Get Back To Basics
I was recently charged by our company to evaluate content management systems to archive and organize our computer-generated files. Given our history with the channel, I knew the value a VAR could bring to this process, and I contacted several within a 2-hour radius of our Erie, PA headquarters to get a better idea of the solutions each offered. To my dismay, most of these VARs failed to employ even the most basic business practices that lead to successful selling. To ensure you aren’t making the same mistakes, I offer these vital, even if somewhat obvious, pieces of advice.
1. Be Responsive
I thought I was a VAR’s dream customer. I placed the initial call to each reseller and expressed my interest. They didn’t have to spend a dime in lead-generation dollars to acquire my contact information. I am also well versed in content management technologies and had a good idea of what I wanted the solution to accomplish. I was what I would consider the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. Yet, fewer than half of the VARs I contacted even bothered to call me back.
Of the VARs that did respond, some made me feel like I was more of a burden than a welcome sales opportunity. They mentioned how busy they were and seemed hard-pressed to fit my requests for a solution discovery session into their schedules. This put me off immediately, and I eliminated these VARs from my evaluation process. The lesson to be learned here is clear. You can’t win business that you make no attempt to earn. Make potential customers feel important by responding to their inquiries within 24 hours and treating their requests as though they were the only projects on your plate.
2. Listen To The Customer
As mentioned earlier, I sought to implement a solution that would manage computer-generated documents. Our organization required no document scanning capabilities whatsoever. I expressed this point clearly to each VAR and felt that it was well understood by all. However, some of these VARs then asked me to complete a presales survey that was made up almost entirely of paper document conversion questions. These surveys asked me to identify paper size and weight, whether or not color scanning was needed, and the scanning turnaround time I required. I have written articles that show how surveys such as this can be a successful selling tool (see "Survey Customers To Increase Imaging Sales" in the April 2005 issue of Business Solutions). Nevertheless, in this instance, I felt that completing the surveys was a waste of time and an indication that my needs were not understood or given proper consideration.
3. Be Flexible
Completing the presales surveys also made me feel like I was being forced to work in a manner the VARs were accustomed to, rather than the VARs adjusting to meet my needs. This lack of flexibility was also apparent when it came to the demonstration phase. When I narrowed my search down to two VARs, I wanted each to come to our Erie offices and examine the existing system we have in place. Neither VAR was particularly receptive to this idea, considering Erie was approximately a 2-hour drive for both. Instead, they opted to provide me with an online software demo first. The online demo was helpful, but I felt steps in the process could have been eliminated if these VARs would have been more flexible in accommodating my request for an on-site demonstration using our existing file types.
In my search for a solution, I began to realize that in the process of adopting new technologies and techniques to set themselves apart, many VARs have largely forgotten the cornerstones of good customer service. I urge you all to rededicate yourselves to these basic principles. Your sales efforts will suffer without them.