The Gulley Brothers: Small Dealership. Big Solutions, Sales Results6 Oct, 2004 By: Darrell Amy imageSource
The Gulley Brothers: Small Dealership. Big Solutions, Sales Results
Toshiba America Business Solutions’ Senior Vice President Rick Taylor stressed
it. Xerox Channels Group President Emerson Fullwood said future success would
depend on it. And thriving dealers have continually declared, “don’t miss the
for small independent dealers, entering solution sales is something that can be
easier said than done.
transition can seem overwhelming for an independent dealership that may not have
the budget of a mega dealer, which has the necessary funding to hire a new team
of specialists. In a small dealership, scarce resources must be closely managed
to deliver results. And so the necessity of moving into the solutions business
seems daunting to many independent dealers. It’s not an impossibility, however.
With careful coordination, a fairly small independent dealer can successfully
move into the solutions business.
this month’s article, you’ll meet the team at Standard Business Systems (SBS), a
family-owned dealership in Little Rock, Arkansas that has successfully entered
the document solutions business. Since beginning the solutions venture just over
a year ago, SBS, which makes under $10 million in annual revenues, has installed
seven document imaging systems with average software sales costs ranging from
$25,000 to $50,000.
will retrace how co-owners David and Richard Gulley transformed their
17-year-old company with a staff of just five salespeople into an effective
The SBS Story
“After 9/11 and the beginning of the recession, we began to see pressures on
margins that were more intense than ever with everyone dropping prices just to
try to get a deal,” David Gulley said. “We knew we had to do something to
diversify our business and differentiate from the competition.”
was then, David said, that SBS began looking into the possibility of selling
solutions. It was also around that time that the two brothers began to recognize
that their customers were looking for alternatives to filling filing cabinets
with mounds of paper.
saw that the industry was changing to where people were more concerned about
their documents than just making copies,” he said. “They were trying to still go
back to the theory of the paperless office. We are now closer to creating that
reality by providing systems to scan documents efficiently.”
seized its opportunity to change as several key clients began experiencing
problems with their networks.
would upgrade a current customer to a connected copier and find out that their
computer network had problems,” remembered David. “Many of these clients did not
have a reliable source for network service and looked to us to help them.”
response, the brothers created an IT department to meet their clients’ needs. To
accomplish this, they moved a few technically minded people out of the service
department. The IT department began handling both routine connectivity issues
and general network installation and service. The department, however, kept a
relatively low profile, only providing services to existing SBS clients.
didn’t want to hang ourselves out there in the yellow pages as a network service
provider,” David said. “However, we did see the opportunity to provide network
services to clients where we had developed a relationship.”
as SBS began installing scan-enabled MFPs, the role of the IT department
continued to evolve.
quickly learned that scanning the documents in is only part of the issue,”
Richard recalled. “The retrieval and manipulation of the documents is where new
is when SBS first saw the possibility of selling document management solutions.
With this potential market in mind, the SBS sales team began to approach their
current client base with the document management message.
were not positioned to have a large advertising budget to bring the message to
the marketplace,” Richard explained. “So what we had to do was take the
solutions message to our customer base. As you always do, you go to your most
comfortable customers that might have the need.”
Instead of just talking about the latest hardware features, the salespeople
began exploring how document management could address their current clients’
paper flow problems.
didn’t necessarily know everything about the software,” said Mark Roberts, a
tenured sales representative for SBS. “What I was able to do was listen to my
clients and identify with the problems they were having in managing all of the
success rate was very good. According to Richard, the closing rate was 80-90
percent on the first deals because they worked with clients they knew. One of
the first clients to come on board with document solutions was a multi-lot car
really didn’t see a need to buy new copiers,” Roberts said. “However, they had a
huge problem with archiving all of their paperwork from car sales.”
car dealership was very open to exploring paperless alternatives. In January of
2004, SBS made its first software sale and electronic filing system installation
nine months after entering the solutions business. In addition, SBS was able to
sell the car dealership an MFP during the implementation of the software
the first installation in place, the sales team was energized to go outside
their customer base and approach prospective clients with the document solutions
never encounter a customer without asking them about their document archival and
retrieval,” said Marcus Vess, a first year sales representative for the company.
“I validate my prospects by knowing how many file cabinets they have.”
result, Vess has installed three document management systems this year. Two of
the three systems have been new clients and have included software and hardware.
clients tend to view the software as the big purchase, and they don't even
hesitate to include a MFP in the package,” he said.
is now on track to sell six more document management systems this year for total
revenue of $500,000.
In their 18 months since entering the solutions business, the SBS team has
learned there are four essential “Cs” to succeeding in solutions
sales—commitment, competency, communication and creativity.
