Doc remembers when sales of printers and multi-function devices were handled by traditional sales people out on the road making calls and signing contracts. That is still the case in many situations, but the sales cycle and complexity of today's networked printers has changed the nature of sales.
Rob Sethre, a senior consultant for Photizo Group, has a new report out on the nature of sales in the printing and imaging world.
Sales in the printing and imaging space have always been a complex challenge. Regardless of the product segment, printers or MFPs, the sales rep always had a lot to deal with. Even the ''simplest'' sale – a single device – required a great deal of knowledge and persistence.
Historically, copiers and printers both had lengthy feature sets that needed to be explained and justified. In addition to the core product specifications (the famed speeds and feeds), copiers had additional offerings: zoom features, creative functions and finishing options. Then came the networking and printing capabilities, color and more. Printers had fonts, forms, drivers and processor performance, as well as PCL and PostScript compatibility. And more.
Amazingly, a single salesperson held much of this information. Those experts knew their products intimately, literally climbing inside each newly launched model to ensure the best possible understanding of every feature and physical detail. Those sales reps prided themselves on their independence, navigating the sale from the earliest demos to the final financing and even into the installation phases.
On the client side, there was often a similar situation: many times, a single person would evaluate the offerings and make a purchase decision. Even though the MFP or printer sales reps typically were talking to different people (procurement or IT, respectively), a single point of contact was often sufficient, even in large organizations. Those end-user decision makers mirrored their vendor counterparts and knew the products, pricing and competition inside and out. The point-to-point sale and sales relationship was very much the norm throughout the industry.
There have been several intermediate developments, as more solutions were added to the offerings and as sales efforts began to address specific applications and vertical markets. Yet the ultimate complication of the sale is realized in a full MPS engagement, which will include a full fleet assessment, zero-based recommendations for multiple product segments and business processes, workflow and fleet management solutions, contracting and implementation planning. Even for the smartest and most experienced sales rep (and client decision maker), the task has grown to be too much for any one person.
For the full report from Rob you'll have to become an MPS Insights Pro member, which carries the hefty price tag of $399. Doc will leave it to you to decide if that's worth the price of admission, though he does know there are lots of good articles and reports made available to Pro members.