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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Why Are Copier Dealers Demanding Staff Return to the Office?

June 2020

The past few months, paid ‘experts’ yelled “change or die”.  It’s been a broken record for decades.  In the end, no matter how loud and often these pundits shout, “You are not changing!”, you HAVE changed – you ARE changed.  It is inevitable – everyone and everything transforms. 

Instructing us to change is nostalgic.


Today, in the turbulence that is Covid19 are the ways of 2019 still viable? Your customers have changed.  They now wish for fewer face to face meetings, prefer working with an existing relationship, and no longer consider “remote” a dirty word.  Many companies are moving to a remote working relationship with employees.


So, while your customers re-align the way they work, have you?


·      Why are you demanding sales teams return to the office?

·      Why are you telling service technicians to come back to their bench?

·      Why are you forcing the accounting and contracts departments back to their cubes?

·      Are you still practicing MBWA? (Management by Walking Around)[1]


Anchoring your team to back to brick and mortar is a denial of fact.  Your physical location is no longer a safe harbor - it will be your albatross[i]. Because getting folks back in the office, when 18 to 40% of your clients are going to be working from home, illustrates backward thinking. This mentality will destroy dealerships.


Look around you:


·      For two decades, the world has been decentralizing processes - Covid19 accelerated this transformation by two years. [2] 

·      Our little industry has been losing clicks at 4% to 20% per year - Covid19 just accelerated this transformation by two years.

·      Companies were slowly evaluating a work from home model - Covid19 brought the positive aspects of WFH to the forefront.[3]


The success of our industry is knotted to how businesses work, and the “way of work” is moving further from paper with every second. Your customers want normalcy, but they know everything is different.  Businesses understand more about the costs of hosting hundreds of people under one roof – it is expensive and there are options.


Unfortunately, remote working does not require a copier in the kitchen or a printer in every den.  Selling devices and machines is a doomed effort. Now you’re hearing all about ‘document management’, workflow solutions, and diversification.  All as valid today as they were pre-Covid19.


Working like we did in 2019 hastens our demise.  Why?  Because working from an office is a disconnection and loss of empathy with your clients.


So, what ideas should we support post Covid19?  Here are a few that come to mind:


1.     Fewer salespeople, more Professionals – order-takers are replaced by inside or online representation. Training will shift from ‘speeds and feeds’ and asking with an agenda to relationship building.

2.     Fewer clients, less money[4] – the move away from inventory, show floors, fleets of delivery and service vehicles, and office space will reduce overhead.  Lower costs make for happier customers and increased margin.

3.     Sell less, solve more – Increasing Business Acumen must be the Never-Ending Story in this brave new world. Sales techniques and specification demonstrations will lead to misery. Stop selling, ask questions, and solve problems.


There is something more ominous.


Covid19 brings to light the irrelevancy of the ‘middle-man’.  As OEMs shift more toward online selling, the need for dealers diminishes. Software houses can control their sales funnel without relying on local providers. Managed Service Providers utilize solution stacks that reside in the cloud and sold online, remotely – without “boots on the ground”.


The Dissolving “Middlemen”


As your sales force moves remote, specialized workflow, algorithms, and sales management tools will supplant Sales Managers.  Indeed, the savvier untethered selling professionals will realize the ability to succeed on their terms – not under restrictive quotas and goals.  Is it too much to envision independent selling professionals representing multiple solutions and hardware concerns?  Without a sheltering dealership or the meddlesome mid-management?


On the flip side, “inside sales” is being redefined as higher-value interactions. 


I see four influences shaping the new selling model:

1.     Increase in Business Acumen – Salespeople will be smarter and relevant

2.     Comfort with remote meetings – online sessions are second nature

3.     Simpler yet sophisticated solutions become common – far from commodity, new tools are flexible and easy to understand and implement.

4.     Cost reduction in travel budgets realized – the amount of time and money saved is enormous lowering the cost of sales acquisition.


Opposed to the ‘smile and dial’, ‘100 dials, gets 20 conversations, gets 10 qualified leads, gets 5 appointments’ program the new tele-rep is deft at quickly qualifying, finding common ground, analyzing business situations, formulating remedies, and presenting ideas online.


The Covid19 Experience is transformative – it's more than a gift, it is a ‘happening’.  We’ve found that unleashing workers is not risky. 


As an industry, we must embrace, if not lead to the work from anywhere world. By doing so, we prepare for Covid20 and secure a better future.

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Greg Walters, Incorporated