Managed Print Basics – Becoming an MPS Champion …

Fleet Assessment: Round 3
MPS Assessment #3 Flow Chart: Discover, Control, Measure, Design, Examine
Dealers certainly can be bloodied by their customers when print assessments are offered.  Opposition often occurs when the end-user does not understand what the evaluation will accomplish, or worse … trust that the dealer has their best interests in mind.
What possible reasons could there be for end-users to NOT want to know what their imaging fleet is doing?  Could uncertainty stem from previous experience?  If so, what factors could be convincing people that assessments done by dealers are unjustified?
NOTE – Assessments are not flawed ideas, but when camouflaged or used as sales-techniques they become so.  Assessments that are NOT done with a focus towards solutions are self-serving for the dealer, and therefore give prospects reason to object.
Anti Assessment – An Industry Prospective
"Why shouldn’t customers want assessments?  Because assessments are not for customers – assessments are for dealers.Anonymous
The mere mention of assessment is a Pavlovian conditioning exercise:  Utter “assessment” and watch for the cringe, followed by the rolling of eyes.
How many times are assessments conducted with the intent to sell more “stuff”, gain more “share of wallet” or increase a dealer’s margin?  An assessment with the objective to line pockets is short-sighted, and does not serve customers --- and they know it!!!  The purposed analysis towards sales causes them to believe:
  • Assessments are done with mal-intent – Reducing printing cost is not the goal.
  • Assessments are shallow – Only a superficial gathering of information is conducted:
    • A “count of the clicks” is obtained.
    • A determination of the number of devices over a certain age is gathered.
    • The dealer is going to try selling toner with the information that is discovered.
    • The real goal is the hunt for upgrade opportunities to existing equipment.
  • Assessments promote the agenda of the producing party and are nothing more than a sales tool.
Inexperience causes promises to be made that cannot be kept.  Unknown elements of device connectivity, equipment reporting limitations, data capture, systems analysis, print workflow, document storage, machine usage recommendations, user print habits, etc. all contribute to the final outcome.
As a group, when we do not consider all environmental concerns, including the best interests of customers and prospects, we perform a disservice and contribute to the “bad” reputation of the assessment.
Anti Assessment – from an End-user’s Perspective
Many times resistance to an imaging fleet evaluation stems from an internal struggle between CFOs, CIOs and IT personnel within the company being approached – each has a different stake in the outcome.  Arguments offered from the “C” level point of view may come across with comments or questions such as:
  • I control the purse-strings of the printing environment.  I know what is needed and not needed; an assessment is not needed.
  • I buy all the supplies; I don’t need someone to tell me what I need.
  • I don’t want my dealer to know about machines they do not service.
  • Are people going to come to me and ask what is going on and will their printers be replaced?
  • After the assessment, what happens if unneeded supply inventory grows?
  • After the assessment, what is going to happen to the machines?
  • What goal are we trying to achieve with an assessment?
Resistance to the assessment by IT professionals often relates to scheduling, but their availability is seldom mentioned.  Objections to an assessment are made with comments like:
  • I do not want anyone poking around my affairs.
  • Putting controls in place causes more work for me.
  • I do everything in house.  If an assessment is needed, I will do it.
  • I have already determined the output volume from devices I want managed.  Here it is.
  • Decisions regarding the network and printing environment will not be made without my consent.
  • This is MY NETWORK.  Nobody messes with my network. 
  • I am concerned with the security of my network.  I will not allow information to be shared.
  • I do not worry about locally connected devices.  People need their printers to save time.
  • I have on-staff technicians to repair machines.  They tell me when printers need service, and an assessment serves no purpose for me.
Objections like these may be masking the time element, but could also be very real in the eyes of those giving them.  Objections of a personal nature are best handled directly and with compassion and should be addressed in such a way that root causes can be discovered and understood.
Anti Assessment – from a Business Machine Dealer’s Perspective
Truth be told: Many dealerships are inept at providing fleet appraisals.  And, those that are good at preparing them have had their share of bad ones.  Along the way many have had to overcome concerns such as:
  • Assessments delay closings.
  • Assessments are time consuming and costly.
