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What Are Your Customers Really Asking (When They Ask to Buy a Supply)?

07 August 2019 | Norm McConkey



Just when you were (finally!) getting comfortable selling MPS, your customer throws you a curveball: “I just want to buy ink and toner for my printers. Can I do that with you?” In theory, they can. In practice, they can’t. In theory, theory and practice are the same thing. In practice, theory and practice are different. Here’s why that’s your business' biggest problem today.

What is your customer really asking?

Can I go to your website and buy ink and toner? Why do I need a three-year contract? Why do I need service included? 

You can continuously reassure yourself that you are helping your customers make smart buying decisions. That when a printer breaks down or when they run out of toner on a Friday afternoon just before the executive team needs a slew of reports printed off, they will know that they should have signed into a managed print contract all along.

Except that “Chicken Little” sales techniques don’t work anymore. Printing is not as important as you think it is. Sure some businesses rely on it more than others. But, it's been a good decade of MPS, it’s either been sold or, it's not going to be.

So, back to the website. If it's not e-commerce enabled, you can’t manage transactional sales. I am willing to bet that all of your customers currently partake in the digital economy: either personally or through the business. Staples, Amazon, CDW, PCC, etc. 

If your process for having customers order ink and toner for unmanaged fleets is to call or email, that’s like offering someone a horse as a viable mode of transport, yes, it kind of works, but…

What's at stake?

Well, most accounts we speak with estimate that for every managed printer in their RMS, there are 3 or 4 unmanaged assets. I am willing to bet most of those are being sourced via an office product reseller like Staples or Office Depot. 

As an owner, you are the chief strategist of your business. You must continuously decide what is a threat, and what is an opportunity. You must deploy resources that have the greatest probability of success (profit). 

Transactional sales are not actually an opportunity. They are a threat. If you don’t offer a means to purchase transactional supplies, then customers will buy elsewhere.

Are you seeing the threat?





About the Author

Norm McConkey

Norm McConkey has been involved in the print, imaging, and software/tech business since 1993. Holding executive level positions in a number of emerging technology firms, he founded PrintFleet in 2003, and Tangent MTW in 2009. A founding member of the MPSA, an award winning author and presenter, Norm has spoken at various industry events around the world including the Lyra Imaging Symposium, Photizo confernece, ITEX Tradeshow, Regional BTA conferences, Remax Europe, and World Expo. He has been contracted to consult and build go to market and sales training programs with several OEM manufacturers such as Canon USA, and HP, and distributors such as Parts Now and Supplies Network, as well Resellers including Office Depot. Norm’s current project, MPSToolbox (, is a software platform which helps technology dealers develop and maintain e-commerce websites.


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