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Pairing the ECM Solutions Sale with Equipment Sales

1 Sep, 2015 By: Byron Aulick

Unless you live in a bubble, you repeatedly hear the buzz words of “solution sales” in the copier world.  What is the buzz really all about?  And more importantly, why should it interest you?

First, what is the best definition of solution sales? Simply stated, it is a consultative approach to selling that is designed to meet a client’s broad digital business needs beyond just copy and print capabilities.

From Box Sales

We know that copier sales have historically been on selling a commodity; what we in the industry call “boxes.” The challenge facing the “box” sales professionals is the incredible competition. Each vendor sells equipment that for the most part is competitively matched in performance and cost. Therefore, sales forces are forced to cut margins in order to secure the sale. This is a relatively glum future for those in the copier sales industry that continue to follow this path.

Demonstrating total cost of ownership (TCO) savings is also very competitive since all the vendors are doing it. When compared to the aging equipment that is due for replacement, the case can be reasonable. However, as multiple vendors with comparable products are performing similar print surveys, the results are just about the same. Another challenge to the status quo is that commodity sales offer limited loyalty. Since “speeds and feeds” and cost are significant factors, little else matters. For salespeople who have loyal customers who are not bidding out their upgrades, that’s great. As long as no one quits, gets promoted, gets fired, is transferred, or dies, you will do great. However, I would not want to bet my livelihood on such factors that are out of my control.

...to ECM Solutions Sales

The ECM solutions sale is a consultative sale rather than a commodity sale. The approach involves connecting with the C-level individual within a firm and developing a unique business solution to address electronic document management needs. It is not just about selling boxes. It’s about achieving your client’s business objectives. An often overlooked aspect of selling an ECM business solution as opposed to box selling is that the client needs the same hardware either way! Another benefit is that you shift from being a vendor selling a product to being a consultant speaking the business leader’s language: productivity improvement, efficiency, compliance, disaster recovery and so on. These are incredible benefits to your client’s business that a copier salesperson would likely not even discuss. The tremendous efficiency improvements possible by adopting ECM and digital workflow are enormous, thus making the sale that much more likely Listed here are benefits to ECM solution sales:

1.   Demonstration possible to get the sale through: Paper document management is extremely inefficient. It is very easy to demonstrate tremendous savings from lost productivity resulting from filing, searching for files, and paper workflows.  The numbers are staggering.

2.   Engenders loyalty because you provide the business solution: The survey process results in ample face-time at multiple levels to discuss the issues that matter most to your client. During the assessment process hot-points are identified to result in support for the initiative. There are ample solutions available to meet client needs. A Document Solution Specialist (DSS) gains access to those needs.

3.   Allows for a different pricing model: With the switch to ECM, selling six-figure packages become much easier to justify. When your client sees the productivity savings possible and rapid ROI, the sales potential goes up exponentially.

4.   In the end, the same hardware is needed for both solutions: The solution still includes the hardware you already sell. The difference is, you now leverage some of the other digital document management features that are routinely ignored. Coupled with software, you develop a robust solution package.

5.   Expands your potential market & sales exponentially: The ECM market can be a very lucrative value-add to the lagging copier (dealer) market segment yet many companies have yet to embrace its benefits. Dealers and vendors understand the benefits of copy and print technology and could consider walking into 90% of their current customers’ offices or even their competitors to perform an ECM survey that offers a solid business solution (and impress the socks off any C-level executive). Though the solution may not include hardware today it almost guarantees that when the lease runs out on their current equipment that you will be the one they call first, or an upgrade earlier once you demonstrate the tremendous savings they‘d receive as a result of incorporating ECM. 

6.   Gives ability to demonstrate a host of benefits that are crucial: Copier sales may provide a little reduction in TCO. ECM sales demonstrate a host of added features beyond cost savings such as:

a.   Compliance

b.   Disaster preparedness

c.   Improved customer service

d.   Remote accessibility to digital assets

e.   Improved morale & other features

Where do you go from here?

Fortunately, it’s not a huge step to leverage the infrastructure already established by the copier sales enterprise for a shift into an ECM solution sales model. What is missing? For starters:

1.   Knowledge about the technologies: Copier sales professionals must become familiar with document imaging, document management, content management, and records management concepts, technologies and terminology. Good training by a reputable provider is recommended. Product evaluations and demonstrations are a great source of pertinent information as well.

2.   Professional credibility to offer the solutions: The de facto milestone in the industry today is the CompTIA Certified Document Imaging Architect (CDIA+) certification. You or staff member should get trained and certified right away. 

3.   Training in consultative sales and marketing: Formal training from a leading provider is suggested to re-align your dealership to become effective at consultative sales. In addition, industry publications have been regularly publishing articles suggesting ways to avoid being left behind during this period of market transition.

4.   Tools to perform tasks & close sales:  Appropriate training and tools are available to position your sales force to assess, design, and sell ECM solutions.  There is no substitute for experience. Seek quality training to ensure that you will be properly trained and successful in this competitive market.

5.   Strategic alliances needed to offer the total package:  Position your dealership or organization to offer the full gamut of ECM solutions. Witness the ongoing mergers, alliances, partnerships or expanded offerings of your competitors. Be sure that you are considering the same strategy for success.


Byron Aulick, CDIA+, ECMs, is a 30 year veteran of ECM. His company; The ECM Institute trains top dealerships around the globe to be more successful in selling high GP solutions. (508) 637-1508 or visit www.ecminstitute.com

About the Author: Byron Aulick

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