Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

baby bathwaterWith diminishing printed pages, reduced hardware margins and increasing competition, office equipment dealers are looking for additional opportunities to provide value to their customers.

Two of the logical offerings they are providing their customers are enterprise content management (ECM) and document management (DM) solutions. While these solutions are very complementary to the hardware that is already being offered, dealers need to re-evaluate their sales processes for selling these solutions.

When end users are calculating the value of a hardware solution, they are looking at features, brand and overall cost. When evaluating a workflow solution, they are looking at how it will affect their efficiency, provide disaster recovery options and improve their customer experience. In order to provide the benefits their customers are seeking, workflow salespeople must be knowledgeable about their customers’ entire business process.

When asked, most customers want their output devices managed because the dealer can do it more cheaply and efficiently. It’s not that customers can’t manage their own devices, but the fact that the time it would take them to do it can be better spent focusing on their primary service or product offering. When implementing workflow solutions, dealers are not just providing management to devices; they are impacting how their customers deliver those primary services or products. Dealers and their solutions are embedded in their customers’ everyday world.

The sales process for implementing a workflow solution is comprehensive and time-consuming. However, the benefits to customers are also extremely valuable and can impact entire organizations. The upside of a successful sale is that it can make the dealer’s solution mission-critical to customers, which in turn makes the relationship extremely sticky. However, the challenge is that the dealer is not just selling a solution, but selling a new process. For a traditional hardware sale, it is necessary to get buy-in from key members of the leadership team. When selling workflow, on the other hand, it is extremely important to sell to the hearts and minds of individuals on all levels of the organization to ensure success.

Every customer environment is different. That said, there can be common needs that an ECM or document management solution addresses. One way to start selling such workflow solutions is to contact a functional manager who has a business problem to solve. Even though there could be wide-reaching benefits that can extend throughout the organization, it can be easier to tackle a single department and understand everything about its processes in order to have a successful implementation. Attacking smaller projects and delivering immediate rewards to the customer can initially be most beneficial for both the dealer and that customer. An ideal outcome would be a successful implementation for a single department accompanied by an introduction to another department in the same organization.

When selling a traditional print management program, dealers often encounter the “we don’t need that” attitude. In a similar vein, one of the biggest challenges when selling workflow is overcoming the “way we’ve always done it” attitude. While dealers are explaining how workflow tools can improve the efficiency of an organization, there may be some customers who are thinking that passing the same piece of paper across four departments for signatures is as good as it can get. Many times people are so focused on doing their jobs that they don’t take the time to see how they are doing them and where some efficiencies could be gained. The job of the workflow salesperson is to understand what the purpose of the solution is and where workflow can be implemented to achieve the goal more effectively.

The first step for a workflow salesperson is to help customers identify the needs of their department or organization. By understanding the source of their pain, the salesperson is able to show customers how the features and benefits of a workflow tool will address these issues. It is critical that the salesperson be familiar with the features of the solution but also provide more than just a rundown of the bells and whistles. Describing how the process will look in the future, explaining how it will impact each employee’s role and getting buy-in from all the stakeholders will help customers see past their current way of doing things.

Once a customer is on board with a new workflow solution, a best practice is to transition the implementation to a solution architect. The person in this role should be involved during the needs assessment discussions and understand the high-level goals of the project. He or she will be able to investigate even deeper into the customer’s processes via detailed information gathering. With the business process knowledge and technical knowledge of the tool, the solution architect will be able to design the solution and determine how it should be applied to the customer’s environment. In most cases, dealers that sell workflow tools capture more revenue from the professional services that surround the product than from the product itself.

Training is an important element that dealers should also discuss with their customers. As part of the implementation, basic training should be included and detail how customers should use the tool and which permissions are granted to the various roles. Depending on how involved the dealer wants to remain post-implementation, there could be further training for the “power users.” The dealer can also provide additional professional services as customers seek to evolve their workflows.

Sometimes dealers wonder how they should start offering workflow tools. A great foray into this world is to look around at their own processes. The needs they have internally are not so unique, and some of what is important to them will probably be important to their customers as well. In addition, after implementing workflow internally, salespeople will be able to give firsthand accounts about the benefits, and the solution architects will know the pitfalls to avoid during a customer implementation.

Dealers are already in their customers’ environments doing assessments and quarterly business reviews. These interactions can be ideal opportunities for finding the right people to talk to about implementing workflow solutions. As dealers are walking around, they should stop and talk to people and see what challenges customers may be facing. They should also seek out the managers of the various departments and let those employees know that the dealership is not only managing output devices, but can also provide tools to help manage and automate internal processes. This can be a good introduction into additional services that allow customers to focus on what they are doing, not how they are doing it.

As the world shifts to an increasingly paperless environment, office equipment dealers should enable their customers to embrace efficiencies using workflow tools. Capitalizing on the relationships dealers already have with their customers and solving their problems through technology will provide mutually beneficial interactions that lead to sales.

Knowing the differences between selling hardware and selling solutions is the first step to providing this value. While consultative methods are not isolated to selling services, don’t be afraid to throw out unnecessary traditional sales techniques that move equipment and shift to a needs-based approach that sells solutions instead.

About the Author

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Workflow.

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