Are Sales Trainers in the Imaging Industry Selling Magic Water?
13 November 2019 | Norm McConkey
Have you ever thought about the difference between pharmacists and doctors? Specifically, why do we need pharmacists when the doctor can make the diagnosis and then prescribe the prescription/fix? The reason it makes sense in the medical industry is exactly why the imaging industry should address this conflict.
To understand why the separation exists let me take you back in time—to the old west. I’m sure we can all conjure up a vision of the traveling lotions and potions doctor that went from town to town with products that could fix “whatever ails you”.
Your ailment requires an easy fix with some magic water. It will be expensive, but not so expensive that it would ruin you financially. It doesn’t require any changes to your lifestyle. It will take a few weeks to work—long enough for the charlatan to get out of town with your money. Long enough for you to realize that maybe the solution didn’t work.
It is possible that the solution actually fixed your ailment. The placebo effect is valid. The power to really believe in a solution can actually cure a small percentage of people. The reality though, is if your situation is more dire, for example, you have a life-threatening illness, you need real medical attention. Putting off serious medical attention in favor of magic water actually causes more damage than it fixes. Have you ever heard the phrase “...if only we’d caught it sooner…”?
The medical industry decided long ago that you should keep the diagnosis separate from the prescription. Tying a financial incentive to a cure is dangerous.
So let's talk about sales trainers. Have you identified that your business is suffering from slowing sales? How would a sales trainer view this issue?
- You have a problem! (Trainer agrees with you).
- You don’t need to change your model (Phew! I was worried there for a minute).
- Your sales reps and sales management lack the competence to sell in a digital world (All hail, great salespeople solve all the world’s problems).
- You need a sales trainer to show the existing reps how to use social selling.
- They likely know someone that can help with that…
Let me be clear. I don’t think all sales trainers are bad. The issue is worse than that! Trainers are not capable of seeing the actual root problem in your business. As the saying goes, when you’re a hammer, everything is a nail. They actually believe your issue is sales competency.
What makes the sales competency even worse? You REALLY WANT this diagnosis to be the problem. The fix is easy: hire the sales trainer! Let’s introduce some logic to illustrate why this is problematic.
- Sales reps are not trained and they are failing.
- If they are trained and they still fail, they are just bad sales reps.
- If they get trained and are successful, I’m a great sales trainer.
How can the trainer ever be proven wrong? When they are successful, it's because of their work, when they fail, it’s because sales reps were bad anyway.
What if the problem is structural?
Structural problems occur in industries where new technologies shift the way customers and suppliers interact. What structural problem exists in office printing? Never mind the disruption of printing technology itself, focus on the sales methodology.
E-commerce technology has transformed the way people acquire products, from push to pull.
Just like every other industry today, traditional sales methods have been supplanted by a digital workflow. Name one industry that has not been affected. The travel industry is a great example of a structural shift in an industry. Who calls a travel agent in 2019? No one books travel over the phone. People instead find the booking experience better if they can view the options and book online. They can do so whenever and wherever they choose. Office printing, however, has the additional issue that technology itself has required less paper. Piling onto that issue, printers themselves are more efficient—you get more for less.. It's a perfect storm of events that make outside sales less relevant.
No amount of sales training changes that. Delaying your acceptance of this point doesn’t change the inevitable outcome. It does, however, make the hole much deeper to dig out of once you make the proper diagnosis.
Sales training is the magic water of the imaging industry. Your issue is not solved by better training. Your most pressing business issue is adapting your offering to the new way customers want to acquire technology—online. Fix that and you fix your business.
About the Author
Norm McConkey has been involved in the print, imaging, and software/tech business since 1993. Holding executive level positions in a number of emerging technology firms, he founded PrintFleet in 2003, and Tangent MTW in 2009. A founding member of the MPSA, an award winning author and presenter, Norm has spoken at various industry events around the world including the Lyra Imaging Symposium, Photizo confernece, ITEX Tradeshow, Regional BTA conferences, Remax Europe, and World Expo. He has been contracted to consult and build go to market and sales training programs with several OEM manufacturers such as Canon USA, and HP, and distributors such as Parts Now and Supplies Network, as well Resellers including Office Depot. Norm’s current project, MPSToolbox (www.mpstoolbox.com), is a software platform which helps technology dealers develop and maintain e-commerce websites.