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Developing Dealership Diversity: Make Your Company Stand out in a Crowd

10 Sep, 2003 By: Wes Phillips imageSource

Developing Dealership Diversity: Make Your Company Stand out in a Crowd

recent years our firm has witnessed many office technology dealers fall into the
trap of generating the majority of their equipment sales through upgrading their
customer base. At best, this behavior leads to complacency, uninspired marketing
efforts and ultimately inadequate revenue levels and net profit margins. In
order for every independent office technology dealer to achieve their goal of
sustaining a powerful, profitable company that is viewed as a marketplace
leader, the ongoing acquisition of new customers is essential.

order to attract new customers, there are three very simple steps a
forward-thinking independent dealer has to cause to occur: 1. Make prospects
aware that your dealership exists. 2. Persuade the prospect to include your
dealership in their buying cycle. 3. During the buying cycle, provide the
prospect with compelling reasons (customer benefits) to choose your
dealership-this means focusing not just on technology benefits, but also on the
customer benefits of your dealership.

the past, this column has presented effective marketing and advertising insight
and strategies to help office technology dealers to be successful with steps #1
and #2. This month, the focus will be on item #3- effectively differentiating
your dealership during the prospect's buying cycle.

longer can a dealership rely solely on its machines to distinguish itself from
the competition. Support, dedication and service are they keys to successfully
landing an account and even the smallest dealership has the ability to compete
and succeed. How you choose to stand out in the crowd of companies competing for
market share begins with the customer. As you will see, creating an impression
at the beginning of the buying cycle is vital to successful sales and getting it
right is not a matter of size but a matter of commitment.

Prospect's Perspective How would you like the opportunity to be involved in a
deal where the prospect was currently utilizing a functional, yet dated analog
copier, a three year old HP network printer, several inexpensive desk-top
printers and a full color, connected copier/printer? Plus, the prospect was
extensively using traditional fax technology to send documents and communication
to their clients, prospects and vendors. In addition, during the entire buying
cycle, your sales team would have direct access to the key administrative
person, the IT manager and the company's CEO.

this is just the opportunity that our firm presented to three of the top
publicly-traded document imaging companies. For the sake of the article, we felt
that naming companies was not necessary as the article seeks only to show
independent dealers that there are opportunities for them to successfully
compete against larger businesses.

motivation for this project stemmed from several of our clients who expressed
the belief that these companies have better trained sales representatives,
especially when it comes to mid-level and higher accounts. Our objective was to
gain insight into how the sales representatives from these companies handled the
buying cycle and to uncover the secrets of their perceived success. What we
learned is amazing and should provide encouragement to every independent office
technology dealer to leverage his or her dealership's strengths during the
buying cycle.

Company #1 The representative that met with us was a very professional looking
and sounding woman. During our one hour meeting it became obvious that she
understood digital technology and as it turns out, she had worked with the
company for several years. Her fact-finding consisted of a series of questions
(from memory) and notes jotted on an 8.5 x 11-inch white notepad.

questions included: 1. How did we use our current equipment? 2. What were our
copy and print volumes? 3. What were our current costs? 4. What software
programs were we currently using? 5. When would we like to bring in the new
technology? (Our response was that we were going to be deliberate in our
decision making, yet if there were compelling efficiencies and cost savings, we
would be foolish not to implement a change quickly). 6. Did we want to purchase
or lease?

sales rep explained that Company #1 would be a good choice because they
represented more than one manufacturer and that they offered an array of network
services. Toward the end of our time together, it was decided that the next step
would be for our team to visit the facility for a demo and to review their
proposal. When the sales rep left the only hard copy material we received was a
business card!

Company #2 Our next interaction took place a couple of days later when Company
#2 sent a three-person team consisting of a District Sales Manager, a Mid Volume
Systems Engineer and a Named Account Executive (a title that means very little
to the end-user). All of the same questions were asked (again from memory) and
only the "Named Account Executive" took notes. There were some notable
differences from Company #1's interaction: o There was more verbal overview of
Company #2 regarding their size and depth of technology. o A lengthier verbal
overview of the company's service capability. o There was a question inquiring
into what our firm hoped to achieve with new document imaging technology. o We
were told about Company #2's "management solution" which offers
options to purchasing or leasing equipment.

when the #2 team left, all we were left with were business cards.

Company #3 Company #3 was an Authorized Agent and our third interaction. A
two-person team was sent to meet with us. They too asked the same questions
(from memory). However, this sales team did a little better job at their
fact-finding. They probed as follows:

They asked each of us what our vision was with the new technology. 2. They
focused on how new digital document technology would facilitate and improve our
internal functions and abilities. 3. They referenced existing high-profile
accounts (in our industry) to substantiate the manufacturer's viability. 4. They
shared product brochures.

were very good probing questions, yet the sales team stumbled noticeably by: 1.
Asking about their competitors and aggressively mentioning reasons to avoid
doing business with these companies. 2. Pushing too hard on the "trial
close." 3. Mentioning their "Total Satisfaction Guarantee" and
then downplaying its significance.

