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ProSource: Evolving from an Everyday Dealer to a Client Consultant

7 Feb, 2006 By: Darrell Amy imageSource

ProSource: Evolving from an Everyday Dealer to a Client Consultant

the solutions plunge; it can be a frightening prospect. Everything you have
learned during your years in the copier industry is suddenly turned upside down
by the current technology craze. But what real choice do you have?

With pressures on hardware profit margins increasing, you seemingly have to make
a change. It’s a transformation that Ben Russert, president of Cincinnati-based
ProSource, is currently putting his company through.

The independent dealership, which services the Southern Ohio region, recently
launched a large market repositioning initiative that has resulted in a name
change and fundamental adaptations on how they approach their clients.

Russert, who is also the president of the Copier Dealers Association, shared the
story of his dealership’s journey towards being a solutions provider.

The Evolution

ProSource was established in 1985 under the name Cincinnati Copiers and
eventually became Pro-Copy Technologies after expanding into Dayton in the early
90s. Through the mid-90s the dealership capitalized on the digital revolution by
connecting early generation Konica MFPs to clients’ networks.

Pro-Copy’s transition to the solutions business began in mid-2001 as they were
preparing a bid for a large school district project that had the potential to
become one of their largest clients.

“The client required scanning solutions on their copiers,” recalled Scott
Mueller, executive VP of sales. “The client also wanted to move into desktop
faxing. We knew that our traditional sales representatives, although we could
educate them, couldn’t quite get to the technical level they needed.”

In early 2002, Russert began looking at IT solutions for his internal dealership

“I felt that the first thing we needed to do was to make IT a strategic part of
our company,” Russert said.

Pro-Copy engaged the services of a local IT company to assess the dealership’s
business goals and create an IT strategy.

“We wanted a professional game plan on how we could implement IT,” Russert
explained. “From there, we promoted a full time internal IT manager to implement

However, the dealership’s IT people that were connecting the current units did
not have the sales skills they needed to develop the solutions business. Really,
what was required was a hybrid of technical knowledge and sales skills.

“We were fortunate to have a technical person who was very talented on the IT
side and was a very good communicator,” Russert said. “He had a passion to learn
the software business and was looking for a challenge.”

With an internal IT plan in place, Pro-Copy started focusing on bringing
document solutions to their clients. The dealership promoted Darin Dempsey from
its IT department to head up a solutions sales team.

“Before the promotion, Darin was involved in a lot of internal initiatives,
including connectivity, training our service team, and training the
salespeople,” Mueller said. “We realized that we needed to focus him on the
sales aspect of solutions to move the business forward. So Darin began working
with the sales force.”

The first solutions that Pro-Copy installed were primarily print-related
products like Objectif Lune’s Planet Press (www.objectiflune.com). Soon after,
the dealership expanded into document management with Alchemy (www.captaris.com).
Document solutions are now a regular part of the dealership’s sales revenue.

Marketing Strategies

With structural changes in the IT department in place and the solutions business
gaining traction, Russert realized that the name Pro-Copy did not accurately
reflect the new direction of the business.

“We made the right internal changes,” he said. “Now we felt we needed to make
some external changes. But we were primarily a sales and service-driven
organization, so we barely knew how to spell the word marketing.”

Much like the internal IT issues the dealership faced a few years earlier,
Russert was getting a lot of marketing proposals across his desk. He realized
that he needed to formulate a plan to make marketing a strategic part of his

Russert engaged the services of a local marketing and PR firm to form a strategy
for the dealership. The marketing planning process started with a survey of the
company’s customers.

Pro-Copy learned a lot about its clients during the analysis, including how they
viewed the dealership, if they would do business with them again, and how its
current advertising and marketing support efforts were working.

The marketing company came back with a proposal to re-brand the company and then
implement an internal and external marketing communication’s plan. One result
was a name change from Pro-Copy to ProSource.

“We wanted to keep the word ‘Pro’ in our name because we felt it accurately
described our professional experience and approach to clients,” Russert said.
“It also had to do with us being able to source whatever it is that customers
need. The concept is that we are not a Konica Minolta dealer selling XYZ
products anymore. We are ProSource, which represents Konica Minolta, Kyocera,
Alchemy, Captaris, EFI, Panasonic scanners, and a variety of other products.”

Mueller had also observed that some clients were reluctant to do business with a
company named Pro-Copy.

“Solutions and IT buyers don’t buy copiers,” he said. “They buy printers,
scanners and imaging solutions. So really, our old name was misleading to our

Next, the dealership had an internal pre-launch to explain the intention and
vision of the new direction to the employees. The company also hosted a formal
launch that included key local partners and customers.

The event was followed up by several local newspaper and magazine interviews
along with a television and radio advertising campaign. Then the dealership
rented out local sports venues in Dayton and Cincinnati to present the new
company brand and direction to 150 of the dealership’s largest clients.

“I didn’t want anybody to be surprised,” Russert said.

A recent survey of customers has confirmed that the new direction is working.
The new name is also giving salespeople the opportunity to explain the
dealership’s total value proposition to current and potential clients.

“Everyone in the organization is now saying the same thing,” Russert pointed
out. “Our clients were getting an inconsistent message from the dealership. This
new focus has given our employees the tools to communicate the new direction of
the dealership.”

The marketing analysis also led to the TotalPro Experience.

“It describes the experience a client will have with our company,” Russert
explained. “At any time they’re not having this experience, anyone in the
company can help them get back on track. This is backed by our guarantee.”

The TotalPro Experience includes six steps:

1. Understand your business

2. Focus on your total solution

3. Customized support program

4. TotalPro Guarantee

5. Response team

6. Regular follow-up

The TotalPro Guarantee promises customers that if they are not satisfied with
ProSource’s services and the dealership is unable to rectify the issue, it will
replace the client’s equipment or refund the service money.

“We are very passionate and we respond with a high sense of urgency, so the
TotalPro Experience fits us well,” Russert said.

ProSource is also working on other ways to improve its relationship with its
customers. As a result of this process, Russert realized that his dealership had
been more reactive than proactive to changes in technology.

The dealership now has customer pods where customers are taken care of by
internal support groups. These groups are looking for specific client needs and
possible IT solutions that could be adopted to solve the problems.

In addition, with the increase in software placements, the dealership realized
that customer support beyond traditional field technicians’ activity is
necessary. ProSource is currently formulating a help desk to provide more
extensive software support to their clients.

“Our dealership has always been based on close relationships with our clients,”
Russert said. “This new technology gives us the ability to deepen that

Adjust your State of Mind

When transitioning your business from simply a copier dealership to a solutions
provider, you have to remember that the change is not only physical, but mental
as well. Here are just a couple of things to think about when making the big

You are now a technology source

Traditionally, copier dealers resold products from one or two copier
manufacturers. The sales representative identified the correct product for the
customer’s office and then convinced them that their copier brand and support
was the best.

The solutions business moves the focus from the product to the client’s
workflow. What do they do? How does information flow through their system? Where
are the challenges? The sales rep then recommends technology to solve the
client’s business problems.

This makes your dealership more of a technology source. The dealership pulls
together multiple brands of software, scan hardware, and computer systems to
create a solution. As a result, some dealers may want to identify less with
their copier brands in favor of building a strong brand image for the dealership
as a source for technological solutions.

Customers are Clients

Customers buy products. Clients pay professionals for advice.

Even if the dealer provides excellent service, as hardware becomes more reliable
and more of a commodity, upgrades of these customer relationships will be less
predictable than before.

Dealers transform customers to clients by engaging them on a more consultative
level. Solutions can be used as a platform to show current customers how to
leverage real business benefits out of their MFPs.

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