Whether you're in the market for a new digital copier or another device or service that's essential to your printing business, there is a clear set of "rights and wrongs" for the acquisition process. In today's mature marketplace, buyers have the clear advantage when they know the right way to approach an acquisition.
I find that buyers of digital solutions, while being expert at getting the most out of the equipment they have in place, are not always as well schooled in what I call "The Art of the Acquisition Process." Following are some of the worst, but unfortunately common, traps that are easy to fall into when buyers get wrapped up in the excitement of looking at new equipment.
1. Not knowing the needs of your customers
Understanding what your customers need and expect forms the foundation for your equipment search. Keep a history of lost sales, those orders that got away, then group and prioritize the list. Do you think there are orders your company never had an opportunity to produce because your Web site doesn't allow you to accept files via the Internet?
Constantly ask yourself:
cost-effectively meet a requirement that we've been
unable to meet in the past?"
2. Allowing only a few vendors to bid
One of the universal laws of business economics is that industries become more and more commoditized, over time. Make no mistake: A commodity market exists for all equipment and services that printing companies buy. Ask yourself this question: If you've never given certain vendors an opportunity to bid, how do you know they can't do the job? You should obtain serious offers from at least three potential vendors before making any decision. Send out nine requests for quotes, and usually you'll receive three solid offers. (One-third of the potential suppliers will decline to bid and tell you that you're crazy, one-third will test the waters with a nonserious but high-profit bid, and one-third will take you seriously and attempt to give you what you want.) This suggestion doesn't include spending your weeks fending off salespeople to answer their questions. If you know your true, unadulterated equipment needs, put them in writing and mandate that no meetings with potential suppliers will be held until after offers are reviewed. The key to acquiring equipment the right way is to stay in control of the buying process at all times.
3. Buying from a person, not a company
It is often said that people buy from people. Thus, salespeople are often "people persons" with engaging personalities. The salespeople calling on you are slick and highly paid. They have a need to win new friends, but your No. 1 need is to find a company that will stand behind its products. I'd rather see print shop owners do whatever possible to take the salesmanship out of the equipment acquisition. After all, you have no guarantee that the dealer rep will be employed by the same company next year or five years from now.