by Greg Buschman
The production print market continues to shift and has become more and more competitive. The rate of change in the production color market is blinding. The advent of high-speed inkjet technology, innovations in color consistency, paper handling, registration, and the functionality that is built into light production machines are creating a shift in how and where production print is sold and serviced. Ever-shrinking hardware margins are placing a spotlight on page volume, software, professional services, and service margins. A clear strategy is needed so that imaging dealers can take advantage of these changes. The dilemma is finding resources to answer many of the questions facing office technology leaders today — questions such as, “How can I maximize profits in production print? How can I mitigate market entry risks? Should I go for the big iron, a full product line, and high-speed inkjet and take on offset rivals? What about wide format and mid-production?
In the office technology industry, digital color print engines have traditionally been divided into three distinct categories: desktop color page printers, workgroup business color MFPs, and production print digital presses. In recent years, however, the traditional color sales market has been changing due to advancements from entry-level color to high-speed inkjet. In the past five years, OEMs that have never offered high-quality color devices have entered the market and light production machines are becoming far more affordable as compared to outsourcing print. This is creating new opportunities for office technology dealers to enter the market in light production.
The quality, speed, paper handling, and finishing features of these light production color devices are rivaling those of true digital press technology and full production print equipment. This has caused the lines between the traditional sales segments to begin to blur. This blurring of the lines is forcing dealerships to change the way they approach the color market.
Historically, sales teams have been assigned products according to their cost and system complexity. The high tech, high-quality production systems and associated workflow software were assigned to well-trained production and application specialists. The low tech/lower quality MFP based systems to the general line account managers. This sales model is no longer valid for office technology dealers. Sales representatives must be more technology savvy, they need to have an understanding of business processes and all the types of documents their customers use as well as the software and systems that produce them.
Account managers should be aware of the types of documents that require finishing features and paper handling capabilities that are associated with production print equipment. They should also understand the most common reason for which companies outsource document production such as; high volumes, data printing, binding, stock type, convenience, staffing, and the need for customer-facing professional documents. Conversations around these talking points will help the sales professionals introduce light production to their current and prospective customer base.
Internal sales training should include the idea that the traditional products segmentations now overlap one another. General line sale people should be able to demonstrate the basic features of a production print device as well as the workflow software that accompanies it. This is especially true for Millennials who have grown up with digital documents, storing and searching for them on the web, and organizing them on computers, tablets, and smartphones. The migration to selling light production in office environments or small in-plant operations should be natural to them. They should also understand what a digital front end (DFE) is and why they are needed. In my experience, millennials quickly learn how to use print queue management, document creation and editing software, like EFI’s standard DFE software.
Career growth and customer retention
Learning to sell light production, or even advanced color MFPs with a Fiery DFE, can be a great way to demonstrate the many career path choices in our industry. It will also help increase a salesperson’s income and keep them from looking outside the industry as their income needs grow, thus helping to reduce turnover and attrition. It also unleashes high performing employees to reach higher and get more ingrained within their customers critical business functions. Customers who trust a reseller with critical business documents and processes are far more likely to renew their contracts; the disruption of pulling out workflow and business process software and equipment is just too painful.
In conclusion, staying up with the changes in the color office and production print market is as important as making sure that managed print services (MPS) and managed network services (MNS) offerings are on the leading edge of technology. When done right, production print color, especially light to medium production can be a very lucrative revenue stream for any business technology reseller.