Let’s Talk About How You Can Use Your Feet On The Street (aka leather shoes) To Increase Product And Service Sales.
23 March 2017 | NORM MCCONKEY
At what point did it become a good idea for B2B technology resellers to turn away from selling products and focus on services? Is it because you can’t make money selling hardware like printers, laptops, and other technology? Or, is it that you can’t make money selling hardware with your current workflow? Hardware matters. Service revenue has always flowed from hardware. Amazon thinks so, and they’re pretty smart. Let’s talk about how you can use your feet on the street (aka leather shoes) to increase product and service sales.
First, let’s start with Amazon. The office supplies contract with US Communities earlier this year was a bit of B2B coming out party for Amazon. Taking a contract away from Office Depot should be looked back on as a turning point. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is often overlooked but it controls almost 1/3 of the entire cloud services market but it’s 3x bigger than the next biggest competitor—Microsoft. What’s incredible is that Amazon achieved this almost entirely without any channel sales. Basically, Amazon is snatching business away from channel providers. How? They are driving so much product business that the services are following.
Amazon is quite likely the strongest competitor you will ever face. The list of companies they have taken down is impressive. Still, they have one important weakness: leather shoes. Having feet on the street in your community is an important differentiator. Sales and service people that can make onsite visits when required, giving your SMB customers support is important. The kids of Amazon employees don’t play little league with your kids. You don’t see Amazon employees at your church on Sunday. And, when a business needs to make an important technology decision, Amazon does not sit in front of the customers.
What they do have is logistics. In 2017, logistics drive sales. This is sometimes where the leather shoes advantage can become a hindrance. Simple product orders and reorders should not require additional face-to-face meetings. Buying a product from Amazon is easy. How does your buying experience compare? Make no mistake; we are all being compared to Amazon when it comes to product ordering and fulfillment.
One thing all great sales organizations realize is that you need to be in control of the sale. Here’s how SMB product sales can work in your market.
1. Meet with the customer and assess their needs.
2. Propose a product solution that the customer can buy from you online.
3. Let your online logistics manage the process.
A great example of this is a laptop. There are over 1,000 laptop models currently available. How would a customer know which one they should buy? Your leather shoed sales rep can help. They can steer the client toward a higher-end laptop that will match the customers’ requirements. That consulting will necessarily lead to a higher margin sale than simply buying one from an online mass merchant like Amazon. From here the conversion absolutely can turn into backing up data from the device into the cloud, a service plan, and productivity applications like Office 365. All of which are wonderful annuity-based services.
That is sales, but the logistics of purchasing, taking a quote and keying it into an accounting system, and checking inventory of various distributors — that is sales logistics. If you burden your sales rep with logistics, it takes them away from where they add value. Many sales reps will “hide” in sales logistics instead of customer facing sales activities and sales will suffer.
Sales automation that leverages your website will increase your sales. You can increase profit margins on hardware and leverage that hardware for driving service sales. Amazon has some significant advantages over your site, but they don’t have what you have. Leather shoes. Your sales reps are more valuable than ever. The mechanics of selling need to go through your website. Drive the customer to your website. Do you sell technology? Customers are probably more likely to buy technology from a company that uses technology.
Curious about how e-commerce will increase your salespeople’s productivity? Talk to Caleb!
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.