As the office technology industry and the technology itself has evolved, finance companies are evolving as well to better serve the dealer channel by introducing new programs and products, and enhancing existing programs to keep pace with the latest industry trends and offerings. With that in mind we spoke with representatives from five finance companies to learn how they can better help their dealers be successful.
Real-time online reports
“We want to help dealers take advantage of new business opportunities and think beyond the copier to drive cost efficiencies and top-line growth,” states Glen Clark, national sales director, GE Capital, Office Imaging. “That’s why we offer real-time online reports that give key metrics such as customer application status, approvals, and funding. This is one way dealers can reduce service-related losses by managing risk within their portfolios.”
Share internal best practices with the dealer
One of GE’s more unique initiatives is HealthAhead, an internal program to encourage employee health. The company has shared details of this initiative with several customers and at a copier dealer association event. “We even arrange consultations with GE’s experts to help a dealership grow and expand,” states Clark. “This is especially important in light of the forthcoming healthcare law changes.”
Expertise beyond financing
“We’re enabling office imaging dealers to take advantage of GE’s vast experience by investing in digital tools to help them locate new customers, stay current on industry trends, and improve their leadership/management abilities,” emphasizes Clark.
GE’s Access GE program gives dealers access to GE’s insights, tools, and best practices to help them tackle their biggest challenges, such as growing sales and exploring new markets; managing costs; and planning and integrating acquisitions, among other things. Some of this information is presented in Webinars. Recent Webinar topics include managing the new healthcare law changes and understanding the proposed FASB lease accounting changes. GE also hosts exclusive events for customers such as the CMO Summit, CFO Summit, Dealer Forum, and National Middle Market Summit. And for certain customers, GE hosts one-on-one engagements.
“One of the things we’re trying to do with this effort is reach as many dealers as possible with this digital content,” says Clark.
Via digital content, dealers can also learn about lease changes and potential lease changes, for example.
Clark reveals that all GE Capital’s account options, digital tools, educational tools, and Websites will soon be combined together into a single online portal that’s being customized for OI dealers. MyGECapital.com will provide them with a single site where they can access their account information as well as business-critical data and management resources, such as industry related content and abbreviated book reviews.
A key component of the site is the Prospect Researcher, a proprietary application developed by GE that allows companies to conduct their own business research. “It offers detailed profiles of 20 million companies and biographies and contact data for 40 million executives. It also provides key insights and financials for targeted companies, along with industry analysis and executive contact and bio information,” reports Clark. “What it does is access a database that allows a dealer to pull up a potential customer. Say they’re trying to make a call on a law firm, it provides them with a list of primary partners who make the decision. In addition, a sales manager can also pull up peers of that law firm in the same building so when they send in a rep to make that first call, he can also call on other companies in that building. We’re always looking for new customers and want to try to help our customers find new customers.”
GREATAMERICA FINANCIAL SERVICE
Provide peace of mind
“When I say ‘peace of mind’ I refer to the customer experience—ethics and integrity as well as the ability to execute to high standards,” says Jennie Fisher, senior vice president and general manager of GreatAmerica Financial Service’s Office Equipment Group. “As dealers become more focused on service solution offerings, their reliance upon flexible and customized invoice solutions and contract administration increases. Most dealers rely on their financing source to provide this flexibility, especially for a bundled solution. Financing sources may handle a large percentage of a dealer’s receivables, making it critical for them to have a solid partnership, built on trust and a proven track record.”
Support a dealer’s evolution
“Finance companies should be informed about how dealers’ selling cycles have evolved to match the transition to a managed services business model. It’s important to understand the market trends and ever-changing technology and software offerings in this space. To truly support dealers, financing solutions must match the opportunities and challenges our dealers face correctly. It is only by matching the offerings that the dealer and the financing company can continue to succeed. Financing sources need to consider how to provide financing solutions for services, software and other products outside the normal output devices historically financed,” continues Fisher.
