Road Not Taken: It can be the best route to greater market share
As office technology
dealers, many of you faced forks in the road when it came to transitioning
from typewriters to copiers, from liquid toner to dry, from black
and white to color, and now from standalone equipment to systems
that can be linked to networks. At each of these junctures, those
who continued on the same, familiar path have not reaped the same
benefits as those who took the "road not taken."
Robert Frost wrote in his famous 1915 poem: "Two roads diverged
in the yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both." At
the end of the poem, he wrote: "I took the one less traveled
by, and that has made all the difference." Poetically, that
describes today's office technology dealer's dilemma: "Do I
take the 'road not taken' or do I continue to sell just the box?"
many businesses, workers are just now discovering that the latest
device installed on the document network is under-utilized and has
not delivered on the promise of improved productivity. The device
has not provided the workgroup users with the solution as proposed
by the dealership.
went wrong? Since business document workflow has evolved over an
extended period of time, just as each company's business has evolved,
little thought was given to strategic planning of input or output
devices. Today, document workflow within many businesses is the
result of individual workgroups or clustered cultures that are structured
around various pieces of document processing equipment. Different
individuals, each with little consideration for corporate needs
other than those of a particular group or user, purchased the devices
separately. As a result, there is little document workflow integration
in the majority of U.S. businesses today. Yet, in this environment,
today's office technology dealer is being challenged to sell a "system"
that will improve efficiencies and costs, while maintaining a positive
cash flow and sustainable growth.
understanding your customer's document workflow is paramount to
any success in selling multifunction copier- or printer-based systems.
Entry-level salespeople or high-level managers who just happen to
drop in on a cold call or "chat" with the client cannot
accomplish that level of understanding. Instead, it takes a skill
set that serves to identify the critical paths through these minefields,
on/off network ramps, topography, applications and much more. The
engagement of your dealership with the customer must generate a
professional result that outlines the "customized solution"
you intend to implement.
consultative approach and presentation - or that of your salesperson
- must detail the customer's current network architecture, various
document workflow patterns, device volumes, associated costs, resources,
applications including storage and retrieval, indexing, editing
and, ultimately, disposal. The level of detail that you can capture
will enhance your understanding of the customer's issues as well
as improve your chances of a successful business transaction.
consultants and organizations, including office technology manufacturers,
are aggressively working with dealers to help them identify new
decision makers, employ proven consultative steps and offer templates
that you can follow when conducting an on-site document workflow
analysis. As you prepare to conduct these analyses, it is important
to understand some major industry trends that are shaping user needs
and product acquisitions.
are sold while printers are purchased. They are purchased because
the user has a specific need to output particular documents. Therefore,
you have to be able to identify the user's copy and output needs
and expectations before introducing the printer application of a
is also important that you recognize that "digital printing"
and other such expressions are industry terms and mean little to
end users. Unless you can translate the terminology of the technology
and articulate the advantages it brings to the customer, you will
get bogged down in matters that will only confuse the buyer.
addition, you must remember that end users are looking for seamless
installations and document management software systems with minimal
expense and human intervention. They are frustrated and feel put
upon when the latest device purchased by management does not work
as well as their old standby copier or desktop printer. Ultimately,
today's users of copier/printer systems are tasked with better management
of informational documents and sharing knowledge with a lower cost
another key trend is the growing database of the digital repository
in businesses as they increase the number of nodes and networks
within their respective enterprises and disburse rich data among
a greater number of individual servers or databases. This leads
to the capability of printing anywhere, any time, as well as remote
scanning. Therefore, before suggesting a particular copy/print solution,
it is important that you understand that archival documents in their
original formats have to be reproducible on any new system.
than likely you already understand the current copying requirements
of the customer, but what about printing? It is important that you
determine the customer's existing printer topography. You should
talk with those individuals who work with the documents or data,
and identify what output devices and applications they are running.
Do not overlook remote or at-home workers; their input and output
requirements may impact what type and quantity of systems you will
propose. While conducting your investigation, reassure those in
the workgroup that the results of the study will help them complete
their tasks faster and in a more manageable and cost-effective manner.
Whenever possible, get sample documents.
to PC Magazine, the typical document is printed four to five times
before it is finalized, meaning that 75 percent of all prints get
thrown away in the creation process. Of pre-printed materials, manufacturing
discards 20 percent, retail discards 25 percent and business services
discards 15 percent. Similarly, according to a study conducted by
a copier manufacturer, the average document ceases to exist only
after it has been retrieved and reproduced 19 times.
examples illustrate how, by talking with customers and understanding
what they do with documents, you will discover opportunities. Ask
customers how they currently manage workflow. Who owns the document?
