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A New Breed of Imaging Pro: Developing Your Solutions Specialist

10 Aug, 2004 By: Darrell Amy imageSource

A New Breed of Imaging Pro: Developing Your Solutions Specialist

mounting forces of pressured margins, commoditization of hardware and increased
competition are moving many dealers to sell document solutions. In turn, the
dealers following this shift in the industry have been introduced to a new,
mysterious position—the Document Solutions Specialist (DSS).

  • Why
    is such a position necessary?

  • What are the specific duties of a DSS?

  • What makes for a qualified DSS candidate?

  • What type of training is needed for this new position?

  • How
    do you compensate this person?

are all important questions as you consider how your dealership will capitalize
on the document solutions opportunity.

Yonkers, a solutions specialist for Erie Copy Products in Erie, PA., pointed out
that although there are a lot of uncertainties involved in creating this post,
it will become a necessity in the future.

“Companies will need to adapt to the changes that are taking place in our
industry and successfully distinguish themselves as an information management
resource for their clients,” Yonkers said. “Currently, companies are trying to
figure out how to integrate a solutions specialist into their existing
infrastructure. In the future, only those companies that have integrated
solution selling will still be around.”

this article, you’ll hear from solutions specialists such as Yonkers who are
already on the frontlines helping define the future of the copier/printer

Do You Need a DSS?

In all probability, the bulk of your tenured sales force does not have the
know-how to make solutions recommendations to clients. Your clients know your
tenured sales staff as professional business people that are proficient at
selling copiers. But your tenured salespeople don’t necessarily have the
credibility to analyze and recommend a software solution. Plus you want to keep
them focused on the core of what has made your dealership successful—moving

this case it helps to have a credible third party enter the sales process as the

solutions specialist enters the selling process in accounts where the sales
representative has uncovered a solutions opportunity. The client then feels more
comfortable with your dealership’s expertise in making business process

“Selling solutions is much more of a consultative process,” said Tyson Stargel,
a DSS at Stargel Office Systems in Houston, TX. The DSS can effectively play the
role of the consultant in the selling process while the salesperson is focused
on developing the relationship and closing the sale.”


The role of the DSS is evolving and is different in each dealership. The
following are the Top Five responsibilities generally associated with the

Supporting Salespeople to Sell Solutions

The primary role of the DSS is to sell solutions. This can be accomplished in a
number of ways. In some dealerships, the DSS functions in a support role to the
current sales force. In other cases, the DSS is a full time sales representative
that only sells software solutions. In many cases it is a combination of both.
Each scenario has its pros and cons.

Having the DSS function in a support role adds credibility to the sales process
when you are going after a new client. After all, the potential client feels
that the sales person’s advice is going to be tilted towards selling them as
much software as possible where the specialist can be positioned as more of an
objective analyst. A supporting DSS is also helpful to a tenured sales force
that can identify opportunities but does not have the ability to explain the
specifics of the document solution. The drawback of the support role is that a
tenured sales staff may be reluctant to involve the DSS out of fears that it
will complicate or extend the sales cycle.

the specialist is in a sales only position, the benefit is that it guarantees a
dedicated sales focus on document solutions. In this case many DSS are sent to
the existing client base to explore solutions opportunities. The drawback of
this is that there may be resistance from the hardware sales force. The other
potential drawback is that the DSS may not be skilled at closing business.

many dealerships, the DSS plays both a selling and support role. One dealership
is providing the DSS as a support person to their existing sales forces for a
limited amount of time. The sales force has been made aware that if they do not
generate a significant amount of activity and sales for the specialist, the
dealership will start a separate sales force to sell solutions.

Unlike the days of the digital specialist, it seems like the DSS will be a
permanent role inside a dealership. Digital copier sales, after a few years,
became somewhat basic as connectivity became simple and routine. Conversely,
solution sales will likely start out on a simple level and become more involved
as a dealership gains experience.

