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Playing By IT's Rules (Part I )

8 May, 2008 By: Carla Nasse imageSource

Playing By IT's Rules (Part I )

Selling office equipment is truly a great career.  I don’t think anyone ever
wakes up one morning and while getting ready for school decides that a career
selling office equipment is the job they want when they grow up.  Nonetheless,
over time, one usually arrives at this decision.  As with other careers,
advancing technology has changed this career significantly.

Ten years ago, a rep could hit the streets, basically cold calling, hunting
for prospects, setting up the demo and closing the deal.  According to your
sales manager, if it took more than three days to close a deal, the odds of
closing it went down with every day that prospect lingered on your forecast. 
You could get your impending deal closed by talking to the end-user, department
manager and the CFO.  With commitment from those three, your sales deal was as
good as on the board.  The IT people were the folks that you could avoid, 
saying just “Hi” in the hallway to be polite and move on.  They spoke in a
language completely foreign to us mere mortals (aka sales giants) in Geekspeak. 

Example: A client isn’t a customer in Geekspeak. According to Computer
Science, a client is a computer or program that can download files for
manipulation, run applications, or request application-based services from a
file server.  IT had nothing to do with our stand-alone copiers.  They used
printers in that world they created behind their doors.  They have nothing to do
with the rules of our game of:  Get in.  Get the deal.  Move on.

Progressive  Thinking

Fast forward five years.  The rules of engagement have changed.  The office
equipment we were selling was getting connected to the customer’s network,
sometimes.  You could have had the approval of the department manager by showing
how much more efficient it was to have a copier that could also be used as a
printer.  You could have gotten the CFO to sign off by showing how much money
you were going to save the company by not having redundant pieces of equipment. 
But if you didn’t have the approval of the IT department, your deal was never
going on the board.  Instead, you heard it ringing in your ears as you left the
building. “Not on my network.”  So we had to add another step to the selling
process.  The IT department’s approval was going to be critical.  We needed to
get our IT Specialist to go in with us to be our interpreter of the Geekspeak. 
It was hard enough to get everything scheduled and coordinated before having to
fit the IT department into the equation.  You lost another week and the sales
cycle got longer.  Everyday, you were taking a chance that the competition would
find their way in and complicate everything.  If they did, there went your
margin.  You didn’t give up.  There was always that chance you could get your
manufacturer’s rep in quickly and save this deal.  Your rep had a CDIA+
certification, was knowledgeable and could talk about their latest solution for
document management.  That was a way of making your deal look better than the
hardware the competition was proposing.  Your compensation plan was based on
just the hardware, but if it saved the deal, it was worth a try.  IT was
changing the rules!

Where It’s At

So, here we are selling office equipment in 2008.  Connected equipment is
now the norm.  We don’t even have to call it out as being “connected equipment”
anymore.  It’s the output device on the network.  Hardly anyone just sells
hardware anymore.  Everyone says they sell “solutions.”  Dealerships have more
IT Specialists on board, but scheduling still proves to be a challenge.  With
the next logical progression in the business, dealer owners found that they can
improve their bottom line by adding network services to the company’s offerings,
especially if the customer base is primarily the SMB (small and medium-sized
businesses) market. 

The IT Specialists are pulled into the network services side of the
business.  It still takes time you don’t have to get them in front of your
prospect’s IT department.  You know enough Geekspeak to be dangerous, but not
enough to pull off a complete conversation with IT people. The manufacturer’s
rep that you can take in with you, now needs 2 to 3 weeks notice to be able to
schedule the trip to your office.  Maybe you get lucky and the rep’s regularly
scheduled trip is next week.  The old saying, “the harder I work, the luckier I
get” is never more true than today.  Learn more than just Geekspeak.  Understand
the difference between CAT-5 and RJ-45.  Know what the distinction is between
static and dynamic addressing.  Be able to explain to an IT person in Geekspeak
why your solution cuts down on network traffic when compared to their current
equipment configurations, or the impact your proposed software solution will
have on the network.  Your IT Specialist can still come in when they’re
available, but now you can keep your sales cycle moving forward.

Certifiably Qualified

Now about that CDIA+ certification that the manufacturer’s rep has.  CDIA+
is about understanding the entire document management process.  A CDIA+
certified rep can work with the customer’s IT department to help design the
document management process, not just talk about the front end of the process. 
This is a new experience for the IT department.  They aren’t used to talking to
a “copier rep” that actually understands what they are doing and the systems
they have so painstakingly established and nurtured.  For that SMB customer, the
CDIA+ certified rep is really their consultant.  They don’t have the internal
expertise and need someone who knows what they need to  make it happen.

Things have really changed a lot in the past 10 years when it comes to
selling office equipment.  The IT department is very much involved in any
transaction that touches their network.  If you’re going to play in IT’s world,
you’re going to have to play by their rules.

Carla Nasse is a former Senior Marketing Manager & Regional Sales Manager in
the document imaging industry & now Director of Corporate Sales for Specialized
Solutions, an IT training company. She is one of the original Cornerstone
Advisory Committee members for CompTIA in developing the PDI+ certification for
the document technology channel.  At 800.942.1660 X 286/

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