The Competitive Advantage of Understanding Production Print Workflow

Your dealership likely already offers production print equipment from one or more OEMs. Are your sales and professional services teams production workflow experts? If you are not gaining knowledge uncovered in workflow conversations with experts, you could be missing revenue opportunities and the chance to build long-lasting profitable customer relationships. Knowing the right key questions to ask and leveraging the expertise of production print workflow software experts will give you a competitive advantage and increase customer satisfaction.  

What is production workflow automation?

Automating a workflow process involves removing human “touches” and steps to streamline it. In the case of production print workflow automation, there can be two groups of people positively impacted by the automation — print shop staff and their customers who use the software — resulting in time and monetary savings for the print shop and the customers it serves. In the case of an in-plant print center (a shop that prints exclusively or primarily for its parent organization, such as schools, insurance companies and government entities), quantifying these savings is key to selling the solutions you offer to the decision makers. 

Why automation matters to print shops

Because a primary driver for in-plants is providing high level services to their in-house customers at a price lower than outside print providers offer, a top priority is keeping costs low. Recent industry research found that 65% of in-plants and 62% of commercial printers feel that automation is the single most important element to keep a print provider operating profitably. Trending challenges such as staff shortages, supply chain issues, and the need for short print-run flexibility and diversification coupled with the need to reduce costs has made production automation essential. 

Another high priority for in-plants is delivering on a high level of end user services they provide their customers. In addition to providing a cost lower than using external providers, in-plant’s value proposition is convenience and ease of working with them, quick turnaround, excellent customer service, and creating higher value, better-finished end products. 

Automation enables print providers to respond to market and customer needs by:

• Handling an influx of small, on-demand quick-turnaround jobs with fewer employees.

• Making paper and supply shortages less visible to customers.

• Enabling easy pricing changes in the workflow software to ensure profitability. 

• Opening opportunities to add additional services and volume, and increasing the value of the shop to their customers.

• Increasing customer satisfaction by providing customers with self-service that reduces or eliminates the need for staff to field communication about orders, pricing, billing, etc.

To successfully sell production print solutions, ask and listen

Dealers who are successful selling workflow software are those who ask customers questions about their print production process, educate themselves, and include workflow software as part of every production print sale.

To sell these solutions and discover potential automation points, understanding the customer’s process and perspective is critical. Every organization is different; you can’t assume everyone operates the same way or use a cookie-cutter approach. Talk with the customer or prospect. Focus on asking about the print production process and how print jobs come into the print shop. Visit their shop. Ask questions about their top three jobs — know everything about each job and each process. Start with understanding the customer’s idea and job, understand all the aspects of the job, then understand all the steps in the process to produce and then deliver that job. By asking questions about all of these areas, your team will uncover difficulties and pain points in the process, and a need for solutions to simplify and remove steps — particularly manual steps. Understanding the steps and the “gotcha’s” that customers experience will put you in a great position. This information:

1. Provides a competitive advantage. 

2. Offers intimate knowledge that educates your team about the issues so you can solve the customer’s needs and issues and do it better than anyone else.

3. Enables you to provide a complete solution that offers value to the customer while you sell more than a “box.” By creating a solution that increases efficiency for the customer, it also frees up dollars they can spend with you for other items like a new wide format printer they have been wanting. 

4. Earns you the customer’s respect and demonstrates your understanding of the printing process and your customer’s business.

5. Gives you a competitive lock on the account. If you fully understand the workflow, you will “own the account,” retaining and growing the business with the customer, including hardware. 

6. Will help you offer the best hardware for the customer’s needs.

To further increase your competitive advantage, include a software provider’s workflow expert on your customer calls. A provider will have seen the issues and problems your customer is experiencing in multiple environments. Adding a workflow expert as an extension of your sales team creates a resource for you and your customer at no cost.

Strategies to use so sales reps pay more attention to software 

Production print hardware offers many workflow software opportunities. Challenge your team to fully understand the customer’s requirements; they likely will find a software opportunity with every hardware sale.

It’s profitable to stay educated about the latest solutions and trends in the software world. Bring the workflow experts in quarterly to discuss new solutions and develop opportunities. Schedule “ride days” with your software providers. 

Your teams don’t have to be experts — that is what software providers are for. Knowing the issues to listen for and the right questions to ask can make you a great solutions provider. You may find that some software providers even have experience selling hardware and understand the interrelationship of software solutions and hardware.

Finally, with current equipment and consumable supply chain issues impacting hardware sales cycles, we suggest discussing workflow software right now. Having these discussions keeps you top of mind with customers, solving their workflow issues while awaiting hardware delivery. There are no supply chain concerns with software, and workflow improvements can be made while waiting for printers and hardware to be delivered.

What support is needed to offer production print workflow software? 

While the amount of support you need to offer production print workflow solutions depends on your dealership’s proficiency, ideally you should be supported as needed with:

• Sales calls with the software provider to learn and uncover opportunities

• Training to identify potential opportunities during the sales process

• Product training, demonstrations, and workshops

• Technical support for RFI and RFP activities and quote support such as security and IT questionnaires 

• Solution development, workflow consulting and solution configuration

• Installation, training and after-sale support

A top-notch, dedicated workflow software provider will enable you to identify potential opportunities and do what you do best — selling — while the software provider takes care of the rest, ensuring your customer success while reducing the resources you need to sell and support these customers.  

Margin does not equal value

All the OEMs you and your competitors work with have a good “box” to sell. The real value is in how you manage/modify the print jobs and how they are produced to differentiate your solution. The more meaningful the print job is, the higher its value. The efficiency and speed with which the job is managed brings value to the end user.  

Bundle solutions with printers to drive excellent recurring margins and customer value. If you have really zeroed in on what the customer needs, your solution will be unique and solve specific workflow issues, creating a situation where margins can be kept high while protecting you from future competitive threats. 

Workflow solutions offer dealers growth and diversification

Understanding and offering production workflow software solutions creates long term sales growth and revenue diversification. As in-plant print centers and service providers evolve and diversify, the workflow expertise you provide them offers your dealership growth in the form of more revenue opportunities, increased wallet share, customer retention, and customer satisfaction. 

Ben Parker is RSA’s Director of Sales. He successfully manages teams that consult with enterprise clients providing advanced printing and workflow solutions. Parker has over 25 years of experience in the printing industry, joining RSA in 2014 and becoming Director of Sales in 2020. He holds a BA, Business Administration from Furman University.