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Thursday, July 2, 2009

What Makes a Great Management Print Services Customer? The Same Things that Make Any Customer a Great One: You

I know this will be a tough concept for some sales people, because it has been driven into us that the only way to be successful is to be subservient and scared.

Subservient to the unreasonable whims of shallow and weak prospects and scared of rejection.

Fearful of simpleton sales Managers, forecasts, cold calls and missing unproductive sales meetings.

Let not your heart be troubled.

Over the past months, hell the past year, I have told one prospect to 'pound sand', rekindled old relationships and forged great partnerships - partnerships that will follow me- partnerships with Great MPS Clients.

Thinking about this gave me pause, what makes a great MPS customer?

A client who recommends you to others over the weekend. One who will give you the names of his friends and call them for you. Someone you can have your prospects call - anytime. A person you mention in every cold call, every elevator pitch, and every presentation.

How does one find these clients?

One word kid, one word: Qualify.

Two important aspects of Qualification:

1. Qualification is a continuous Process not a Stage.
2. Not all prospects qualify.

Simply put, like most good finds in life, we all dig through a lot of crap before we uncover the diamond.
You've got to go through lousy prospects before you find a good partner.

Your prospect must continually Qualify for your time and attention at each meeting, every discussion - does your prospect Qualify to move to the next step, today?

And of course, not everybody who has a pulse or can fog a mirror is a prospect.

One of the skills to be developed is recognizing a good match. More importantly, paramount even, is your confidence and fearless ability to say to yourself, your manager and the prospect,

"...this isn't going to work, we do not have a match..."

Ok, it's easy to say this if, for instance, the prospect has a real need that you can not satisfy - like when you are selling 75ppm units and the prospect really needs a new fleet of vans.

But what if you see a company that has 2 laser printers for every employee, a fax machine in every other cubicle, $10,000 worth of toner stuffed into multiple supply rooms, and 12 copiers all at lease termination?

Sounds good, doesn't it? Yes, it does.

But, let's say after a brief discussion you find:

The prospect is just too dense to get his head around "value add"?

The C-levels will have nothing to do with you and are all members of the family.

Your primary contact is a Purchaser who is taking on the project because "I.T. is too busy".

He hands you another vendor's analysis, with costs, proposed configs and pricing. And he proudly displays his huge spreadsheet filled with specifications, models and 32 other vendors' pricing.

His desktop is an IBM PS/2 Model 60.

He has been investigating vendors for the last 18 months and attended a dozen demo's.

He states that "cheaper is always better" and wonders aloud why he should ever be required to sign a service agreement.

Finally, the prospect's business model is all about providing his products for the cheapest price.

I know right now, somebody is thinking, "All right. Let the selling begin!"

Ahead of you are months of spinning wheels, false closes and dead ends. When you place this prospect on any type of forecast or enter it into your CRM - to management, it becomes real.

Soon to become one of those eternally forecasted opportunities - you know the one. The one that everybody else in the room but you knows how to close. The one your manager, the owner, or VP wants to see face to face.

"What can I do to help you close this one by the end of the month?"

- I think I just threw up a little, in mouth, just now.

So, I guess it's up to you. Invest hours, months, of your life in this well qualified opportunity...


...let your rookie competitors eat it up. Let your competitor be the one to explain the long cycle to HIS manager, owner or VP. Let that poor schlep deal with all the head-aches.

Pray he gets the deal.

Imagine his service department taking care of this high-touch, low-value customer - while you pursue relationships with margin. Visualize this poor sales guy delivering toner on bended knee, because the customer didn't order any and thinks all copier people carry toner with them everywhere.

See Gumby, the rubber copier guy bend over backwards and jump through flaming hoops.

It comes down to this: do you have the guts, not only to walk away, but to journey beyond the cheap baubles in search of real diamonds? Qualification. It is not only about continuously qualifying the prospect, it's about you Qualifying for better and uncovering Great clients.

You won't find much treasure head down, shaking with fear.


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  1. I like this question and I can't argue with your basic answer, Greg: "You." -- We are the key. The sales rep/on-going account manager is the quintessential catalyst moving a prospect along the continuum that morphs ultimately into "a great MPS customer."

    But my thoughts look outward as well. In that direction I see four other critical elements:

    1. The Product. -- A great customer will only come about when we offer a truly valuable MPS program -- the right fit, implemented properly.

    2. A Strong Client. -- If that great customer is going to refer you, the company needs to first "be there" and then have credibility of its own. It will be well run, and have both a solid financial footing and a long-range vision. It's management team won't be given to panic-driven responses or the constant nickle-and-diming of vendors.

    3. A C-level Contact. -- We will need a primary contact with broad enough access within his company to see your product's benefits work through the entire enterprise.

    4. A Contact with Integrity. -- He must also be one who not only SEES the value but is willing to DEFEND it in the next budgetary meeting. He must be more concerned about doing his job than about making points by running you off in favor of some board-member's brother-in-law.

    The cultivation of this kind of customer is truly satisfying. But it doesn't happen every time ... even when we do everything right. I saw a report not long ago about what's wrong with Customer Service these days. The bottom-line answer was this: "The biggest thing wrong with Customer Service is ... CUSTOMERS."

    And, those are the ones we might need to tell to "pound sand" ...

  2. Bob-


    Agree on all levels, and will incorporate into my everyday approach.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Greg,
    Great point. Prospecting is not finding someone who is willing to talk to you. It's finding someone you are willing to talk to. It depends on "You" being able to make the very hard decision that someone is not worth the time.

    Often something as fuzzy as "vibes" can be great radar. Getting a meeting with a C level person who is an a hole is sometimes much less useful than finding an evangelist almost any where in the organization and going from there.


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