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Sell Value... Not Just Product

11 Jun, 2009 By: Laurel Sanders imageSource

Sell Value... Not Just Product

In a competitive economy, office equipment and supplies dealers, and solution providers and their sales staff spend most of their efforts garnering their next sale rather than considering long-term sales strategies.  Although sales are critical for survival, a short-term focus
creates a vicious cycle of competing to remain viable. Alternatively, building a groundswell of enthusiasm among customers will help you thrive.  Below describes the changing marketplace & relays a sales strategy that leads to sustainable business for the future.

It’s a whole new world

The Greek philosopher Heraclites stated long ago, “Nothing endures but change itself.”  We know that as times change, we must change with them.  Sales people whose primary opportunities historically lay with office equipment, supplies and services may perceive shrinking
opportunities as the world becomes “greener” and less focused on print, paper, and related supplies.  Yet there’s no reason for despair. You’ll find your niche if you recognize some key evolving needs and take advantage of the opportunities they present.

Moving from ‘what’ to ‘why’

Most sales people are enthusiastically communicative about their products, as they should be.  The problem is that passionately articulating what you sell, and why people should buy it, actually limits your sales opportunities.  In contrast, sales reps who listen to customers
airing their daily business trials have an opportunity to provide significant value by offering services and products that will help them achieve broader goals. 

Imagine this: 

Scenario 1: You service a college whose enrollment services office buys supplies, scanners, and equipment from you regularly.  The client mentions frustrations related to processing student applications.  Management needs a way to sign top students before they are admitted to
competing institutions.  You wonder if you can help.

Option A:  The institution hires a consultant or document management vendor and buys products to store, access, and process applications faster.  They recommend appropriate hardware, software, and services.  You miss out on potential sales. 

Option B: You strengthen the value of your relationship by becoming the consultant and trusted go-to person your client needs.  You locate a reputable vendor who will work with your company’s line of hardware. The customer has recently purchased hardware with functionality
that hasn’t been explored, so they may not need to start from scratch.  By educating yourself, you can explain why it makes sense to build on the solution they already have.  They save money, and you profit from services revenue.

Scenario 2:  You service an insurer that has a longstanding relationship with your company.  The company is struggling to remain viable.  They are too small to provide services that would allow them to compete effectively with larger companies, and don’t have enough resources
to staff their call center adequately to enable 24/7 service.  The client’s multi-function devices enable scanning and indexing, but the customer isn’t aware of the capabilities, and you don’t know how they work.

Option A:  Management keeps trying to compete, but staff can’t keep up with the work volume.  The company’s reputation suffers. Trying to save money, some of your service contracts are not renewed.  Eventually the company is bought by a firm that uses another supplier, and you
lose a valued and regular client.  “Oh well,” you think, “that’s the risk of doing business.  There was nothing I could do.”

Option B: You educate yourself about the capabilities of the client’s current hardware.  You also learn about powerful workflow automation tools the client could add to enable 24/7 desktop service.  New-found efficiency lets them reallocate existing call center staff and
process more work, 24/7.  You help to save the company; retain your customer; and provide valuable services to help them succeed.  Ultimately, you win the customer’s loyalty and increase your revenue stream.

What managers need to know

Cut-throat competition has changed the game for you and your clients.  No one can count on yesterday’s tools and strategies to succeed.  Change is constant; the only way to adapt is by giving your team tools and time so they can offer the value clients are desperately
seeking.  Two options:

  • Hire an IT guru to provide in-depth support to your sales staff.  When a customer questions functionality the sales person doesn’t understand, there is a direct line to an on-site person who can provide immediate answers and support.
  • Encourage your sales team to learn new tools and technologies together.  They may compete against each other for sales, but you will raise the collective bar for service and their confidence in delivering it.  This adds polish to your company’s
    reputation and helps your sales staff to shine.

What sales teams need to know

 Most people only use minimal functionality of their cell phones and software applications, and are unaware of existing equipment capabilities that can make them more efficient.  By helping your clients to capitalize on these investments, revenue
that might be spent buying software and hardware from other suppliers could be spent on your services to leverage what they already own. 

Feeling intimidated by everything you don’t know?  Expand your knowledge and grow your portfolio of services with these resources:

  • Free online Web seminars. Topics include electronic document management, workflow, security, integration, and going green.  A solid education will help you to extend the value of equipment your customers own or might purchase so you can give them
    solutions, not just products.
  • Major associations that serve your client’s industry.  They may provide helpful business white papers and other literature that explain the challenges customers like yours are facing, and tools, technologies, and strategies to help them.  If you
    understand the possibilities, you might garner more revenue by providing those services before your competitor does.
  • Manufacturer online product demos: Many suppliers offer free web-based seminars and demos of their capabilities online.  This is a great starting point for understanding some of the extended features of equipment you sell beyond the functions you already
  • Manuals make for dry reading, but there’s no better way to learn.  Don’t wait until emergencies arise; educate yourself now.  It’ll pay off, trust me it will.

Work with your teammates and educate each other. Ultimately, you will help your company generate more revenue, which logically makes you more valuable to your company and its clients.

Laurel Sanders is the director of public relations and communications for Optical Image Technology, makers of the DocFinity® suite of document management and workflow software.  For information, contact her at lsanders@docfinity.com
or visit  www.docfinity.com.

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