by Luke Goldberg
The days of selling boxes are slowly fading. In response to a shifting marketplace, dealers are abandoning their transactional-based models for a solutions-based alternative. Many independent dealers are venturing beyond MPS into selling, managing, and in some cases hosting, enterprise content management (ECM), business process automation (BPA) and security solutions, just to name a few, plus offering a slew of other services to survive in a commoditized market.
This, of course, causes a ripple effect.
With dealers moving less equipment and offering more services, vendors also need to shift their sales to survive in equally commoditized marketplaces; vendors must act as a partner and provide value adds and services to be compelling suitors.
But before we can explore how vendors can be partners helping to drive core portions of their clients’ businesses, we must understand what makes a successful solutions provider.
Successful dealers are becoming more and more valuable in driving evolution as they evolve to become more than mere providers of things — they become trusted advisors. Achieving this mantle of trust sometimes is better achieved in steps. The first step is creating better cost productivity with print and devices through Tier 1 MPS. Once trust is gained here you can evolve into looking at users and workflows, and then start to consider security, more comprehensive managed networks, and more. The bottom line is that change usually must come incrementally, driven by a service provider who, one step at a time, creates a track record that demonstrates consultative value and ultimately cost savings and greater productivity in multiple arenas.
For vendors to be successful partners they must offer tools and services to help dealers drive incremental change. In doing so, they too can be seen as trusted advisors. So what are things vendors can do to help their dealers be more successful?
Help Them Get in the Door
In a mature market, there are plenty of dealers who really know how to bring it — delivering excellent products and services at affordable prices. But letting customers know you offer those things is just as important as actually offering them — often, the difference between ringing the sales bell and another night eating Ramen noodles is in the sales pitch. What if you could help your dealer-clients stand out? One way to do this is with third-party marketing solutions, which are growing in popularity. Many of these tools enable businesses to point custom-built digital and print advertising, as well as high-level marketing tools such as videos, directly at their customers. Vendors can manage such a system for their clients to help them market the products they already sell.
Help Them Help Their Customers Overcome Change
When discussing the evolution of the office equipment dealer into a trusted solution provider, it all starts with their ability to help implement change in a non-disruptive manner to the actual users who must ultimately assimilate changes that are made. Vendors can help ease that change. From installation to training and support afterwards, retaining customers is reliant on facilitating a smooth transition period. Add to that, as dealers grow their services, their in-house staff may need a hand. The ability to support dealers in their training, support, and service operations is a huge leg up to ensure higher retention rates and future growth.
Improving Managed Print
MPS providers have a lot to worry about. “How should I collect meters and determine cost per page? How much should I bill? How should I bill?” How an MPS provider answers these questions is directly tied to their success. So why not give them a hand figuring things out? Advances in IoT and big data are making it easier to collect and analyze data. And for dealers with hundreds or thousands of devices in the field, there is a lot that can be learned — print-related and otherwise. For instance, with the proper MPS remote monitoring and management technologies in place, you can see everything from the device’s model description and serial numbers to device status and printer locations. Such a platform can also keep tabs on cost-per-page tracking and page counts remotely to help monitor accounts without having to be intrusive. What’s most impressive about these platforms are their abilities to maximize uptime with predictive consumables replenishment and maintenance to prevent devices from going down, as well as automated service alerts to dispatch technicians — sometimes before the customer knows there is a problem.
Dealers are their customers’ partners, and vendors are their dealer-customers’ partners. It’s a fractal model built on synergy. The better the partner that a vendor can be for a dealer, the better the partner a dealer can be with their customers. A helping hand is a profitable hand.