Customize programs to fit the dealer’s go-to-market strategy
“It is important to provide solutions that help dealers differentiate in the market. These solutions should continuously improve their day-to-day operational efficiency. A finance company’s ability to learn, support and customize financing solutions based on a dealer’s go-to-market strategy is important,” points out Fisher. “For example, a dealer’s finance partner should have an easy-to-read, single-invoice solution that bills for equipment, usage, software and variable managed IT services—matching the sales process and proposal originally provided to their customer. There is tremendous opportunity in the industry as the BTA Channel dealers become more interested and proficient at selling and providing managed services.”
CIT VENDOR FINANCE, U.S
Front Page Invoice Messaging
With the vast majority of a company’s sales going to its existing customers, it’s critical for dealers to keep their brand and products at the top of their customers’ attention and to maintain frequent communications with customers. One great way to achieve this is through front page invoice messaging, coupled with full and/or multi-page advertising or letters with the invoice. “What’s even better — it’s easy and highly affordable,” notes Nick Small, managing director, CIT Vendor Finance, U.S.
This service was introduced this past September with CIT Vendor Finance’s new invoicing enhancements. Already, independent dealers and manufacturer-owned branches are using this service for a variety of communications, from informing customers of new cost-per-copy meter-reading software to new product lines, from organizational announcements to special offers on consumables.
“This is an exciting, value-added service we provide to help dealers maintain and grow their business,” adds Small. “Every month customers receive an invoice, but unlike a direct mail piece, which may just get discarded, people read their invoices because they know it requires action on their part. It’s the perfect place to drop in a brief message, present special offers, survey customers on their needs or impressions of your company—the opportunities are limitless. We are always looking to add services like this, which can help our customers succeed and grow their business.”
EVERBANK COMMERCIAL FINANCE
Assistance with a dealer’s gross profits
“We help our dealer partners’ enhance their gross profits, increase their sales, and maximize efficiency when it comes to doing transactions,” says Fred Carollo, general manager of Office Products at EverBank Commercial Finance.
Helping dealers grow
Prospering dealers are moving up-market and are looking for financing partners who can do larger deals. “At EverBank Commercial Finance, we have this expertise, and take a hands-on approach to truly understand the dynamics of a transaction to get it done,” explains Carollo. “We’ve found that listening to our dealers and understanding their needs puts us in a better position to deliver timely, relevant solutions.”
EverBank Commercial Finance has a dealer council that meets bi-annually. “We run our projects by them,” explains Carollo. “It’s helpful because they say ‘don’t do that, do this,’ and many times it’s against what we thought we should do.”
Thanks to the dealer council, EverBank Commercial Finance is assisting its dealers on more mid-market and larger transactions. “Those are the meat and potatoes for them and the hardest deals to close,” notes Carollo.
Automating asset-based billing
“One thing we’re focusing on at EverBank Commercial Finance is asset-based billing, including the ability to create custom invoices for an end user,” says Carollo. “On large deals, there are a lot of assets and end users have requirements such as the need for department numbers on their invoice. Everybody can do that manually, but the more you can automate it, the more you can offer it as a real product.”
He explains that many deals require legal negotiations, invoicing capabilities, and credit approval. Plus some end users are looking to receive tax benefits through the transaction. “And once the deal is booked they get back to the vendor and the end user and discuss whether it was booked correctly and whether the invoicing was done correctly,” adds Carollo. “One of our dealer’s biggest fears is they hand it to the leasing company and the leasing company doesn’t invoice it correctly. A lot of large deals are lost not on equipment performance or service performance, but on the invoicing of the customer.”
Understanding the dealer’s business plan
“I always tell our sales force we’re not just here to do transactions,” says Carollo. “We’re good at meeting with owners, learning about their business plan, and providing insight into how we can help them achieve their goals.”
That understanding has directly affected many of EverBank Commercial Finance’s end-of-term practices and products.
“In the past, the leasing company and copier company were often at odds,” acknowledges Carollo. “At the end of term, the leasing company doesn’t want the copiers back, while the dealer just wants to return it and get an attractive trade-up number. So there’s always been conflicting goals at the end.”