Designing Solutions

Once the DSS has learned about the client’s business problem the next task is to
begin to design a solution.

the selling of hardware, the individual represents product that is manufactured
elsewhere,” Yonkers said. “In the selling of solutions, the individual
represents concepts they themselves have crafted.”

DSS is essentially a broker between the client’s business problem and the
available technology that can be configured to solve the problem. This creative
function is where the DSS can add the most value to proposals. A DSS that can
design innovative solutions to business problems is a tremendous asset to a

Managing Solutions Implementation Projects

Project management skills are a key responsibility. Project management is
setting and fulfilling client expectations. It is essential that the scope of
the solutions project be clearly outlined to the client during the sales
process. The DSS sets specific expectations of what the solution will do for the
client. It only makes sense that after the sale the DSS is involved in ensuring
these expectations are fulfilled. In smaller dealerships the DSS may actually
configure and install the solution. In larger dealerships the DSS may only act
as the project manager ensuring that the technical team is implementing the
solution correctly.


Educating sales reps and potential clients on the benefits of document solutions
is something a solutions specialist should be willing to do. Salespeople need to
be able to recognize solutions opportunities. Something as simple as a client
asking about scanning can open the door.

have attempted to educate all of the sales people as to the fact that whenever a
customer or a prospect asks for a quote on a scanner to get me involved,” said
Scott Holloway of Duplicator Sales and Service in Louisville, Kentucky. “Those
that have done that have already gotten compensation for the sale that ensues,
and the light comes on.”

Prospective clients should also be educated on the business benefits of document
solutions. In many cases the DSS is involved in conducting educational seminars
for potential clients. Providing education to potential clients positions the
dealership as a credible source of document solutions. The education also
empowers the client to feel comfortable making a decision to go ahead with the

Evaluating Software Partnerships

An important part of the DSS role is to continually evaluate potential solutions
partners. The more a DSS knows about available solutions the more valuable they
are to a dealership and its clients. Stargel feels that research on potential
solutions is a critical part of his role as a DSS. As a DSS is exposed to new
technologies, they are able to identify opportunities that they might have
otherwise not seen.

Qualified Candidates

Hiring a DSS is a challenge. The ideal candidate understands both business
problems and technological solutions. They also should have an aptitude for

some cases dealers have hired technically-minded candidates that know technology
but are unable to identify business problems. The ideal candidate needs to have
a solid understanding of business issues so they can attach the solution to a
real problem. Technical proposals that are not connected to a tangible business
problem get put on the backburner and end up spinning off into an unending sales

best candidate would have a combined degree in business and information
technology. That way they can recognize and quantify the business problem and
tie that problem to a technical solution. Consider adding this as a minimum
qualification in your recruiting efforts. Qualified candidates could be
recruited from local business schools. Contact a professor at a local university
and ask if you can be a professional speaker in one of their management
information systems classes.

DSS should also have some sales abilities. If they are in a support role, the
DSS should be able to play a part in the sales team. It is important that the
DSS support the sales effort and not detract from it. Technically minded
specialists may have a tendency to be too technical during an appointment if
they don’t understand the sales process. Give serious consideration to sending
the DSS to at least one sales training class each year.


Training is a critical part of the DSS program. The analytical personality types
that are attracted to this position usually place a high value on continuing
education. As they learn more, their enthusiasm level will be contagious. A well
trained DSS will also be a loyal asset. A poorly trained DSS will likely get
frustrated and leave.

are three areas where the DSS needs to be trained: business process
optimization, technology innovations and sales skills.

most overlooked area of training is business process optimization. The DSS must
have an understanding of business problems. They need to be able to flowchart a
business process, identify the breakdowns in these processes and express these
problems in financial terms. Without these critical skills, the DSS will not be
able to make a business case to close the sale. Then the solution is reduced to
a nice idea that the client might get around to some day. This may be the single
biggest obstacle to closing solutions sales.

the DSS does not have business experience, consider investing in night classes
to help them earn a business degree. Look for training opportunities where the
DSS can learn about business process analysis and reengineering. Have the DSS
spend time with key managers in the dealership learning about their biggest
business challenges.

