This week we had a prospect make a remark that set me back a bit. I was a tad frustrated because I’ve heard it before from imaging resellers, and I’ve never answered it the way I want to, so like many salespeople, I replayed the question over in my mind. Here’s what he said: We don't think our customers are ready to buy printers online.
Here’s my response:
Norm: Interesting question! Staples.com gets over 2 million visitors every day. There were over 23 million printers shipped in North America last year. Amazon sales increased by 24% in 2019. The data I see shows that online sales are skyrocketing. Do you think that printers are part of that trend, or are they different from other products customers buy online?
Prospect:Well, no, I agree that customers are buying products online, but when it comes to printers, it is different. My customers don’t buy printers online.
Norm: Okay, well since you don’t currently offer e-commerce it must be true that your customers don’t buy printers online from you—because they can’t. I sometimes hear from prospects that customers don’t buy printers online. Can you think of any other products today that customers haven’t started to buy online? Cars, prescription eyeglasses, houses, are all now available online.
Prospect: Well, printing is complicated. It’s hard for customers to go online and configure devices, add functionality, decide finance terms, get approval from the finance company, sign contracts, and do all of that.
Norm: I agree with that 100%. That workflow would be hard to do online. I want to revisit your original point though. You said, “I don’t think my customers want to buy printers online.”
Would it not be more accurate to say:
"You don't want to sell printers online the way your customers want to buy them"?
“Your customers don’t want to buy printers online the way you want to sell them”?
Why is this such an important conversation?
It’s a subtle but critical distinction in 2020. Companies become so tethered to their current sales model, they cannot see change all around them.
- People watch more movies than ever, but they don’t buy DVDs
- People listen to more music than ever, but they don’t buy CDs
Businesses still print a lot, but they don’t need to finance “big iron” to make pages. They want to buy, but they don’t want to be sold. They want what they want, when they want it.
Fewer and fewer customers will let you control the buying process and timeline. You want me to tell you that you don’t need to change your business strategy? I won’t. It needs change, and your business needs brave leadership to stand up at the boardroom table and tell your team that you need to reinvent the model to save the business.
I want to help you, but I can only start helping once you accept that the internet has changed everything about your business.
People buy printers online. Give the people what they want.