EverBank Commercial Finance now provides dealers with greater flexibility on how equipment is handled at the end of term. “We give the dealer options that put them in control,” says Carollo. “For example, if a dealer wants to build up a rental fleet we can help them acquire off-lease equipment. This is attractive for situations such as state and local government transactions where they don’t want to sign an agreement, or do three or six months at a time. This type of flexibility gets the dealers deeper in their base. That’s good for the dealer and for us.”
Enhanced reporting capabilities
“We spend a lot of time on our reporting capabilities and have a robust portal for delivering actionable data in real time to our users,” states Carollo. “Inside that portal is a ton of information, which can be daunting for a dealer. We’ve worked hard to simplify it so dealers can go in and easily access the data that can drive their sales. If you look at a copier dealership, there are different people in that company who have different needs for different information. The administrator wants to know about the status of their applications and when the deal is funding, while the sales manager may be more interested in termination reports. We have overage and underage reports on a cost per copy basis, so a sales manager can identify all the deals they have where the end users’ usage is above or below their monthly minimum. They can send their sales force out and address that.”
EverBank Commercial Finance also allows the dealer to set up users inside their company to receive specific reports automatically. For example, a dealer can say I want to come in every Monday morning and see a list of all the deals terminating in the next three months. “He doesn’t have to run anything, it gets delivered right to his inbox,” says Carollo. “The problem is that sales managers and reps are typically juggling a lot of responsibilities, and running a report isn’t always top-of-mind. Anything we can do to make their lives easier is a good thing.”
DE LAGE LANDEN (DLL)
Maximize cash flow
“This is one of the core drivers of how an independent dealer runs their business,” states Bob Hunter, the U.S. commercial lead for office technology with De Lage Landen (DLL). “We continue to look at new products and solutions that we can offer our partners to do just that. For example, we continue to expand the traditional inventory finance/commercial finance facilities to allow partners to finance inventory for parts and supplies. Through our Life Cycle Asset Management programs we offer products to combine new and used equipment and finance used equipment after term.
Provide prefunding opportunities
“We are continually looking to bolster the way that we prefund our dealers for future lease volume,” notes DLL’s Hunter. “We give them access to cash to run their business as well as a free source of cash flow to maximize the term discounts they can receive from their manufacturers .”
“We always look for opportunities to provide acquisition financing as our partners are looking to tuck-in acquisitions or geographical acquisitions,” adds Hunter.
Connect technology partners with the dealer channel
“As equipment dealers expand beyond their core market segments into new segments, it is critical for their finance partner to develop products that meet the strategic needs of dealers” explains Hunter. “In many cases they’ve had customer relationships for many years and are looking for ways to leverage those relationships to sell them additional products and services including technology solutions or managed equipment services.”
DLL looks to leverage their extensive experience in the technology market and connect our Fortune 50 global technology partners with the independent dealer channel to educate them about new opportunities. “That provides a lot of advantages to dealers because our technology partners understand the lessons learned, the changes going on in the marketplace, what the cloud really means, and where the opportunities are,” notes Hunter who feels that this real-world experience is more valuable to dealers as opposed to hearing it theoretically from industry consultants or somebody at a conference.
Inform dealers about regulatory changes
“Our partners should be able to count on the finance industry for ongoing information about regulatory changes,” says Hunter. “We have significant resources looking at global economic changes from a macro standpoint and always try to share that information.”
He cites accounting changes as an example and the impact those changes will have on a dealer’s business. “We even talk about the economic trends that will impact their businesses, such as understanding the impact of the Affordable Care Act,” adds Hunter.
Assist in building customer loyalty
“Traditional customer retention is important to all of our partners and to us,” emphasizes Hunter who adds that a finance company should be able to offer additional services to the dealer to maximize customer loyalty. That might be helping dealers manage their portfolio and maximize opportunities within that portfolio along with predictive analytics to help dealers better understand their customers. This assistance can also help dealers better understand the normal refresh cycle, how often they should be contacting their customers, how to handle partial upgrades, and how to evaluate the benefits of partial new and used as opposed to 100 percent new equipment.