By Elizabeth Gooding
Investing in a production inkjet solution is both a major expenditure and the beginning of major changes for the organization. Most companies invest because they believe that new hardware and software will help them to make money – either by doing more for the customers they have or by attracting new customers.
Usually, management will do a fairly thorough analysis and build a business case to support that belief. In addition to operational and expense factors, the business case should include a sales forecast that delves into the expectations about existing customers and new customers and where the business is going to come from to justify investment. The volumes projected in the sales plan is not only critical to justifying the investment, it is critical to running the solution profitably once acquired. So clearly, management believes in the business case, but do your sales people?
What happens when the sales people won’t sell to the plan?
I hear about reps at commercial printers who won’t sell digital, digital printer sales people who won’t put clients on inkjet and sales people who only talk about inkjet as the low price option among the many problems that stymie management. The tendency to “buy the sale” is rampant with sales reps who regularly give away strategy, design and development services instead of selling them. The race to the bottom on price and the stifling resistance to change are chronic problems across the industry. If this translates into a significant lag in the inkjet volumes you projected, the fixed price of the equipment can drag down your whole year.
If you don’t factor in the resistance to change well ahead of implementation, you are likely to have a significant lag in sales relative to plan. Let’s face it, if your sales team is used to a commercial environment or full color toner or mono toner – inkjet just may not be in their comfort zone. Sales people walk a careful line between being client advocates and delivering profitable deals for their employer. They need to be very protective of their personal reputation and their relationship with clients, so unknowns about new offers make them very nervous. New technology coupled with requirements for new ways of selling make them doubly nervous.
When you make a strategic change in your product mix you need to look at making strategic changes in your sales processes as well. Chances are good that some of your sales people won’t like that very much. Most printers have a mix of long- and short-tenured sales reps; those with many years, or even decades of experience with a solid book of business may see themselves as being above the change and immune to new standards.They need confidence building carrots to get them past the “new tech nerves” as well as sticks to keep them selling what you want them to sell.
An effective change management approach will ensure that sales people have the necessary tools, resources, incentives, and support to succeed with the new model. It must also reinforce that they work for the company – not for themselves and that the company has the right to place emphasis on selling the services that support long-term corporate success.
So, as you polish off your technology implementation plan, pay careful attention to your sales plan and change management needs. Here are a few tips:
- Position inkjet as part of the overall portfolio if you have more than one platform
- Focus on the value inkjet brings – not cost savings
- Update compensation plans to incent profitable proposals
- Invest in lead generation activities and inkjet-based direct marketing to support sales
- Provide multiple training sessions on inkjet capabilities
- Provide customer education materials in support of sales
- Consider inside sales support to ensure that proposals are positioned for the platform you want to use for each opportunity
All of the items on the list above won’t help if you don’t answer the most important question your sales people have which is: “how can I make more money selling inkjet?” All of your communications around this change need to be focused on the core proposition that you and your sales people are going to make money with inkjet. Plan carefully, follow our checklist and give us a call if you need support or training. Let’s grow those inkjet pages.
Need help getting your sales plan or training together. Get in touch – we can help.