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$100,000,000 Worth Of Opinions From The Eyes Of Buyer

10 Jul, 2002 By: Ronelle Ingram imageSource

$100,000,000 Worth Of Opinions From The Eyes Of Buyer

a recent industry gathering, I attended a panel discussion made up of six
high-level purchasing agents, who are in charge of acquiring office reproduction
equipment. As a group, they have the responsibility of personally overseeing
over $100,000,000 in annual purchasing budget money.


two hours, members of the audience had the opportunity to question these buyers.
The panelists spoke with candor, knowledge and even took a few well-deserved
potshots at the traditional selling methods of today’s “solution” speaking
sales reps.


a life-long service professional, I listened intently to these purchasing
agents. I was impressed with the level of articulately asked questions from the
audience. Most questioners had an aura of “sales professional,” firmly
injected into their insightful questions. I would like to share with you the key
points I took away from this interchange of perspectives.



people need more training; buyers expect the sales people to know more than they
do; team selling is not customer friendly. As a group, all agents dislike
multiple sales reps showing up with or without forewarning. Buyers find it
distasteful to have one rep do all the talking, while the other rep(s) just
“stand around looking at the ceiling.” The reason is, “if the non-speaking
guy does not know enough to talk, he definitely does not know enough to be
awarded my business.”


are several dichotomies in America’s work culture. Everyone is trying to cut
down on the number of paper copies/prints that are being made. “As
ecologically sensitive buyers, we all profess that we want to go paperless.
Unfortunately, most corporate cultures still judge a person’s productivity by
the amount of paper on their desk.”


more we talk about paperless the more we print. Now we are scanning and
printing; people still trust paper. Most businesses are too busy taking care of
the day-to-day needs of their work, to learn (and pay for the necessary
training) how to optimize the worth of “the solution.” The next generation
may be paperless, but this generation needs the security of paper.



is the end user going to get the necessary education? Sales reps must know and
understand their customer’s business. All sales reps promise to save the
customer money; that line does not work. Sales reps must have passion for and
knowledge of their product. Repeated contacts (by the rep) before and after
a sale are necessary. For instance, a customer buys hardware; they demand
ongoing communication from their sales rep to earn their repeat business.


not ask a customer to signoff on something that is not right. Do not ask for a
premature signoff so the rep can win a trip, or meet their quarterly bonus. The
sales rep must deliver the promised goods and provide world-class service



a nation, we are lazy and possessive. Who is going to tell their boss that they
cannot have an HP printer at their desk? Cost is always an issue. Believe it or
not, cost can often be buried in someone else’s budget, a scan here and a
print there.


dealing with government agencies, do your research and follow the money. Many
departments have separate funds to buy special equipment. Color, plotters and
high & low-end printers can easily be purchased outside of the published bid


must work your way slowly into government. Usually there is a big payoff when
they finally sign, such as a referral to their friends and business associates.
Reps must understand the customer’s
customers must have better technology than they have now. Reps
must be able to meet all government rules for the: deaf, sightless, wireless,
color, postscript preloaded, etc..



remember, that if your company has the ability to consistently do more than the
customer was promised, it should. “We want to do business with someone that
has proven they were there in a moment of need. We are looking for a poised,
professional, and knowledge-based worker, who has more technical expertise than
we have.


of multiple reps, showing up to sell a product, were unanimously disliked.
Customers do not like to be overpowered with young trainees. Buyers want to deal
with someone who knows more about the product than they do. Tell the customer
ahead of time why there will be additional people attending a sales
presentation. They in turn will bring their own buying team, but it will be more
difficult to sell to many personalities. The best approach is one knowledgeable
sales rep selling to one approachable purchasing agent.


is OK to tell a customer “I don't know” or “We can't do this.”



has gone from decentralized to centralized, and back to decentralized. Sales
reps always seem to be trying to get you to do something else.


a group, all of the panel members admitted to not
having a real strategy in dealing with their in-house printing needs. “We are
all making a lot of copies and no one knows why or how these copies are being
used. The true total cost and ultimate value to the end user is unknown.”
Universally, there is little managing of what is actually being printed.
Electronic information is always being blamed for vital information that is
lost. A hard copy is safe. If it is not printed here, at least we want it
printed somewhere. People still want paper. Input here, printed there. Scan
many, print many somewhere else.



  •  If
    the IT person says no, go to Purchasing.

  • No
    one ever got fired by buying HP. Sales people must change the customer’s
    HP comfort level. An IT wants a proven winner with no complications.

  • Purchasing
    agents need to be more knowledgeable to be able to work with ITs. Purchasing
    can talk the IT guys into trying something. A sales rep only has one chance
    to impress the IT staff. Bring everything the first day or forget it. ITs
    won't give you a second chance,
    strike and you are out.” 



users really do not know what hard copies really cost. They think they know the
hard cost of the original program, but not the people cost involved.

  • When
    leaving a voice mail, identify a specific need that will catch the buyer’s

  • Do
    not believe what a customer says. “Buyers are liars.” Learn to read
    between the lines. Listen to what a customer means, rather than what they
    actually say. They may call and request information on a new printer. When
    the rep arrives with printer brochures and price quotes, the customer points
    to the copier they plan on
    replacing. Reps need to always draw the customer out with appropriate
    questions to qualify that, “what they say is what they really mean.”

  • Do
    not send a rookie who shows up with someone else who does the talking. If
    you all show up, everyone must take part in the sales process. If you are
    not going to say anything, do not come.


  • Manufacturers
    must get in bed with the end user’s favorite software systems. If your
    printer will not work with the software the customer is currently using,
    forget the sale. 

  • Buyers
    still believe it is more cost effective to have separate equipment for
    making black and color prints.

  • Less
    than three percent of the US government’s defense department copiers are
    connected to a network. The government foresees a security risk in networked

the end of the two-hour session, the panel was asked to share some of the most
important elements of the selling process:

  • “Get
    to the point fast, be honest, and admit what you don’t know.”

  • “Partnership.
    We are in this together. Be responsive. Answer any email or voicemail

  • “Learn
    my business.”

  • “Under
    promise, over deliver.”

  • “Keep
    focused on the customer’s needs.”

  • “Make
    your customer successful and you will be successful.”


500 people attended the general session. They listened to sales promotions,
advertising campaigns and details about this year’s dealer incentive trip.
However, when the time came to listen to the customer, less than 100 people
showed up. Over 80 percent of the attending dealers did not choose to listen to
purchasing agents who control over one hundred million dollars of purchasing
power. Why were so few people here to
listen to our message…
 Most sales people do not really care about the customer. All
they care about is what is in it for them. The customer is only a necessary evil
of the selling process.”


is hard work. Over the past five years, most service department personnel have
worked very hard to recreate their knowledge base. The old way of servicing and
selling will not provide your dealership with business. Even if you just want to
sell “the box,” effective sales reps must understand what is in “the
box” and what that “box” can provide to the customer. The one hundred
attending dealers, who chose to invest their time in listening to the customer,
are already ahead of the curve.


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