In order for a dealership to transition to a solutions model there must be a
strong commitment from the ownership and management team. Successfully entering
this market requires more than just throwing out the solutions buzzwords to
of the biggest recipes for failure is to have a young, technically-minded sales
representative win a software deal and not have a management team that is
committed. Inevitably, the client will end up unhappy because the expectations
for the functionality of the software were not clearly set, the dealer was not
experienced with the software, the installation was not cleanly executed, and
the dealership did not have the capability and infrastructure to support the
software after the sale.
software solutions business is new territory for most small dealerships. Anytime
a business ventures into new territory, there will be challenges. If the
management team is committed to overcoming these issues, forward progress can be
made. Otherwise, after the first frustrating software install, the temptation is
to run back to the familiar hardware-only business model.
SBS, the first few sales were more support intensive than they would have liked,
but things improved with experience.
our staff got more prepared and experienced the support requirements went down,”
IT Manager Zach Wirges commented. “As you learn how to package software it
becomes more profitable on its own. Plus as you become more efficient at
installing, there is less support involved.”
Developing competency in information technology is critical for a small
dealership to compete. In most small dealerships there are one or two service
people with an aptitude for information technology. These people are usually
responsible for connecting MFPs and managing the dealership’s IT issues.
though the IT staff is usually very busy with hardware connectivity issues, it
is important to help these people further develop their technical competency.
One way to do this is to shift responsibility for basic connectivity to other
members of the service department, which allows the IT staff to explore more
advanced software solutions and gain more experience in the business.
part to furthering solutions knowledge is developing strong relationships with
software vendors. SBS’s software partners have played an integral part in their
success. They handle two different document management products: Questys and
DocuWare. With the Questys package, SBS does the marketing and outsources the
installation to Toshiba’s Solutions Group. With DocuWare, SBS can handle the
entire installation. As SBS has gained more experience, they now handle most of
have a DocuWare representative from Dallas that can come on site and help us
with software installations if we need him,” said Richard Gulley, whose team
went through a one week training program with DocuWare. “At first he helped us a
lot, but now we are able to do most installations on our own.”
Developing competency in the sales team is also important. One way that SBS
develops their salespeople is by having the IT Manager participate in every
client meeting, which is also a method to train your representatives without
spending an extra dime.
the salespeople see us interact with the customer, they learn what questions to
ask,” Wirges said. “Now some of our salespeople can handle preliminary calls
because they know what to ask and what we can and cannot do.”
Entering the document solutions business requires strong communication between
the sales representative, the client, the IT group and the management team. It
is essential for all parties involved to have a clear understanding of what the
software is expected to do. Wirges has found this to be a critical part of SBS’
biggest challenge in selling software is lining up the expectations,” he said.
“The customer’s idea of what the solution will do for them is usually different
from our idea. You have to be very specific when you paint the picture of what
the solution will do. Otherwise, the client will take it and run with it in
different directions. It comes down to allocating enough time to understand
ensure client expectations are managed, the IT Department at SBS is involved in
every sale. In every solution sales situation, the ales representative, the IT
manager and the prospective client all sit down together and interact. Once the
opportunity is identified, the IT Manager drives most of the conversation and
demonstration since he is the one who is trained on the software and is going to
be managing the implementation.
has also developed paperwork that they fill out line by line with the client so
they understand what their expectations are and they sign off on it.
clearly outlining our client’s expectations we are able ensure that the
implementation goes smoothly and the client is happy,” Wirges said. “Software is
very plan-intensive. You have to lay it out in the beginning. Pause
intermittently and verify what the client’s expectations are. It is much easier
to make the change on the front end than to meet an expectation after the
solution is implemented.”
The very essence of the solutions business is finding creative answers to
business problems. The real value that a dealership brings to a client is found
in the ability to understand their needs and create an integrated solution.
old hardware business does not require much creativity. The solutions business
thrives on creativity. Dealers entering the solutions business should look for
ways to think outside the box. Small dealerships have a distinct advantage over
large mega dealers because they have the ability to design and implement
creative solutions for their clients.
see our true value in having close client relationships where we can really
understand their business problems,” David Gulley said. “From there, we have the
flexibility as a small business to bring a customized solution to the client
that really can help them out.”
creativity can end up bringing a new dimension of life to a sleepy business.
software is something that our clients want,” he said. “It solves so many issues
for so many people—money, time efficiency. Even the few installs we have done
recently, the clients are so thankful and excited about having the solution.
That has probably been the most fun part about it all. When you get it in and
working, it is neat to see how much we can impact their business.”