Industry Manufacturers Outline Opportunities, Obstacles and Tools for Reseller Sales Growth

As part of this month’s State of the Industry report on elevating dealer sales and reps to the next level, we’ve pulled together a roundtable of manufacturer experts to share their thoughts on the current landscape. With the many downward pressures today’s account representative faces—from the pandemic to supply chain shortages and economy-addled obstacles such as inflation and rising interest rates—the path to finding revenue streams has never been tougher.

That’s where your business partner, the OEM, can provide answers to some of the day’s most pressing challenges. Our panel features Laura Blackmer, president, dealer sales for Konica Minolta; Jennifer Healy, director of marketing strategy and programs, Ricoh USA; Dan Garner, vice president of regional sales, Western United States, and Cary Butler, vice president of regional sales, Eastern United States, Toshiba America Business Solutions; Bob Burnett, director, SMB product planning for Brother International; Elliott Williams, director of product marketing, business imaging at Epson America; Clark Bugg, director of North America channel sales, Lexmark; Karin Harrington, senior sales director, Canon U.S.A.; and Bob Madaio, vice president, marketing at Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America.

Looking at the dealer channel as a whole, what do you feel represents the greatest opportunity for sales growth?

Laura Blackmer,
Konica Minolta

Blackmer: Post COVID, we’re selling a lot of business that was delayed or paused, and we’re now coming back in full force. We’re finding business is not just hardware and are having lots of discussions around solutions—workflow, security and ways to improve business operations. In addition, the IT space continues to be very lucrative. Again, security solutions as well as e-commerce solutions, HR solutions and hybrid working solutions all present a multitude of opportunities for dealers to have meaningful discussions that will result in improved revenue.

Healy: There are many opportunities for dealers to increase customer reach, boost profit potential and tap into new routes to revenue, including:

  • Expanding their current traditional hardware offering with new workflow, as a service, IT and AI offerings that are the new demands of customers.
  • Creating new routes to market and expanding into vertical markets such as health care and education.
  • Diversifying into adjacent, new and rapidly growing areas. For example, by introducing wide format solutions and services to their technology portfolio, dealers can leverage their existing infrastructure to cross- and upsell while simultaneously accessing new markets, customers and lines of business.
  • Dealers supporting production print customers can also tap into the significant growth in e-commerce-enabled solutions that in-plant and commercial customers require.
Dan Garner, Toshiba

Garner/Butler: Securing net-new business generates the most immediate impact on sales growth. Toshiba provides numerous sales enablement tools to help dealers approach new customers and new customer segments. Dealer sales comp plans surrounding these activities are integral to meeting this objective, which drives field behavior. Lastly, expanding customers’ technology mix with other relevant solutions represents another opportunity for sales success as solutions, such as those offered by Toshiba, allow dealers to land an opportunity and expand the deal size dramatically.

Bugg: Lexmark has built a strong track record of providing its partners with new and inventive products and solutions to win big in the industry. We’ve found that utilizing cloud services to manage and monitor the fleet is an excellent way to add value and gain real-time visibility into the customer’s needs.

Clark Bugg, Lexmark

Lexmark Cloud Services is a growing array of modular capabilities that can be deployed automatically without heavy-handed professional service costs or on-premise infrastructure. Cloud services allow customers to reduce their toolsets and costs as they expand their footprint of Lexmark devices connected to the cloud. Enterprise-class capabilities, including 100 percent remote device management as well as firmware updates, are provided through our Cloud Fleet Management offering specifically for partners.

Burnett: As hybrid workspaces and the decentralization of technology continues to become the norm, offering a hybrid printing solution makes sense. To ensure business profitability, dealers should look to provide the perfect mix of printers and all-in-ones as well as service solutions to meet customers’ unique needs. Finding the right hardware for today’s business functionality and performance needs will help them meet demands for how work now gets done. Brother offers both laser and inkjet models that support strong workflow and security solutions for today’s work-from-anywhere demands. In addition, subscription services are another offering to grow revenue opportunities.

Bob Madaio,

Madaio: The largest opportunity for dealers to expand their business is to move from being simply a copier sales vehicle to becoming a full technology partner for their clients. Offering solutions to information management problems, such as collaboration, digitization, creation, sharing, etc., is critical. That said, the print market will still see hundreds of billions of pages printed annually, and we expect vertical markets such as health care, financial services, education and government to remain productive places for dealers to sell for some time. At the same time, moving the conversation from print devices to print services (such as managed print services) offers new discussion opportunities for many dealers.

