A Plan to Save All Of Us4 Oct, 2005 By: Marvin Himel imageSource
A Plan to Save All Of Us
I recently spent a Sunday
afternoon at the library with my young son, Josh. It was 6 p.m. and the library
was closing. About a dozen people and I stood quietly in line waiting our turn
to check out when Josh said in his loudest voice: “He tried to warn us! He saw
the signs! Now in our darkest hour he has a plan to save us all! RUN!!”
It was an odd thing for such a young child to blurt out, but he was just
repeating a line he had heard earlier from a film called “Chicken Little.”
You may ask, what does this have to do with the office equipment industry? Well,
everything! For years analysts have tried to warn us! They have seen the signs:
1. A mature market
2. Competition from powerful, new competitors (HP, Microsoft, etc.)
3. Declining profits
4. Manufacturers competing with dealers
So, what is the plan to save us all? We have to finally start doing what we know
we should do—begin selling solutions. In this, my initial article for
imageSource, however, you will not hear any mention of software, document
As a group, office equipment dealers are some of the most savvy and successful
business people in the United States. There is no lack of knowledge about how we
should sell solutions. So what is lacking? If you’d like to learn how to start
selling solutions, then get ready and get S(ystems) E(nvironment) T(echniques)
to find out.
SYSTEMS: W. Edwards Deming, the inventor of Total Quality Management (TQM),
said it best: “If what you are doing cannot be described as a process, you don’t
know what you are doing.” Every dealer needs to implement a minimum of four
types of systems to truly becoming Solutions Selling oriented.
1. Prospecting Systems: Select at least five vertical markets—for
example, legal, medical, manufacturing, construction, and real estate—and have
prospecting letters written specific to those markets’ needs. Have salespeople
send these letters out in small quantities each week and follow those up with
phone calls the next week to set appointments. If you send too many letters,
then the calls will never be made.
2. Initial Appointment Systems: Eighty percent of all prospects decide in
the first two minutes of an initial appointment if they are willing to buy from
your salesperson. Give your salespeople the tools they need to be prepared.
ENGAGE is an acronym for six tools:
Exhibit – a notebook with the prospect’s name and logo on the front
News – article about the prospect’s company or industry
Gift – a small and inexpensive token of appreciation
Ask a common ground question – find out where the prospect is from
Give a compliment – about the prospect’s office, for instance
Examples – if you are talking to an attorney, reference other attorneys you have
3. Diagnostic Systems – Give your salespeople the tools they need to
define and diagnose business issues. Once again, select five vertical markets
and research what the primary business issues are for each of them. A great
place to discover these issues is on the association websites.
If one of the verticals you have selected is healthcare, look at association
websites for hospitals. Find articles dealing with the issues hospitals are
faced with today. Look at upcoming tradeshows and examine the breakout topics.
These are always geared to the challenges of the industries they support.
4. Presentation Systems – For each of the vertical markets you have
selected, prepare a presentation as well as a proposal. With the wonderful color
technology we have today, there is no reason you can’t have a one-page fact
sheet talking about how your company specializes in the legal market. Once
again, it is critical that both your presentations and proposals address the
business issues that are relevant to that industry.
ENVIRONMENT: Ask any dealer in America if they sell solutions and 95
percent will answer, “Yes.” When you ask them what solutions they sell, the same
95 percent will answer with a product type or description.
But what you have to understand is a solution, such as a document management
application, by itself has absolutely no value—NONE. If you truly want to get
your people to sell solutions, you have to get them focused. How can you do
1. Start at the top – Who are your customers? If you are the owner or
manager then your real customers are your employees. Your job is to make sure
your employees are successful. Once again, Deming tells us, “If your employees
are failing, 85 percent of the time it is because of faulty systems, and systems
are the responsibility of management.” Let your employees know that your job is
to make sure they are successful.
2. Focus on the customer – Kenneth Blanchard, in his outstanding book
“Raving Fans,” tells us that satisfied customers aren’t going to be good enough
in the new millennium. Make sure everyone in your company understands that your
goal is not satisfied customers. Your goal is “Raving Fans.”
3. Sell success – Make sure your employees understand that your company
is in the “Success Business.” Your customers’ success will ensure your company’s
success. Reward employees who come up with creative suggestions for helping your
customers become more productive.
It is my absolute belief that the sky is falling for those dealers who insist on
continuing to do things the old way. Now is the time to put SYSTEMS in place.
Now is the time to focus on creating the right ENVIRONMENT. And now is the time
to perfect the TECHNIQUES necessary to sell solutions.
Everyday I meet dealers who are truly passionate about their business. Do
yourself, your employees, and your prospects a favor—pass it on. It only takes a
spark to get a fire going!
Best Practice Tip
At your next sales meeting share your three biggest challenges as a business
owner with your salespeople and discuss how those challenges impact you on a
daily basis. Help them understand what it is like as a business owner to deal
with cash flow constraints, productivity issues, or whatever your issues are.
Help your salespeople become more knowledgeable about business and you will have
taken a practical step toward creating a solution selling company.