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How To Position Your Dealership as a Credible Source of IT Services

2 Aug, 2013 By: Darrell Amy, Dealer Marketing Systems

Do you want to grow your dealership’s Managed Network Services revenue? Do you see MNS becoming a core driver in the future of your business? Are you satisfied with the progress so far?

One of the most important things you can do as a dealer is to begin the process of repositioning your dealership as a credible source of I.T. services.

Here’s the challenge: Your customers and your marketplace know you as an office equipment company. Your trust level is high when it comes to copiers and other related office equipment. However, when it comes to I.T. services, you may not have the same level of trust with your clients. Simply put, you have a new level of trust to earn if you want to be successful in managed I.T. services.

A Lesson From the Past
Over the previous decade I had the opportunity to help dealers develop their document solutions business. Some of the dealers that took the document management and workflow business seriously became successful. The majority dipped their toes in the water. They didn’t really reposition their business afraid of disrupting their copier business. Most of these dealers eventually gave up.

What was the difference between success and failure? The successful dealers engaged in a sustained effort to re-position their company as a credible source of document solutions. They took marketing seriously. They re-aligned their websites. They featured their capabilities in case studies. They proved their expertise by educating their clients. As a result, they started closing software deals. And, they gained competitive advantage in hardware-only deals.

Most of the dealers that didn’t make the investment in re-positioning their companies failed. Why? They didn’t earn trust in this new business area. Prospects were interested but they got nervous that the dealership might not really know what they were doing when they looked at their copier-focussed marketing materials. I’m afraid many dealers are about to repeat history as we roll out Managed Network Services.
Here’s what happens. You train your reps and/or hire I.T. sales specialists. You send them out to talk to prospects. They have a great conversation about the importance of network management. They pitch the possibility of your dealership taking care of their network issues.
Intrigued, the prospect visits your web properties (website, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) to learn more. What they find in this moment is either going to reinforce the sales message or give the prospect a nervous feeling in their stomach.

Look, we operate in one of the most skeptical cultures on this planet. People are skeptical because they have been burned. We also operate in a culture where people make decisions quickly based on their first impressions. You may have Bill Gates’ cousins leading your I.T. department. You may
have an A-list team of experts. But if your company doesn’t look and feel like a team of I.T. experts, you’re market won’t trust you. You need to make sure that when current and potential clients experience your company they leave confident in your ability to deliver.

So how do you do this? Here are three practical steps you can take:

1. Look Like a Technology Company
Your dealership needs to look, feel, smell, taste and sound like a team of tech-savvy people that understand technology. This begins with first reactions when people see the home page of your website. Is it all copiers and print management or does it talk about network support? Does your network support offering look like a bolt-on to your copier business or does it appear to be an integral part of your company’s support offerings?

There are simple things you can do right away. One is to add logos from your technology partners so when people see your site, they see recognizable logos like Microsoft, Dell or Cisco in addition to the hardware and software vendors.

2. Educate Your Clients
In a recent conversation with a dealer’s VP of Sales, I asked what set them apart in the market. They said, “We are a value provider.” “What does that mean,” I asked. They responded, “It means we are not the cheapest option.” After a good laugh, we dug deeper. Of course this dealer has outstanding customer service after the sale. They do a great job of supporting their customers and they do tell the story well. (Of course, every other dealer in the market also says the same thing about their “great service.”) But, when it comes to being seen as a value provider, you have to ask the hard
questions: “What value do you add before the sale?” One way to add value is by educating your clients. Providing useful information positions you as a value provider, helping you maintain margins. Fortunately, there are many channels you can use to educate clients. You can add blog articles to your website. You can provide useful special reports on hot technology topics. You can promote these articles and other useful information on your social
media sites. You can coach your sales reps on how to share this information on their social sites so they begin to be seen as experts. You can do lunch and learns or webinars. You can put this content into your newsletters. Value added dealers bring ideas to the table.

Look, will every one of your customers and prospects going to read all of the information you publish? Of course not. But just scanning the headlines and seeing that you are a thought leader will help immensely. Make sure to seize every opportunity to educate your clients.

3. Feature Case Studies
One of the most overlooked ways to build trust is to feature case studies of clients that are benefitting from your managed services. A reference that says you provide great copier service is OK. A story from someone talking about how you have improved their company with your virtual I.T. department is golden. When you write case studies you immediately add the endorsement of a third party. There is a world of difference between you saying, “We pride ourselves on our outstanding team of network professionals,” and a client talking about what a great job you do. Putting together written or video case studies takes effort. This effort is not only worth it, it is critical to helping you quickly build the credibility you need. Feature these case studies in your sales presentations. Put them front and center on your web properties. And, make sure your sales team knows how to tell the story of what the client’s challenges work, what you did and how they benefitted.

A Few Final Words
Repositioning your company will take time. You didn’t establish your reputation as a copier dealer overnight. You can’t build trust as a credible I.T. services organization overnight. It will take time. It will require an investment. And, it will require you to stick with it. Second, you need to be smart about how you do this. It’s easy for existing I.T. companies to throw up website content talking about their managed services. They already have trust. You have to be more strategic. You have to account for where you are today. You also have to make sure you don’t alienate your current bread-and-butter hardware business.

The good news is that when you take the time to strategically position your dealership you will set the table for success.

Darrell is the President of Dealer Marketing (http://www.dealermarketing.net), a managed marketing services firm that helps office equipment dealers drive their managed services business. He has spent the last 9 years working with dealers across the US and Australia to help them position their dealerships for success in solutions and managed services. He has trained thousands of sales people in solution selling and visited hundreds of dealer locations. In his 20 years of industry experience Darrell has worked for an independent dealer, a national organization and a hardware OEM.

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