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ISM Article

Solution Sales Stalled?

26 Jan, 2009 By: Max Rosenthall imageSource

Solution Sales Stalled?

Before we start, let's agree that to use the official version of The
Copier Sales Dictionary definition of the noun Solution: [suh-loo-shuh n] i.e.
Anything you sell other than just copiers. My copier proposal was half the price
and I still got crushed! They said that even though we have been their copier
vendor for the last 10 years, going forward it was in their best interest to
give their business to a more knowledgeable company that can provide more than
just copy machines, but actual solutions to their overall business, especially
in today’s economy.

At countless sales meetings copier dealers have stood in front of their sales
force and extolled the virtues of selling solutions. You regurgitated words like
“applying industry leading expertise to…” or “develop and deliver comprehensive,
customer-focused solutions” and other similar notes when explaining the
importance of selling solutions. You have read all the industry analyst reports
complete with the pie charts and bar graphs of industry trends moving towards
the solution sale. You tweaked the compensation plan with additional incentives
when a solution sale is closed.

When all of this did not provide the expected results, you designated some of
the more tenured reps to focus solely on the solution sale and you bestowed the
sacred title of “Specialist” on their new business card. But still, little or no
sales from your (copier and/or...) reps.

Getting the Answers

Figuring it can’t be you, it’s got to be them, you looked outside the
organization for the answer. Enter the sales trainers and the one-week boot
camps. This was marginally successful...as in taking your reps out of the field
for a week and further losing momentum. One week does not an informed sales rep
make. You were then convinced that you just needed to find the right person and
the right person did not exist in your company. Seeming like a good idea at the
time, you hired that ex-IKON / ex-Xerox / or my personal favorite, the ex-Kodak
manager to carry the company flag. This, surely you thought, will guarantee your
solution sales. Yet often, the only guarantee that occurred was the large
financial one you contracted to pay this person. So often after all this effort,
your solutions sales have not really increased. In fact, your overall sales are
down from the year before because all the changes distracted you from the core
focus of thoroughly addressing the changing market (along with ongoing training
or information “bytes” to keep current), with regards to your sales team, adding
new and better strategies.

Re-Think Your Reasoning

The actual reason for the stalled solution sales is very simple. Copier
sales people, in my opinion, have historically have never had to create a
compelling reason or unearth a compelling business “plan” for the customer to
buy. Prove it, you say? Of the sales that were closed last year, the
overwhelming majority were triggered by either a lease expiring, a lease close
enough to buyout and keep the customer’s price about the same, a competitor’s
proposal to your current customer, or the customer complaining about the copier
and demanding a new one. We have relied on the lease expiration date and
customer dissatisfaction to create the reason to buy. Still disagree? Answer
this: What percentage of the sales last year involved upgrading a copier that
was initially a cash purchase and was not leased? I bet it is a very similar
percentage of printer management sales closed last year. The idea is the same.
The customer owns all the desktop printers. They are not on lease. There is no
stated existence of a magical time when the customer is required to make a
decision on the future
of the printer fleet. They do not receive a monthly invoice summarizing all the
associated costs and a reminder that the lease expires in three months. The main
reason a customer would choose to procure a printer management program is a
compelling reason that bridges the gap to either move towards a more desirable
state or move away from an undesirable one.

Getting Fit

Often, many copier sales people, even management, do not flex their innate
skills, while others don’t have the desire to build the bridge to broadening
their information scope. Take document management software solutions for
example, or becoming more informed overall in the needs of the customer to help
run his business more efficiently and cost effectively, becoming the “total
provider” to secure client confidence. If your reps are uninformed and cannot
develop a compelling case for a customer to modify an existing process (from
electronically increasing productivity and workflow to even analyzing how they
currently buy desktop printers, service them and procure the associated
consumables), it’s understandable as to why many reps cannot effectively sell
software document management programs. Especially as this type of program is an
entirely new process for the customer. I cannot recall a single sales
appointment when a prospect has said, “I am so glad you are here. Three people
in accounting will be “retired” in 6 months and I was hoping you had a
combination of hardware, software, and professional services that could not only
supplement their existing responsibilities, but accelerate the entire document
workflow process in that department.”

we fault the sales reps? Just because their skills on the miniature golf course
have been up to par, we can’t now expect them to play golf well without any
training. Sure, both activities use putters, require keeping your head down, and
use those stubby little pencils without erasers to record the score. But here we
are placing unrealistic expectations on the reps to embody the sophistication of
orchestrating a solutions sales type transaction just because management said to
do it. Dead man walking.

If you do not develop an alternative such as a good training program, provide
appropriate information; add IT & Service input on software applications into
the mix, your company won’t have a real chance in the competitive market.  So,
quality-led solutions anyone?

Max Rosenthal is an experienced industry consultant and writer who can be
reached for more information by emailing maxrosenthal@gmail.com or by phoning
his office at 760-918-0900.

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