Selling Maintenance Agreements & Professional Services – It’s Probably Much Easier than You Think!

[Reprinted from the June/July 2016 issue of Field Services News]

Most people would seem to agree that a physical product, like a copier, printer, or scanner, is the easiest thing to sell. Companies can include photographs and hardware specs for these types of products in their brochures and catalogs; photographs can be included in the company’s web site descriptions; and demos can be conducted right at the customer’s site, etc.

But, in many cases, selling a product can actually be one of the most difficult things to do, especially if you have never sold anything to a particular prospect in the past, or if they are not familiar with your company’s lines of copiers, printers, or scanners, etc. This is why we are suggesting that a maintenance agreement, or professional services, for an existing business imaging system (or any other type of equipment) may actually be easier to sell than the original product itself. Let me explain.

Chances are, some of the accounts for whom you provide copier service and support purchase dozens, if not hundreds, of individual pieces of equipment every year. For most of your smaller accounts, any single equipment purchase is, in a relative sense, a major consideration for them, both from an absolute and a financial perspective. However, once they have made the decision to purchase a particular piece of equipment, they have already “bitten the bullet” with respect to its importance to their business operations, and they have accepted all of the financial considerations that will be tied to its acquisition and use.

You may have already heard the expression “total cost of ownership”, or TCO; what this means is that, in real life, there is usually more to the “total cost” of an individual piece of equipment than just the price that was paid for its acquisition. In addition to the specific purchase price, there is also the cost of ongoing hardware and software maintenance support, replacement parts, help desk support, consumables (like paper, toner, etc.) and many, many others.

For some, the acquisition of new equipment also requires moves or changes to their physical facility to create space for a new business imaging system or copier machine, as well as additional training for the individuals who may be tasked with various internal maintenance and/or administrative responsibilities. The general rule of thumb with respect to TCO is that, over the course of several years, the “actual” cost of ownership for any particular piece of equipment may be up to twice the initial purchase price (or more).

As such, it is easy to imagine that any one of your accounts that has already planned to purchase a major piece of capital equipment such as a copier, scanner, or printer would have already examined the anticipated TCO for that unit, and would have budgeted accordingly. However, even the most sophisticated business planners may sometimes misjudge what the ultimate TCO will be for an individual piece of equipment (or not forecast it at all).

For example, they may have only anticipated requiring warranty service for one year or so following acquisition, without planning for any further post-warranty support that, if provided on a time and materials basis, would end up being quite expensive. Some may not have anticipated losing the staff that was originally trained on a particular piece of equipment, and may ultimately find themselves in a situation where new hires may need “fresh” training for an existing business imaging system. These are both classic cases where your existing accounts may already be clamoring for enhanced maintenance, or warranty agreements, or for various other types of professional services that your company may already offer (i.e., user training, train-the-trainers assistance, custom documentation, etc.).

Whether any of your existing accounts have either mis-planned – or didn’t plan at all – when they made their initial purchase decision, they have one thing in common: at some point, they will recognize that they need additional support over and above what they initially received when they purchased the equipment, and that this support will typically manifest itself in either the need for an enhanced maintenance agreement, specific professional services, or both.

If you have been observing and monitoring your accounts all along the way, you probably can already pick out which ones are “ripe” for selling maintenance agreements or professional services. If you have also been keeping up-to-date with your company’s product and service support offerings, you are also ready to speak to those accounts with respect to what you believe will make their ultimate “total cost of ownership” less in the long run. Armed with this information, you will find yourself in the perfect position to make the sale of maintenance agreements and professional services as easy as possible – certainly easier than making a “cold” sales call to a new prospect.

All you really need is the understanding of what your customers require, matched against the products and services your company offers, and many of these prospective “sales” will simply be waiting there for you to “close” them.