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Selling Solutions, Not Just Hardware (Part 1)

12 Sep, 2007 By: Roger Markham imageSource

Selling Solutions, Not Just Hardware (Part 1)

Selling multifunction peripherals (MFPs) is a tough business, and it’s not
getting any easier. These days, competition is everywhere, while margins on
equipment and service keep shrinking.

Savvy dealers sell a complete solution to a customer’s needs—the whole ball
of wax—hardware, software, service contracts, and custom fitting and training.
They’re becoming the one stop shop that customers turn to when they need to
maximize their office productivity.

The secret to making this approach work is to choose the right partners to
help you create the solution your customers need. Not doing so can cost time,
money, and the customer’s goodwill and ongoing business.

Your first choice is to decide what types of solutions you will offer. If
your customer base is primarily in one industry, start out with vertical
software and workflow solutions designed for that industry.

If you are looking for a profitable solution to address, either to get
started in this type of selling or to add to your user base, consider Document
Management. A Document Management system is a combination of hardware and
software that captures paper and electronic documents, stores them in an
electronic filing cabinet, and makes them easy to find and use when needed.

As much as we keep hearing about the “paperless office,” in the real world,
businesses will still have to deal with mountains of paper for many years to
come. This includes paper that comes into the business and moves from department
to department; paper that is created by the business, printed, modified and
redistributed; and paper that moves out of the enterprise to become part of
another business’s workflow.

The right Document Management solution lets your customers deal effectively
with this flood of documents. Your customers won’t have to waste time searching
through file cabinet drawers, looking for misfiled papers.

Time is the most precious nonrenewable resource. Helping your customers
become more productive by reducing or eliminating wasted time saves money for
them and makes money for you.

Vertical markets, including financial, legal and medical, are prime customers
for a Document Management solution. There is a wide selection of software
vendors who do a great job of addressing the needs of these specific industries.

Chances are that you already have one or more hardware partners, but do your
current partners give you all of the flexibility that you need to offer your
customers the best solutions?

Many hardware companies call themselves “solutions providers” and follow a
business model that simply loads their customers up with numerous MFPs. While
this may be profitable in terms of hardware sales and service contracts, it may
not always be the best solution for your customers.

Your customer may be better served with a mix of devices—MFPs, printers,
scanners and document management software solutions—that are custom selected and
deployed so that the right device is in the right spot to be of most use to the

An MFP Based Solution May Not Be The Best Solution

There is a natural tendency to throw hardware at a customer’s productivity
problem and call it a solution. After all, if the MFPs that you are specifying
are priced at $15,000 or more, and you can sell three of these rather than one,
that’s another $30,000 in hardware sales, as well as two more MFPs to put under
service contracts. That’s not an insignificant piece of business.

Still, that configuration may not be the best use of the $45,000 and the
customer just might choke on the price. Chances are they’ll walk away thinking
that they can’t afford to be that productive.

No one is suggesting that you pass up a $45,000 sale, or undersell what the
customer is willing to pay or has budgeted. However, your customers are looking
to you to recommend the most cost effective way to meet their workflow and
document management needs, and when you can provide a solution that not only
saves them money over the long run, but costs them less up front, you will have
gone a long way in terms of establishing trust and credibility—especially if
more than a casual portion of their needs include scanning.

Let’s look at two ways to spend that $45,000 hardware budget. For this
examination, we’ll exclude service contract, software, and training and support
costs. You can help your customer spend $45,000 by selling him or her three MFPs
at $15,000 a piece with a total scanning speed of 105 ppm and a total printing
speed of 90 ppm. Your customer is getting the output equivalent of a small
production machine and the ability to scan a lot of documents.

The downside is that the ability to scan input to the document management
system is only available at three locations. Because of the size and noise of
the typical MFP, there’s a pretty fixed set of locations where these can be set
up. The location needs to be central to the users, which means that it’s likely
that there will be some users who are inconvenienced by the location.

An inconvenienced user is one who will be reluctant to make full use of the
system. It doesn’t take many of these users to put a serious crimp in the
productivity this system is supposed to improve!


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