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Print Managed Services firms told to target IT managers’ headaches

Service providers that position themselves as a consultative business focused on relieving IT management pain-points stand to reap benefits

Dallas — More than 90 per cent of organizations have no idea how much they are spending on printing and copying hardware, supplies and services, and 23 per cent of all IT help desk calls are printing and copying related.

Those are just some of the statistics that Tom Callinan, managing principal of Strategy Development, a Bryn Mawr, PA-based, a print management and sales strategy firm, rattles-off as talking points with potential clients to draw them out and talk about their problems.

“By the time I tell them about the study estimating that an employee spends an average of $1,000 a year in document output, they’re probably thinking: ‘I’ve got 400 workers, this is getting out of control,’” he said.

Callinan presented a Print Management Seminar for print management services (PMS) firms Monday at the first day of Ingram Micro’s Seismic Partner Conference in Dallas.

Traditionally, companies outsource their printing and copying needs to multiple vendors, value added resellers, and service providers offering businesses anything from toner, paper, part and repairs to hardware refresh. However, shrinking profits in the print and copying market will eventually lead to a consolidation of these services, he said.

For instance, the copying business is predicted to decline by as much as 19. 9 per cent this year and an estimated 10.35 per cent by 2012, he added.

“Seven years ago, when you had a printer problem, you called the printer guy. If you had a copier problem you called the copier vendor and if you were out of toner you called the toner supplier. Those days are over,” said Callinan.

He said there’ are now a growing number of firms offering software-based solutions that help monitor printer and copier maintenance and supply issues. These solutions not only provide alerts when supplies are low, but can also initiate online ordering or service calls.

The biggest value that PMS providers can deliver to businesses is insight into their printing and copying costs and means to drastically reduce spending in that area, he said.

However, despite Callinan’s encouraging prognosis, some attendees said it’s still very difficult to wean away potential clients from deeply entrenched practices.

“PMS is not a major market for us,” said Serge Gaulet, director of sales for ProContact, an information technology solution provider, based in Quebec. ProContact has been marketing its PMS services for nearly three years now but Gaulet said it’s always been a “push rather than pull” market.

“We see very little demand. We’re going against a cultural norm that seems to dictate companies should go to multiple vendors,” said Regis Villeneuve, director of technology services for ProContact. “Many businesses are just not aware that there are companies offering consolidated print management services.”

To turn customers around, Callinan suggest PMS providers stray away from typical vendor strategies but rather position themselves as a “consultative resource.” By offering management insight and strategy rather products, PMS providers will effectively differentiate themselves from product vendors.

“Decision-makers want to reduce their hardware-to-personnel ratio because this equipment represents costs. The last thing they need is another person selling boxes,” he said.

Next, PMS providers should zero in on IT managers’ pain points.

“IT managers hate printing and copying machines. It’s a low-value operation for them, but they get saddled with its problems, Callinan said.

For instance, help desk operators are often hampered by printer and copier related calls and many technicians are called away from more serious security or network activities to attend to a malfunctioning machine.

“By building a relationship with IT managers and offering solutions to their problems, you can recruit them as advocates for the service you offer,” said Callinan.

The next step is to get decision makers to commit to a service assessment.

“Almost no one refuses a service assessment, because it’s free,” said Callinan.

But the key is to impress the company’s decision makers that you understand their problems clearly and can provide a solution that will help them improve efficiency and save money “over time.” Callinan stresses the over time part because PMS typically takes two to four years to generate substantial saving.

Unlike a salesman that merely offers a new model of a product but doesn’t change any underlying print strategy, PMS providers exist to shake things up he said.

“Hardware vendors are into replacement or swap sale that brings back the buyer to where they were before. But PMS is not a new sale activity; you’re there to change their processes forever. The status quo is your enemy,” Callinan told the PMS vendors.