Elliot Williams, Epson

Williams: Coming off the heels of the pandemic and seeing businesses move to a hybrid workforce, inkjet technology—specifically A4—continues to provide dealers and their reps with new sales opportunities. The demand for A4 soared over the past two years, and we don’t see that subsiding for the foreseeable future. And with some businesses moving back into the office, A3 is still a need for workgroups and a profitable offering for dealers.

Harrington: Expanding into new markets can offer an opportunity for growth. The current climate has seen some competitors weakened, which can afford the chance for others to pick up additional customers.

For Canon, continued expansion into the production-print space remains promising. Complementing this strong effort, which started during the pandemic, is continued inroads in the large-format sector, providing new growth opportunities.

Given the business conditions we’re currently facing (inflation, rising interest rates, supply chain constraints) what do you feel are the keys to securing net-new accounts and expanding within existing clientele?

Harrington: Recognizing that customers are looking for solution providers can help expand within existing clientele. Many companies have switched to a hybrid work environment. Canon’s cloud solutions can help this hybrid setup thrive by enhancing day-to-day operations with flexible and secure workflow options. Focusing on verticals such as health care and education remains important, as they’re both growing segments of our business.

Canon also introduced its first robotic product, the Whiz by Softbank Robotics, a commercial robot vacuum built on a trusted AI platform to deliver a higher quality, more efficient clean. This is one example of how we can provide dealers access to new business segments to grow within their current accounts.

Williams: It’s essential to build and maintain relationships with prospects and existing clientele and to understand their business plans, successes and needs. Being transparent in terms of product availability and lead times as well as rollout and installation plans helps to build and solidify trust. Having an open line of communication helps dealers be more strategic and create personalized plans to assist clients with meeting their goals. Clients not only see the value in the products but also in the support provided.

Bob Burnett, Brother USA

Burnett: We need to address two aspects of how work is now done. First, it’s addressing an organization’s workplace—is there a distributed workforce with corporate home offices? For customers to operate productively in a home setting, printing devices should offer similar features, functionality, and capabilities as the equipment in their corporate offices. IT still has control of business functionality and is looking at devices in the home as an extension of the corporate infrastructure. As people establish their corporate home office, offering cloud-based solutions and added security measures will assist an organization with maintaining connectivity and process improvements. Channel partners should have conversations with their customers on the value of a standardized corporate work-from-home fleet that will save them in support/supply costs and through improvements in business workflow. Second, with today’s external factors such as inflation and rising interest rates, there’s a trend toward service models. Brother’s value subscription program, for example, has been expanded to offer authorized partners a subscription that includes discounts on Brother genuine toner, ink and drums.

Madaio: Breaking into net-new customers will likely require new thinking to drive savings and efficiency. For instance, suggesting to them that they consolidate machines or bring light-production machines in-house to save on outsourcing print jobs. Current customer expansion can also be driven by diversifying offerings. For instance, having a digitization conversation can trigger workflow improvements. When talking about creating information with your customers, ask if they have great laptops. Finally, a question about the productivity of a customer’s conference rooms can trigger a digital whiteboard conversation.

Bugg: The answer is simple: you need to find a trusted advisor. When you find one, you’ll want to turn to them because they’ll offer new ways of differentiating yourself from your competitors during a downturn. Likewise, OEMs should serve their partners as trusted advisors during these current business conditions.

When choosing an OEM partner, it’s essential to consider whether a company has the necessary industry expertise, the efficiency to identify and solve the many challenges that arise each day, and the flexibility to help manage problems that occur in these challenging times.

Cary Butler, Toshiba

Garner/Butler: No matter the current business conditions, organizations must continually address technology needs because, in today’s digital age, this provides a material competitive advantage. Meanwhile, the advancement of remote and hybrid workers is adding yet another level of complexity to fulfilling these needs. This is where dealers can add value to clients, helping them navigate these challenges to deliver a technological advantage during a time of change. It’s key to learn about net-new and existing accounts’ ever-evolving tech requirements and tailor the discussion to their needs. From there, with Toshiba’s diverse hardware, solutions and service offerings, our sales consultants can routinely create the proper technology mix to improve clients’ business operations. By identifying needs in this manner and providing a tailored approach, it’s easier to help clients navigate these ever-changing business conditions.

Jennifer Healy, Ricoh

Healy: Dealers who are attuned to customer needs and open to change are thriving, even in these challenging times. Transitioning from technology provider to trusted services partner is critical to support customers through the effects of current market dynamics and to position themselves and their clients for long-term sales growth. Dealers should remain laser-focused on delivering exceptional experiences with integrated solutions that leverage automation and advanced workflows to support the customers of their own clients. Additionally, they must be there with support and services after the sale. We work closely with our dealers to create and shore up that expertise and ongoing support.

