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A New Way of Doing Business

3 Nov, 2014 By: Byron Aulick

“Find the lead, demo it, quote it, sell it, install it, and collect the money!” That’s what the boss says. “It shouldn’t be any harder than that!”  This is how some have done business for 50+ years in the office equipment trade.  Well, to quote a very famous rock ’n roll band (Fleetwood Mac): “The world is turning. I gotta’ get my feet back on the ground.”  Things have changed, and the way you’ll do business in the year 2015, will be quite different.

In regard to selling document management (or software solutions in general) it seems it’s not good enough just having the best widget.  You actually have to build a business case, or give people a compelling reason to buy what you have to sell. We believe this is done through a method: ask questions, document the results, think what a viable solution would look like then build a business case to cost-justify it.  True, this yields a longer sales cycle, but the rewards at the end mean a significantly higher gross profit, fewer comebacks, more referrals and a much happier client!  Thus, this article is written for those that are willing to educate themselves towards “a new way of doing business.”


Let’s lay out a situation. Scenario number one:  let’s say you were in an accident. You are rushed to the emergency room where the doctor looks at you from across the room and says, “I’ve seen this before. You need stitches. Go to curtain number one, get some stitches and go home.” In this scenario the doctor is prescribing treatment without diagnosing the real problem.

Let’s look at scenario number two; this time the doctor walks over to you, touches your arm, asks you what happened, sends you down to x-ray, reviews your pictures and then suggests that you get a cast on your broken arm. This doctor diagnosed the problem thoroughly before recommending treatment. This is called good practice or best practice, while the previous scenario is called poor service or even malpractice. For those of you that choose to sell solutions, these scenarios spell out the difference between suggesting the wrong software for the client or suggesting the correct software based on fact (rather than supposition).  Do you realize how important that is? A happy customer tells 10 people. An unhappy customer tells 25 people!

In order to suggest any changes to the client’s workflow, you will need to understand the different facets of how they are presently doing work. This is so important and it is the only way that your solution will actually fit the client’s business and technical requirements.


Let me share with you that doing an assessment is no easy task. First, there is an in-depth business knowledge required, and second, there is a fee for the work.  Knowledge, experience, and certification are the prerequisites for conducting a professional assessment. This can be outsourced, or for those demanding more control, their staff can be trained. While this seems to be a monetary outlay, the results historically have shown to be an almost 100% close ratio when a proper assessment is conducted. Does your sales staff hit those numbers doing business the old-fashioned way? Show them, quote them, and get the order approach? Did I mention that software generally pulls hardware along? And at full-list price, not heavily discounted!

 In regards to the fee, I have been training sales staff for many years and I always tell them, “Charge for the assessment.”  Doing an assessment for free simply means the client has no “skin in the game” and is likely not to invest the time it takes to fully understand the results of the assessment (which means you have no sale).  Professional consulting time is typically $1,500 per day while on-site, and $800 per day back at the office. It takes generally one or two days on site then two or three days back at the office compiling the report.  If $5000 to $6000 seems like a lot, what would you invest to ensure you didn’t purchase the wrong $50,000 solution for your company?  Smart prospects will, too. Additionally, I have seen this investment yield hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual ‘operating cost’ savings for the client. While it varies greatly, the return on investment typically is measured in weeks not years. Talk about an ROI!

Once the assessment is complete, it's not really me trying to sell my solution to the customer. Many times it’s the customer asking “when can we begin?”  This is a radical change from the good-ole’ days and one that the astute office equipment owner can realize and take advantage of, benefiting rather quickly.

Rumor has it that Abraham Lincoln was once asked, “What would you do if you had six hours in which to cut down a tree?”  Lincoln answered, “I would spend four hours sharpening the ax.”  This implies that preparation is the key to success. 

Please don’t send your sales staff into opportunities unarmed. They can be quickly trained on how to sell assessments. And be trained on how to sell a complex document management system to a customer who, nine out of 10 times, does not understand it, can’t cost-justify it, or is highly skeptical.

Regardless of scenario, if your sales staff is willing to learn a new sales approach, they can start carving a path towards loyal customers and company profits.

To learn more, join Byron at ITEX Expo & Conference 2015, in March, where he will present: Professional Needs Assessments: The WHY and HOW in the conference program. Event info at itexshow.com.

Byron Aulick, CDIA is a certified consultant in the areas of: content management, project management, office efficiencies, and Senior Instructor for The ECM Institute [Needs Assessment, ECM Sales and Document Imaging-101 courses], CompTIA [CDIA+, PDI+, Project+] and AIIM [ECM practitioner, specialist and Master].  He can be reached at byron.aulick@ecminstitute.com or (774) 449-8035.   

About the Author: Byron Aulick

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