When is a “Solution” not a “Solution”?

October 8, 2011

One of my sales people & I recently met with a large Church that had previously purchased MFDs from a Xerox \ Global Copier Dealer that still carries Konica Minolta. When we met with them they told us about a mailer that they do every month to their parishioners. They were printing out labels and applying them by hand before mailing them out each month. A very labor intensive process.

When we spoke to them about doing Variable Data Printing, of which mail merge is the most basic, and most often used form of VDP, they produced a copy of PrintShop Mail (still in the package) which the Xerox Global Dealer had sold them for an additional $1,000.00. They said that they included a single online training session, but no hands on follow up from the Xerox Global solutions person. So they were naturally a little skeptical about me telling them we could train them to do Variable Data Printing for this monthly mailer.

Now I have sold Atlas (and now Objectif Lune) PrintShop Mail, and it is a great solution in the right situation for highly complex VDP print jobs, but selling it to a church to do a mail merge for a monthly news letter (without any real training) is like giving a toddler a bazooka to kill a fly. Yes, it could do the job, but the likely out come will not give you the desired result. A simple fly swatter is a much more elegant solution to the problem of a fly.

We asked them to email me the MS Publisher files that they used for their monthly mailer, and then come in for a demo. I set up our MS Publisher to do a Mail Merge. When we did the demo I showed them their files with a Mail Merge already set up, and with the click of the “print” button out came a run of the churches monthly mailer already addressed to each of their individual parishioners. While I did not show them how to set up MS Publisher to do mail merge during the demo, I did guarantee them that if they gave us their business I would come in an give them hands on lessons on how to set up the mail merge in their MS Publisher, and left them my business card with my cell phone so they would know they could call me personally if they have trouble afterwards. My sales guy got the deal signed this week, and we will be delivering the MFD shortly. I will schedule the follow up training once the equipment is delivered.

A genuine “Solution” often combines, hardware, software, and know how to solve a business problem. When the Xerox Global dealer up sold them Printshop Mail for $1,000.00 with no commitment to this church to make sure that they would learn how to use it, they stole a $1,000.00 from the church! You make think that is a harsh statement, but a good business deal encompasses an exchange of currency for value. The Xerox Global sale of Printshop Mail imparted no value to this church. Because while it had the potential to do what the rep said, without a committed dealer to make it work, the church received no value for their $1,000.00 purchase. The Church understood this, and remembered it when it came time to buy again.

Too many Branches & Dealers have significant turn over in their sales force. So a sales person or solutions engineer who screws a customer on one deal, are often gone by the time the customer’s lease is up in 3 to 5 years. So the new sales person can claim innocence. It’s better to deal with a seasoned sales person who treated you right the last time. Treat your customers right, be just as attentive after the sale as you were when you were trying to win their business and you will add value and earn the right to get their renewed business at a reasonable margin. You don’t, and shouldn’t have to be. the cheapest bid, if you have proven the value that you will bring before and after the sale. Most people will buy value over cheap!

That’s My $0.02
Vince McHugh



  1. I work for a church too and had a similar problem with Ricoh. We just bought a $12,000 copier but when I couldn’t get it to print a mail-merge from Publisher. It couldn’t distinguish the end of the newsletter so would staple as many copies as could fit in the finisher. When I called the Richoh/IKON phone tech he had never even heard of a “mail-merge” so scheduled a tech to service the machine. When the tech arrived while I was out of the office at lunchtime, he put down that he fixed the stapler! I called him and he too had never heard of a “mail-merge” but would research it and get back to me. Another month has gone by and I left a message on hiswork phone but have not heard back. They call that “customer service”?

    • Lorraine,

      This is the reason that I talk about the need for “copier companies” to have Systems Engineers, or Solution Engineers to help customers with Software issues. Ikon \ Ricoh does have SEs, on staff but they tend not to be as responsive to the smaller accounts (1 or 2 devices).. You may want to call the sales rep that sold you the device and tell them that you need a Systems Engineer to help you resolve a software issue printing from MS Publisher.

      I wish you luck!

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