Technical training needs to be an ongoing responsibility for the DSS. The
dealership’s credibility is enhanced when the DSS has professional
certifications. One example is CompTia’s Certified Document Imaging Architect (CDIA+).
Certifications like this help your potential clients feel comfortable with your
expertise in recommending changes to their critical document processes.

DSS also needs to be trained on the application and operation of the software
solutions. Fortunately this is not hard to do. The DSS will likely be a person
who devours technology and is always on the lookout for new things. Encourage
them to stay on top of technical trends. Provide subscriptions to industry trade
magazines in the area of document solutions. At least once a year, send your DSS
to trade shows where they can learn about new document solutions.

Finally, sales training should not be overlooked. While the DSS may be acting in
a support role, they need to understand what is going on in the selling process.
Otherwise, despite their best intentions, they may sabotage the sale. Live sales
training can be acquired through local sales training companies or your OEM
partner. The same sales training CDs that your sales people listen to as they
drive around should be provided for the DSS.

more training you allow for your specialists, the more value they will be to
your dealership. Make the cost of training a part of the budget when you are
considering the total cost of the DSS. Properly trained, a DSS can uncover new
opportunities that could become very lucrative sales. Without balanced training
in business processes, technology and sales skills, your DSS will not be


Compensating the DSS can be complex. This is especially true if they are
functioning in a sales support role. Without planning, the specialist can end up
increasing the dealership’s sales overhead. For example, if sales
representatives are compensated for profit on a solutions sale in the same way
as a hardware sale, the cost of the specialist ends up being absorbed by the
company. On the other hand, if sales representatives receive reduced
compensation on a solutions sale they may be even more reluctant to introduce
document solutions into the selling process.

DSS will likely have a compensation plan that includes salary, incentive and
bonus. The best way to design this new pay plan is to determine the annual sales
expectation and the expected total compensation at that level. Next, subtract
the salary. As usual, salaries vary based on the experience of the candidate and
the local market. The remaining amount of the targeted total compensation can be
converted into an incentive plan including commission and bonus.

commission portion is usually a percentage of the profit from a solutions sale.
This becomes somewhat complicated because most solutions sales are bundled with
software, hardware and implementation services. In some cases, the sales rep is
compensated for the hardware portion of the sale while the DSS is compensated on
the software portion. To do this, a formula needs to be determined up front to
calculate the percentage that goes to the hardware and software.

Revenue bonuses are also a good way to motivate the DSS to achieve annual
revenue and profit goals. The bonus should be based on the annual solutions
sales goal of the dealership.

are no perfect answers to this dilemma. However, there are a few ideas to

  • Load the sales cost on software to compensate for the cost of the document
    solutions specialist. Unlike a copier, the cost of a solution is not firmly
    established in the market. Therefore, a loaded cost on software should not be
    a problem.

  • Add
    the cost of the document solutions specialist into your solutions into your
    pricing structure. This helps defray the base salary of the DSS. Just as there
    is a cost associated with delivery and installation of the solution, there is
    also a cost of analysis and project management. For example, a solutions sale
    that includes document imaging might include a sales cost of $2,500 to cover
    the costs of the DSS. This could be incorporated as a standard part of your
    sales pricing.

are no simple answers to the question of how to compensate the DSS. The
important thing is that the cost of the DSS is accounted for as a cost of sales.
Otherwise a dealership that is already experiencing gross margin pressures in
the sales department will be in a worse position as they enter the solutions

dealers enter the new waters of solutions selling, the DSS is an important
member of the team. The success of this position is a key factor in the future
success of a dealership. Therefore, the DSS role merits thoughtful planning,
careful selection, a great deal of training and creative compensation.

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