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Becoming the Provider of Choice

4 Sep, 2014 By: Rob Gilbert, Sr, Industry Consultant  

In today’s ever-evolving world of office technology and document workflow production, businesses are facing new and difficult decisions that affect their overall productivity in the corporate space. It is not surprising then, that a company can find itself out in left field when having to deal with issues that can depart from their core competencies and strengths as an organization. These can include overall expenses related to information movement such as those associated with printing, copying, document scanning and storage, etc.

For those companies who consider themselves to be true solutions providers, the opportunities abound. What is essential, though, is that you position yourself to your prospects as the provider who can take care of their issues, in order to let them focus on their core business. Assessing your offering is the first step in this process.

What will you provide?

•Are you primarily hardware-focused?

•Is your solution “copier centric”?

•Do you provide Managed Print Services and / or Electronic Document Management solutions?

•Is rapid service a key component of your business? What are your response times?

•What tools do you use to provide data to your customers?

•Do your salespeople conduct account reviews? What information is provided?

•Is your business centered on repair and supply fulfillment?

•Is there commonality in your existing customer base? Do you focus on particular vertical markets?

Depending on whether you are that true “solutions” provider; or your offering is centered around the movement of hardware in order to achieve a manufacturer’s quota, you will by necessity need to adapt your strategy as a vendor of choice accordingly. Be aware that if you have a fragmented philosophy for problem solving, those companies that provide a total lifecycle management solution will always have an ability to find weaknesses in your process.

If you are hardware or service/supply focused, you will be looking for a more de-centralized strategy for supply fulfillment and equipment replacement. Position yourself accordingly with your prospect in order to solve ordering issues, or problems with specific equipment issues that the prospect is facing.

If you are copier centric in your approach, which is to say that whatever solution you provide must have the ability to be tied to a copier lease, then you will need to stay focused on application-specific Q&A with your prospects, so that you can drive the process to a productivity related discussion.

For the “true” solutions companies that do exist, which, in my opinion, are relatively few, you are in the most positive light as it relates to positioning. Customers really don’t know exactly what they need to be aware of or watching for. Let’s face it. That’s why you do what you do. We are in a position of witnessing waste and improper processes that are extremely costly for clients. Yet if you own the process, you will then own the positioning.

Here’s how:

  • Understand your value proposition – knowing exactly how you can help is KEY. Whether that means selling hardware, software, document management strategies, or doing nothing more than moving assets to more conducive environments, understand the landscape.
  • Be proactive with information sharing – it is always better to change the conversation with a customer from “What’s going on?” to “Here’s what’s going on.” Big issues become little issues when brought to attention proactively and with potential solutions beforehand.
  • Position your assessment tools as provider selection criteria – many providers have the same tools available in order to assess and analyze network information and costs, but very few actually know how to use them properly, if at all. Demonstrating what information you can gather and bring to the table for a client shows your knowledge of a process, and a value associated with information obtained.
  • Understand that real “solutions” provision doesn’t always have to be tied to a sale – right is right, and wrong is wrong. I have personally gained some of my greatest wins in situations where I counseled a prospect to shift volume or move assets around and not sell anything at first. Businesses are looking for partners, for trust, and for someone who understands cost containment, and is interested in their well-being. If you put these things first, there is almost always room for profitability as well.
  • Look for common failings in vertical markets – similar businesses do some of the same things, the same way. If you are able to demonstrate a savings or process improvement in one instance, the chances are the reference data will most likely be valuable for similar industries.

When you are having introductory conversations with prospects, remember the key components that set you apart as a consultant, and use those to build your case for selection as the resource of choice.

If a prospect is currently having issues (and most are) and the incumbent isn’t utilizing the proper tools to be proactive to help them, just the right conversation alone will add validity to your offering.  Document lifecycle management and the total cost of moving information through an organization are hugely important aspects of the wellbeing of any company and yet most do not have a realistic understanding of the costs associated with these issues.  Being truly consultative and collaborative with your prospects will always help you to create a win-win sales opportunity and a long term relationship with your clients.

Rob Gilbert, Sr. has worked as a major account rep/sales manager with Ikon Office Solutions; VP of Sales for an independent dealer in VA; as VP of Sales with SalesChain; Director of Sales with Compass Sales Solutions; as Director of Managed Print Services with International Laser Group. At http://RgilbertSr@gmail.com

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