It’s no secret that business around the world has been turned on its head this year. The presence of a global pandemic has caused us all to reconsider how we buy, sell, work and consume. And we know now that the implications could long outlive the life of this crisis, with far-reaching impacts from where we work to business processes that continue to evolve.
Large enterprises aren’t the only ones facing these challenging questions as we move forward in a post-COVID world. Small businesses are being forced to consider this new reality as well, and with it, think about updates to their way of doing business. Some are attempting to bounce back after months of being closed, while others are looking for new ways to engage with customers or maintain employee productivity in the midst of a very new, very uncertain “normal.”
And while there’s still much we don’t know about what’s to come or how businesses will choose to adapt, there are a few trends we are seeing as a result of living through a pandemic:
First, workforces are more widely dispersed than ever. From rules that require physical distance in the office and prohibit the use of conference rooms or common areas, to businesses choosing to allow employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future, workers are more separated than they’ve ever been. This creates challenges around ensuring secure communications and connectivity.
Because of this, we’re seeing work environments that are more diverse. With home offices reporting into corporate headquarters, and businesses choosing to implement creative solutions that keep employees healthy, new restrictions and guidelines are expected to remain in place, and people around the world are learning what it means to work in a nontraditional setting.
These shifts have a major impact on how we sell and implement print moving forward. And that means, in order to be successful in this new reality of business, both print manufacturers and resellers must pay attention, adapt and respond. From looking for ways to support a wider variety of print needs, to finding methods and technologies that adhere to new safety protocols, serving customers in this way will be critical in maintaining their business and their trust.
As you think about your approach to the near future, here are five things to consider.
1. Ensure your tone is appropriate. As we continue to evolve and respond to new requirements, uncertainty is king. Customers aren’t looking for you to have all the answers; they are looking for vendors who approach them with a tone of understanding and compassion, and a drive to innovate and find new ways to solve new challenges.
This means that, as you call on customers, adopting the role of advisor or helper is key. Rather than a typical, sales-first approach, consider making calls to simply check in. Keep in mind that customers could be facing major setbacks, and need to feel like you’re in their corner, rooting for their success.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”When you’re able to suggest devices and solutions that are directly related to your customer’s field, they’ll feel heard & respected & see you as a trusted advisor who can be counted on to walk through this evolution with them says Sammy Kinlaw of @Lexmark” quote=”When you’re able to suggest devices and solutions that are directly related to your customer’s field, they’ll feel heard and respected, and see you as a trusted advisor who can be counted on to walk through this evolution with them.” theme=”style4″]
2. Focus on a more vertical industry approach. A deep understanding of your customers’ industry-specific needs and complexities is more important now than ever before. From healthcare to retail to financial services, every industry is being impacted differently, and your ability to discern how those impacts will change their print needs will go a long way.
When you’re able to suggest devices and solutions that are directly related to your customer’s field, they’ll feel heard and respected, and see you as a trusted advisor who can be counted on to walk through this evolution with them. And by leading with their specific needs, as opposed to conversations centered around print speeds and page counts, you’ll be implementing a strategy that’s more conducive to today’s marketplace.
It’s true that adopting a more industry-focused method requires time, resources and expertise—all of which can be difficult to find if your organization is also undergoing change. In order to overcome this, consider partnering with a manufacturer that already implements this approach, and views vertical industry knowledge as a vital component to success. Leveraging their industry offers and understanding can give you a leg up without draining your own resources.
3. Find ways to diversify your product offering. Diverse work environments mean that the once effective strategy of leading with a large, do-it-all device will no longer be enough to win new business and meet customer needs. Dealers must find ways to offer a more comprehensive lineup of devices and can do this by incorporating equipment designed for varying needs, workgroup sizes and more. Diversifying opens you up to additional opportunities and helps you make recommendations that make more sense for today’s businesses.
As you begin to think about broadening your portfolio, look for manufacturers who are also placing emphasis and effort around developing devices that meet a variety of needs. Things like business segment-specific product lines, portfolio-wide security and a strong A4 strategy are good indicators that a manufacturer is prepared to provide you with options that are up to today’s challenges.
4. Prioritize device durability and reliability. In the midst of uncertain times, you can be sure that customers are searching for products they can count on. Because at the end of the day, the best printer is one that goes virtually unnoticed; it just works well and requires no extra effort or intervention. And that’s especially true now, as customers’ to-do lists for getting their business back up to speed are long and tedious. The best thing you can do is recommend and deploy devices that are built to last and perform for the long haul.
Devices that are designed to be durable and reliable are key. From working well in harsh environments to requiring less maintenance and upkeep, the more you can provide printers that require less hassle, the better.
5. Integrate technology that enables remote activity. Selling print is no longer as simple as a cost-per-page conversation; today’s businesses are looking for ways to streamline print processes and simplify management across their operations. And they’re looking to enable efficiencies without onsite requirements. One way they’re doing that in other areas is through cloud-based technology.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”As SMBs make every effort to survive and thrive post-pandemic, they’re likely not prioritizing print, but by continuing to innovate & respond to specific needs, dealers can position themselves as partners to today’s #SMB says Sammy Kinlaw of @Lexmark” quote=”It’s likely that, as small businesses make every effort to survive and thrive post-pandemic, they’re not prioritizing print. … But by continuing to innovate, evolve and respond to specific needs, dealers can position themselves as partners to today’s small businesses. ” theme=”style4″]
Showing that you understand this need to work more remotely and more streamlined is a critical step in engaging customers both new and old. By offering beyond the box solutions that leverage the cloud to manage and enable more connected, secure print, you can differentiate your conversations and your offer. Print management via the cloud has the power to meet your customers’ remote expectations, and make you more proactive when it comes to providing the level of service and support that produces customer loyalty. The key is finding a print manufacturer who understands this and has the technology required to enable you to incorporate this type of offer within your business.
Providing customers with solid, relevant print solutions in this new era of business can feel daunting. It’s likely that, as small businesses make every effort to survive and thrive post-pandemic, they’re not prioritizing print. And because of that, the question of how to engage and interest them becomes quite the challenge. But by continuing to innovate, evolve and respond to specific needs, dealers can position themselves as partners to today’s small businesses. And, as a result, enable greater success for their customers and themselves.
Sammy Kinlaw is Vice President, Worldwide Channel and OEM Sales, at Lexmark and has been directing the worldwide channel organization from his home in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. during the pandemic.