Or Demolition? After meeting with each of the three companies, the next step was
to schedule a demonstration of the recommended equipment. Over the past ten
years, my personal experience with independent dealers is that they all want an
opportunity to bring the prospect into their facility for an in-house demo. The
rational I usually hear is that with an in-house demo, the dealer has an
opportunity to not only demo the equipment and technology, but to also
demonstrate to the prospect that the independent dealership has substance,
structure and a very capable team of professionals to support the prospect after
the sale.

the hundreds of face-to-face interviews I have conducted with customers of
independent dealers, they validated the wisdom of this approach. So, at the end
of each of the initial meetings, we asked the sales representative what the next
step should be. Each of them indicated that our team needed to see and
experience the equipment. Our team agreed.

into this stage, I was surprised at the lack of differentiation that had been
established at the end of the first meeting. So, my expectation was that the
demonstration was where the companies would begin to separate themselves from
the competition. Here is what we experienced.

Company #1 The representative for Company #1 was leaving on vacation soon after
the fact finding and, since we still had two other vendors to meet, it was
agreed that we would wait until she returned from vacation to schedule an
in-house demo. Upon her return, it took the sales representative more than five
weeks to get our team to her facility. The first scheduled appointment was
cancelled because of a scheduling conflict on our team. The second appointment
was scheduled. This time we were told that the sales representative was going to
be out of town, but the technical staff would be available to take us through
the demo. We called the day of the appointment to confirm and, to our surprise,
we learned that no one was aware of the scheduled appointment, so the demo was
cancelled. Several days later the sales representative called and another demo
was scheduled. The third attempt at a demo was finally successful.

we arrived at the facility, we were greeted by our representative and shown to
the demo room. It was a very impressive room with several machines available for
review. A representative of the technical staff was there to lead the
demonstration. He was very competent, knowledgeable and answered all of our
questions. The content of the demonstration focused exclusively on the
technology. No information was shared with us about the company's ability to
service our account after the sale and no attempts were made to discern if our
firm had concerns other than technology.

the end of our time together, the sales representative asked how we wanted to
proceed. We requested price quotes for the two machines that seemed appropriate
for our circumstances. The quotes were received via e-mail the next day.

Company #2 The sales team for Company #2 also recommended a demo at their
facility. Unfortunately this demo took weeks to schedule and as of this writing,
the demo has still not taken place. According to Company #2, the ongoing reason
for the delay was that their demo room was being reconfigured and one of the
manufacturers was not being cooperative. The reality is, at this point, I have
almost forgotten who we met with and what products we even discussed.

Company #3 The sales team for Company #3 had also suggested an in-house demo and
it was agreed that they would call us within a few days to schedule the
appointment. After a couple of attempts to coordinate an acceptable date, the
representative suggested an alternative-placing a machine in our facility for
three days. This was an insightful move on the part of Company #3, who had
quickly discerned that too much time was passing since the first meeting. Plus,
I knew that the administrative person on our fact-finding team would really
appreciate the opportunity to see the equipment and technology in action-in our

this move, I was sensing that perhaps Company #3 was the more insightful vendor.
Even more importantly, they seemed to know how to generate momentum. However, in
order to get the on-site demo arranged, paperwork had to be signed and that took
a few days to get completed. Then we were told that it would be several weeks
before the machine could be scheduled for our facility. This was very
disappointing. In fact, as of this writing, we have yet to get the machine in
our facility. So, though Company #3 will have the upper hand with the hands-on
component of the demo, they created the perception that their time schedule was
more important than our firm's time schedule.

Be Learned… Each of the companies has adequate sales representation. Yet, they
each left the initial fact-finding without creating the impression so vital at
the beginning of the buying cycle-differentiating themselves from the
competition. The sad news for them is that they spent less than ten percent of
their time focusing on: o How our company functions and how our company makes
money. o How our company defines "customer service." o What (besides
technology) sets their firm above and apart from their competition.

impression we were left with was that it is all about the technology. Therefore,
at the end of the first round of fact-finding, none of these firms had
differentiated themselves and, as a result, they had set themselves up for only
one area to look different-PRICE.

on the demo stage of the transaction the same impression was reinforced-it is
all about the technology, ultimately meaning we will negotiate on price. In
addition none of these firms has done a good job substantiating why the
investment in technology would help our firm either save money or make money.
They have left it up to us to do the cost/benefit analysis.

an independent dealer, you have an opportunity to compete against anyone
(including the big boys) and win, if you set up a system to ensure that at every
initial fact-finding the prospect understands how you are different and better.
Steps that you can take to make this happen are to define: 1. Your method for
providing customer service-this may include highlighting your performance
guarantees, your local telephone number, tenure and certifications of service
technicians. 2. Your longevity and stature in the local community. 3. Your
documented list of high profile customers. 4. Your various methods of financing.
5. Your full range of services and technology.

accomplish the above requires at least three actions on the independent dealer's
part: 1. Superior sales training to ensure your differentiating features (along
with technology issues) are reviewed with the prospect. In other words, do not
let the sales rep get lazy and only focus on technology-make sure they focus on
your company and how your company will benefit the prospect. 2. Develop your own
company brochure/selling system that highlights your company and all the methods
of supporting the customer. This should be a high impact sales tool and it
should be used and left with the prospect after every fact-finding. 3. Develop a
method to help the prospect through the cost/benefit component of the
transaction. This will not only help them make a better decision, it will create
the perception that your company has their best interests at heart.

your sales team consistently implements these recommendations, it will help your
dealership gain a tremendous advantage over your competition. So, focus on your
dealership's strengths and you will generate more market share, higher gross
profit margins and greater market leadership!

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