Where does it reside? Who upgrades it? Who distributes it? Where
is it distributed? What is the frequency of retrieval and distribution?
These are but a few of the questions that will create a map of the
document flow and give you a better understanding of where and how
your solution will fit.
every workgroup has printing, faxing and copying capabilities in
some form, so your study has to uncover the weaknesses in the existing
output devices or processes (e.g., equipment that is no longer cost-effective
or productive or jobs that are being outsourced that could be done
more efficiently in-house). You must think in terms of capturing
all output - images being produced on competitive copiers (digital
or analog), printers (monochrome and color), facsimile units, multifunctional
systems and/or line/band printers.
order to go down that "road not taken" there are some
common rules to follow. They may vary slightly from consultant to
consultant or customer to customer, but, overall, should include:
be aware, analyze, prioritize, strategize, submit and satisfy.
be aware of the opportunity in every new sales situation. Examine
how information is captured within the workgroup. Is it coming from
interoffice mail, parcel post or facsimile? Are line or older laser
printers being used, and is scanning being done online or offline?
Is the customer still using an analog copier?
analyze and prioritize. How are pages being generated and in what
quantity? What software applications are being used to create the
documents, and do they consist of text or images or both? Are they
black and white or color or both? Are all of the documents created
by the workgroup or are they created outside of the workgroup? Can
the existing devices within the workgroup meet the users' current
needs? What are the monthly volumes on the various devices, and
how many users have access to them? What is the network operating
system? Can you capture the true hardware costs, including any lease
and depreciation schedules? What are the costs of supplies and what
is the frequency of repairs or on-site visits by the service technician?
If you can obtain answers to most of these questions, you will be
well on your way to analyzing and arranging the priorities of the
collecting the data and completing your analysis, it is time to
strategize and develop a network output solution that will meet
the customer's immediate needs as well as long-term plans. Think
like a consultant or as your customer's advocate. Will the system
you propose improve productivity and eliminate the current frustrations
experienced by the workgroup? Can they access documents faster and
truly reduce costs? Perhaps to arrive at the correct conclusion
you will have to involve your own sales engineer and other knowledge
workers. The goal is to present to the customer a system that not
only will have an immediate positive impact on productivity, but
will be compatible with the network environment.
last two steps, submitting the proposal and measuring user satisfaction,
can be relatively easy if the proper foundation was constructed.
Make sure your proposal includes an executive summary that addresses
the current workgroup environment and the results of your analysis.
It is also a good idea to include the costs and resources associated
with the existing devices. Then, like all good proposals, it should
point out how the system you are recommending will improve worker
efficiencies and network output while reducing cost. The summary
should close with an implementation schedule.
when you started this journey the workgroup users were frustrated,
working in a fragmented environment and among devices that could
not communicate with one another. These workers will welcome a meaningful
solution that improves efficiencies with fewer resources. They will
relish the fact that your dealership took the time to venture into
their environment and tried to understand their corporate culture.
They wanted a neutral party to objectively calculate costs and the
interdepartmental impact with the current methodology of document
management, and submit a resolution addressing their immediate and
long-term concerns. If you conducted your topography assessment
correctly, the smooth implementation of the system can only convince
your customer that you understand their business, their people and
their own customers and are more of a systems partner than just
a box-selling company.
further reinforce your commitment to the customer, make sure you
are present to coordinate delivery and installation with the network
engineer so that he or she is able to immediately troubleshoot any
installation difficulties and/or assist the network manager with
any questions. After installation, review the equipment operations
with the group and explain any service or maintenance intervals
that will be scheduled to ensure complete satisfaction. Then schedule
a follow-up visit within 30 days of the completion of the workgroup
selling - that "road not taken" - can be the most effective
way to increase your dealership's market share and capture more
document output from the network. Your customers are people, not
technology. They are the repositories of corporate knowledge. The
system you properly install can produce information on various media
and generate the projected results, but it is the system that must
deliver the document to the right person at the right time with
the proper content. As Robert Frost said: "
and it has
made all the difference."
Bob Sostilio is president and CEO of Sostilio & Associates International
Inc., an Ocala, Fla.-based consulting firm serving the office technology
industry. He has 32 years of experience in the industry, including
senior management positions with leading manufacturers and research
organizations. He most recently served as senior group service director
at CAP Ventures, a market research firm, where he established and
managed the Converging Digital Peripheral Service of North America
and Europe. Sostilio can be reached at (352) 624-2625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.