  • Most sales people are not good at or are not experienced when it comes to data analysis.
  • It is difficult to know which variables to consider.
  • Assessments require well trained personnel with both consultative and transactional selling skills.
  • Too much investment is needed to be able to complete assessments.
  • Assessments are only useful at the point in time when the information is gathered. 
Sometimes shortcuts are taken to reduce the need for full scale assessments which may lead to faster and cheaper contract acceptance.  When the number of devices is small and it is known how long the fleet has been in place, some dealers get rough monthly volume estimates by pulling config sheets from all devices.  Then, they simply divide the life counter by the time the machine has been in service at the client location.
Caution There are pitfalls which may cause eroding or negative margins with this method. If machines are new, usage patterns may yet not be established.  If the devices are old they may have been moved around prior to their current placement and mathematical results will not reflect recent output.  If there are many machines, small output differences may snowball into large scale challenges for the dealer down the line.
In order to do complete assessments, the person performing them needs to know a lot about the printing environment.  Considerations should include workflow, device connectivity and drivers used, machine reporting capability, firmware used, cartridges and what happens when cartridges don’t report properly, what actually gets printed, and knowledge of the capabilities of the software being used to name just a few. 
Determining when to go ahead with an assessment can also be tricky.  Professional assessments require training and may call for added back office data analysis support.  It is common for small dealerships to not have the manpower.  Restraints raise basic questions all businesses must answer before the assessment:
  • How will the dealership know if or when an assessment is right for a particular prospect?
  • Can the assessment be completed in the time allotted?
  • Does the dealership do enough large transactions or routinely prepare RFPs throughout the year to warrant investing in assessment capabilities?
Owners and/or sales managers harboring feelings like the ones mentioned above may be short-sighted, especially if internal answers are undefined.  Some dealerships even consider outsourcing assessment to MPS consultants, but MPS champions can be expensive and hard to find.  Many dealerships simply do not have the ability to invest in the people needed to complete competent fleet evaluations.
… In Summary
When an assessment serves the prospect and is proposed as such, how can they NOT approve of or even request one?  End users are willing to pay to employ someone to get a handle on their fleet because current provider is not doing it for them.  Moreover, customers are willing to continue with software application after the assessment has concluded so the print process and their imaging fleet can be managed.
At Print Tracker, we note reasons why end-users contact us.  Many inquiries are assessment centric with most of these indicating some vested interest in reducing operational costs and imaging fleet size.  Following are notes pulled from recent call recaps that tend to justify why end-users want competent fleet reviews:
“I provide service and support on the imaging fleet; I don’t work through a dealer.”
“We don’t want the dealer messing around on our network.”
“The IT team doesn’t want my dealer to know all the devices on my network.”
 “We want to control who has information about the fleet; I don’t want fleet data shared with anyone.”
“My dealer can monitor the machines they service; I want to monitor the whole fleet.”
“We have multiple branches spread out across the country.  My dealer only services the local machines; I want to monitor the entire fleet.”
And a scary but recurring one, a thought which we believe is based on unpleasant user experiences:
“My dealer does not know what they are doing / I do not have confidence in my provider.”
The product of a deep printing process and imaging fleet review should include more than an automatically generated stock proposal or price sheet.  Assessments that uncover pain points, include benchmarks for ongoing improvements, and offer long term solutions allow users to make sound printing decisions and in the end offer a holistic approach to managed services.  Sharing what can be accomplished and then completing a comprehensive review bolsters the customer or prospect’s confidence in the dealer’s abilities to help.
Click Fleet Assessment: Wrap-up for the final installment of the 'Assessment' series.



Written by Brian Dawson, Sales and Marketing Director, Print Tracker, LLC
Brian is a productivity specialist, sales coach, mentor, and offers managed print solutions world-wide with Print Tracker software.
Contact Brian at [email protected], (866) 629-3342 x7 or through Print Tracker at


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