Blackmer: As mentioned above, even with the presenting headwinds of the economy, demand is still very strong. That said, dealers need to make sure they’re recession-proof by having skills and expertise in key areas such as solutions and security.

Provide an overview of your latest tools, programs and resources designed to help maximize sales rep effectiveness in the field.

Garner/Butler: Beyond the traditional sales and product training seminars and online learning sessions, Toshiba presents sales reps with numerous tools and resources to help maximize their effectiveness, including:

  • Our StoryTeller cloud platform provides sales reps with an online gallery of dynamically curated presentation elements such as animated slides, videos and customer testimonials to create and deliver impactful client sales presentations for Toshiba systems, software and services.
  • Encompass enables sales reps to quickly configure systems and solutions for clients, set pricing/contract details, and generate polished and professional sales proposals with Toshiba curated images and design.

Ultimately, we want Toshiba dealers to be confident in their messages across the portfolio and find valuable resources with minimal effort.

Bugg: Partners need to differentiate themselves with industry-specific knowledge that quickly and effectively addresses the mission-critical needs of today’s customers. With the Lexmark Industry Advantage (LIA) program, we equip partners with the vertical industry expertise needed to serve their customers better and grow their business.

Through educational resources and opportunities to engage with seasoned industry consultants, partners can gain a competitive advantage and positively impact their organization’s bottom line.

LIA is one of the latest tools to help maximize sales rep effectiveness by including a Lexmark industry expert in the sales call. The rep can share first-hand knowledge and industry expertise, helping partners reduce their toolsets and costs as they expand their footprint of cloud-enabled Lexmark devices.

Williams: We have several activation programs, such as open houses and sales blitzes, that allow us to recruit and bring on dealers. We also have teams to drive demand generation activities on behalf of our dealers, and it’s been very successful.

Karin Harrington,
Canon U.S.A.

Harrington: During the pandemic, Canon was able to pivot to virtual learning for sales reps. Building on that experience, we can now provide hybrid learning through both onsite training and a virtual component such as our new sales rep boot camp. This lets the sales reps choose virtual or on-site training depending on their needs and can account for potential travel restrictions.

Additionally, our partner portal offers vast content on products/vertical markets. We continue to provide onsite support through our technical sales executives and product specialists, continuing long-standing practices. This year, we’ve conducted a series of product roadshows for reps in each region to train on Canon products and solutions, in the process demonstrating how we differentiate from the competition. These events have continued through our “roadshow in a box” program, which has enabled our sales teams to conduct local dealer training at the sales rep level. 

Blackmer: We launched our new Rev’d Up dealer performance program in April 2022, and it’s an excellent program for encouraging dealers to go beyond the MFP. Now embedded in that program are toolkits, training and marketing collateral to help bring that diversification message to customers.

Madaio: The newest resource in our arsenal to help dealers and dealer salespeople is the Sharp Brand Center. Our dealer sales teams are already using the Sharp Success Center, the primary venue to find product, training and sales information. The Sharp Brand Center complements the Success Center by allowing for simple co-branding of Sharp content, including product documents, flyers, infographics—even videos. Targeted at those who market at the dealership, dealers can add their logos and/or contact information for their sales reps and use that content with clients, on the web or on social media.

Healy: Ricoh supports dealers with the hands-on training required to facilitate complex sales cycles and create high impact, ROI-generating solutions. Our consultative approach helps dealers connect our solutions to the needs of their customers’ businesses and target markets. Our dealer marketing and sales kits increase dealers’ comfort with both horizontal and vertical markets to help them build offerings that meet evolving demand. These kits are focused on key trends—including document management, workflows, security, cloud, in-plant, remote work, and talent acquisition and retention—to assist them with new and emerging buyer needs, effective digital strategies and overall sales fluency.

Burnett: Brother introduced the Value Subscription Program for authorized partners, providing end-users a convenient, monthly flat rate that includes the machine, Brother genuine toner, ink and drums, plus next-business-day exchange service on select hardware models. This is a low-burden program for the channel, allowing dealers to simply sign up a customer and Brother takes care of the rest. Our dealers get a predictable share in the monthly revenue.

We’re also continuing to grow the Brother Partner Authorized Total Hub (PATH), a one-stop-shop to help partners seamless manage their relationship with Brother. We provide access to tools and information— including marketing collateral, social media assets and more—to effectively sell Brother products and solutions. We want our partners to succeed, so maintaining our “at your side” approach is a top priority. 

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.