’s not as good. That’s 100% incorrect. If a PDF is set up correctly, it should look just like the native file. But, the problem is lots of applications to create PDFs by default are set up for web viewing or to display graphics.”
Dorgan emphasized how dealers must also be ready to commit to educating their customers, providing these customers with resources to educate their own clients. Here, a specialist with a well-rounded background and some fluency in graphic design is recommended, but Dorgan says dealers need to ensure their entire sales team is informed and honest about the capabilities of the machines the dealership is selling.
“These days, the biggest role we play is to know when to say no,” explained Dorgan. “It’s easy to say yes, but it’s much more important to say no when appropriate. Find out what the customer wants to do, and if you’re doubtful the machine can do it, make sure that it’s the right fit, and if it’s not, say no.”
One of Dorgan’s biggest frustrations is when a customer has had a negative experience with a brand, and it turns out it wasn’t the brand or machine, but rather the capabilities of the technology were misrepresented. This error is not always made intentionally, but it can oftentimes be attributed to a lack of knowledge on the part of whomever sold the customer the equipment.
“You have to know your customer’s needs and be informed enough about the market to find the machine that fits, which sometimes means finding surprising solutions,” said Dorgan.
Marco recently entered the industrial print segment of the digital market. One new
machine the company is investigating is the Konica-Minolta KM-1, a UV inkjet press that supports bigger sheet sizes and thicker substrates, and offers enhanced image quality over toner, giving it the potential to replace traditional high-quality digital toner-based devices.
“Marco stops at a certain size level now, so the KM-1 would allow us to get into new parts of our existing market and also markets we’re currently not in,” Dorgan said. “This machine, along with pigment and dye-based products for the transpromotional market, will help Marco advance in both ends of the industry.”
In the end, supporting production print machines means supporting the entire service and supply chain in a much faster and more responsive way compared with traditional office imaging devices, especially since a commercial-print run being delayed by machine issues can seriously harm or even destroy a customer’s business. Yes, modern technology and software advancements are making even production print equipment more reliable, but a customer or rep who doesn’t know why a process works won’t know why it has stopped working, and for production print equipment, figuring it out isn’t as simple as a Google search.
“There’s a process called G7 where you stabilize the machine, calibrate it, and build a custom profile,” said Boyd about one of the technical considerations of working with a production device. “We’ve now drilled that down to a button. I call it “˜John Boyd in a Box.’ I’m always asking people, what if the button doesn’t work, how do we know it doesn’t work? That functional knowledge is being lost.”
Both Dorgan and Boyd find production print to be a rewarding and exciting segment of the imaging business but agree that it’s not something to rush into, especially unassisted. Dorgan urges extreme caution for dealers considering entering the production print fray. Boyd says humility is also important, and he drills this message into the heads of every sales rep he trains.
“I always say, you’re the best you’re ever going to be when you don’t know anything, because you have to ask a ton of questions,” said Boyd. “The best thing is just to sit down with the customer and start digging into their current situation, [and finding out] what’s preventing them from growing their business.”
He also recommended dealers ask themselves the same questions. If all that’s preventing a dealer from expanding their business into production print is lack of expertise, hiring an expert and having them educate the dealership just as they would teach your greenest sales rep would be the right first step.
“Grow together, and never stop asking questions,” concluded Boyd.
Access Related Content
Visit the www.thecannatareport.com. To become a subscriber, visit www.thecannatareport.com/register or contact email@example.com directly. Bulk subscription rates are also available.