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I'm Mad and I Can't Stand It Anymore

15 Dec, 2003 By: Terrill Klett imageSource

I'm Mad and I Can't Stand It Anymore

The articles I
submit for publication have always been in a positive light. I have a great
passion for this industry, and it's in my nature to always accentuate the
positive. However, with the risk of tarnishing my reputation, I need to let you
know, I'm mad!

The office products
industry obviously isn't Hollywood. Success came so easily to Kevin Costner in
the movie Field of Dreams with the famous statement, "build it and they
will come." Wait a minute! Haven't we built the ultimate "dream
machine," pleasantly disguised as the all-powerful "digital
do-it-all?" Where are the customers? Why aren't we selling more copiers
(cleverly disguised as MFPs and Digital Imaging Systems) than we were 5- or even
15-years ago? Did the replacement of printers deceive us all?

Wasn't scanning
supposed to yield us additional sales? Surely "solution selling," with
promises of software add-ons, was supposed to be the crème de la crème.
Finally, there's my personal love-hate relationship: e-mail. Wasn't e-mail
supposed to enhance our communications and give us leads at our fingertips like
IT personnel, who are infamous for only responding to their e-mail?

Piecing Together a
Positive Picture Now that I've gotten rid of that baggage, I'm feeling my old
"positive" self- surfacing once again. So, what can we do to increase
business from this day forward? Currently the rulebook is still being written.
We've still got some pieces missing to the puzzle that are nowhere to be found.
But, not to be defeated, we can find the missing pieces to put this puzzle
together, giving us the big picture. You see, we must analyze the problems and
from there, realize the solutions.

Problem: We are
scaring the customer with too many offerings (solutions) for them to handle. We
are prolonging the sales cycle by causing confusion, thus eliminating the
chances of a sale altogether. It's way too overwhelming.

Solution: Be
"choosy" with what you're offering and specialize in it. Manufacturers
are doing a nice job with add-ons, including software, but you need to exclude
some of them and focus on just a few. Hit up software vendors for those
"free trial" versions if you're not sure where to start. Become an
authority - learn a software to the point of perfection! Two simple softwares to
start with are OCR and copy/print tracking.

Problem: An
unprepared sales force.

Solution: This isn't
a new problem and the sales force cannot accept the blame. Management is at
fault here; providing meetings and handouts that just don't cut it. To learn you
must teach. Have each team member research a subject, product, or solution and
present it to everyone. Have them choose something that they are not good with.
Learning will be much more effective this way because they are put on the spot.
Think outside of the box -- instead of the regular demo contest, have a list of
features and time each sales rep. Make a theme around this race (Olympics, horse
racing, or any sport) with individual and team awards for finishing with the
fastest times with the most accurate answers.

Problem: The cream
isn't rising. Are the same few individuals are doing the selling? What's being
done to challenge the others?

Solution: Challenge
your team to excel, and offer big rewards for those who step forward. For
example, if you have a solution you are "running" with, have a contest
to see who can present it the best. The reward: exclusivity - allow the
"winning rep" the ability to market his solution in any territory!
How's that for motivation! Let's say you want to attack the AS 400 market.
Everyone gets a fair chance to prepare and show their wares in front of their
colleagues. It should become obvious whom you want in front of a potential
customer. If this is too bold for you, at least certify everyone on the product
or solution.

Problem: Due to
constant changes, you're losing ground to the competition.

Solution: I used to
know by memory how to beat out any of the analog competitors. Now, I have to
read the bullet points of a PowerPoint presentation to know the pros and cons.
Investigate your competition by determining who has a good sales rep and product
in your territory, and learn by memory the key areas where you are stronger.
BERTL does an awesome job with this and their reports seem to come out only days
after the product. Don't cheap out, invest in the industry resources! I hear
complaints all the time about losing a $20,000 deal, if only $500 would have
been invested.

Problem: Turnover
remains high, and always has been.

Solution: This is an
issue that angers me most. We have some wonderful products and solutions that I
would have never dreamed would be entering this business 20 years ago. Though
this technology requires a mountain of knowledge and time, we are still not
paying or equipping our army correctly. It seems like everyone is taking their
work home, so make your reps productive. Reward one year of service with a
printer or a fax, and the next year a copier or MFP. Service and supplies will
always be the backbone in this business, so reward the rep for additional
clicks! If the product is connected, pay extra for each additional click. Why
not pay .001 to the sales rep for each connected click? Printing 25,000 copies
per month would be a $25 payout and a career builder because who's going to quit
with additional revenue perks coming in? Pay at least an extra set amount with
each controller installed and running.

Problem: Lack of
knowledge concerning the potential of your territory, especially the correct
contacts and the location of high-end equipment.

Solution: Automate
your database! Do you know where the segment four and five businesses are
located? When a new rep starts, be able to hand over a contact list with the
correct decision makers. Winning deals in the segment four and five arena is the
biggest key to decrease turnover. The second is an updated and correct list of
who and when to attack. If you can't trust the rep with the list, then you hired
the wrong person. When a sales rep leaves, it should be seamless for the
replacement to call the potential "big buyers" the next day. The
database needs to include all decision makers, including the IT department.
Didn't Bill Gates give us a big hint when he stated, "He who owns the
network, owns the customer."

Don Carlile,
president of Adams Remco in South Bend, Indiana summed it up best when he
stated, "The industry today is great but confusing." The problem is
with the whole industry, especially with software. What was that product for?
Was it to manage, distribute or organize?"

I sympathize with
Carlile; there is a lot of confusion because there is "too much" going
on. It seems like I know more and more about less and less. We all need to do a
better job and not blame it on the economy. Opportunity is out there, have a
plan, and yes "they will come".

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