It is safe to say that enterprise content management (ECM), document capture and other software solutions are to office technology dealerships what medications are to drug stores. Why allow a customer to browse medications that address allergy and asthma, cough and cold or general pain and fever, so to speak, when you, as an office dealer account representative, can act as doctor and pharmacist to provide software solutions that speaks directly to the customer’s pain points?
Herein lies the beauty of software offerings: dealers who are efficient in diagnosing a specific solution to an end user’s needs can have a deeper, more meaningful conversation which touches upon every aspect of the customer’s workflow. But you don’t want an ill-equipped sales rep playing doctor and making recommendations when the conversation gets too specialized.
Office technology provider Blue Technologies, headquartered in Cleveland, has a host of offerings specific to document management, with four core products: Hyland Software’s OnBase, Upland Software’s FileBound, iManage and NetDocuments. According to Nano Zegarra, chief technology officer for Blue Technologies, the approach is to make a full analysis of a client’s process to determine the solutions’ path necessary to meet their objectives.
“When we select a given software solution, it’s not just one piece of software,” Zegarra said. “It might be document management software, along with another piece that does something independent, but together they create a full solution. Most of the solutions have multiple pieces that integrate with existing software used within the organization, something that’s converting on the front end.”
As soon as [the client] says there’s an interest and they want to see something, the reps are taught to get as much information about their present day processes and bring one of our experts in.
Nano Zegarra, Blue Technologies
When a Blue Technologies’ sales rep is engaged with a client on the subject of copiers or hardware, they’re listening for triggers that can open the conversation to the software side. When the client emphasizes scanning needs, it opens the door to an ECM conversation.
“As soon as [the client] says there’s an interest and they want to see something, the reps are taught to get as much information about their present day processes and bring one of our experts in,” Zegarra noted. “We teach the reps not to mention what solutions we offer by name; they know that many times, no one software can solve all of the customer’s needs.”
Access Systems, located in Waukee, IA (a suburb of Des Moines), has a dedicated team of specialists supporting its ECM solutions, with more than 50 years of combined industry experience. Vince Sabotta, solutions manager, noted the company supports more than 20 unique hosted and onsite ECM tools, which allows the company to be completely objective in its “best of breed” solutions approach.
Best of Breed
According to Sabotta, many SMBs seek options to improve processes around scanning paper files, managing repetitive tasks around electronic documents, or to collaborate securely.
“Our discovery efforts allow us to define the inefficiencies of current customer processes, and challenges the customer to monetize the pain of these inefficiencies,” he said. “Soft cost factors need to be properly itemized and weighed alongside hard costs, in addition to the cost of indecision. Companies will not buy software without financial justification. With partner offerings across the price and functionality spectrum, we are able to help them select the right partner platform or software tool set for their specific needs.”
Analyzing the customer profile constructs a puzzle of sorts, and finding the missing piece falls upon Access Systems’ shoulders. A smaller company, for example, may need a single seat of desktop software.
“Moving up the scale, they can expand through a number of scan/routing-type solutions that don’t have a SQL database or an image repository of any sort other than what they’re routing to, and there’s a number of solutions that do,” he said.
Selling ECM has prompted the Gordon Flesch Co. of Madison, WI, to evolve its approach over many years. Jeff Dotzler, director of GFConsulting Group, noted that the sales cycle is much longer and more complicated than its traditional business, while the resources needed to support the sale, write the scope, implement and train are also unique.
“Our success has come from taking the necessary time to fully understand what the customer is trying to accomplish and what is holding them back from achieving that goal,” Dotzler said, noting the company provides Laserfiche as its ECM solution. “We focus on the process challenge and not the features/benefits of the software.”
Our success has come from taking the necessary time to fully understand what the customer is trying to accomplish and what is holding them back from achieving that goal.
Jeff Dotzler, Gordon Flesch Co.
Gordon Flesch Co. coaches its account executives to have a conversation with clients regarding their business, goals, and the roadblocks they face achieving those objectives. Every business is made up of a series of processes, and the key is determining how many of those areas can be fortified. Gordon Flesch Co.’s account executive checklists generally include HR onboarding and employee documentation, sales order processing, accounts payable and compliance documentation.
Impact Networking, a business process optimization specialist with 12 Midwest locations, including its Lake Forest, IL, headquarters, utilizes a customer-centric approach that allows it to identify pain points and inefficient processes in businesses of all sizes to determine what level of automation best suits a particular client’s needs.
According to Frank DeGeorge, vice president of strategic services at Impact Networking, the company has developed strong partnerships with DocuWare for its ECM solutions and Kofax for business process optimization and robotic process automation. While the firm can accommodate businesses of any size, it concentrates on the SMB space.
Impact’s account managers are thoroughly trained to conduct a detailed analysis and assess a client’s bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Their reps are required to have thorough and specific knowledge of every solution Impact offers, as well as how the solutions integrate with one another.
“Observation and analysis is a crucial first step that we always perform before any demos take place,” DeGeorge said. “This enables business needs and challenges to take center stage instead of letting a demonstration of a canned process demonstrate something that may or may not be applicable to the specific needs of our individual clients.”
As software solutions selling entails a different approach than copier, MFP or hardware conversations, account managers encounter a variety of challenges in aligning customers with a solution that targets their individual needs. DeGeorge noted that aligning with a customer’s key decision makers provides optimal insight regarding the priorities of each business and drives the discovery process with maximum efficiency and efficacy.
Observation and analysis is a crucial first step that we always perform before any demos take place.
Frank DeGeorge, Impact Networking
“Because of our wide range of offerings, Impact relies on specialized subject matter experts to cover our entire range of solutions,” he said. “Our specialists are segmented into the following categories: document management, business process optimization, vCIOs for our managed IT services, production print, managed print services, and design and marketing. Because these specialized teams operate in every office, our account managers are confident that they have access to the pertinent knowledge and resources to effectively target customers with a wide range of needs across a number of vertical markets.
“Our sales process across all services is very similar in the fact that we first align with executives, perform an assessment, and then validate our findings before making any proposed recommendations. This makes our sales process collaborative and puts the customer’s needs first.”
Access Systems’ Sabotta pointed out that solution selling is viewed as simply problem solving with a return on investment measurement. Hardware is more of a commoditized sales process, he said, while software that changes how a business operates takes more of a tailored conversation. Access Systems refuses to provide a solution where a problem doesn’t exist.
“If there is no compelling ROI associated with the ECM project, customers either won’t initiate the project or will just proceed with other projects with perceived higher priorities,” he said. “For many of our customers we are their IT department, so we would lose credibility, trust, and/or the customer if we failed to align our services with their evolving business needs.”
One of the reasons Blue Technologies limits the depth of the engagement conversation between sales reps and clients is to avoid the possibility of overpromising or confusing the capabilities and terminology of its four main document management offerings. OnBase software has more than 360 modules, for example, so Zegarra says there’s no way a sales person is going to know all of that information – but Blue’s ECM experts do.
Process terminology is another tripping point Zegarra seeks to avoid with reps, who may not know the proper person to address with the client regarding a specific process.
If there is no compelling ROI associated with the ECM project, customers either won’t initiate the project or will just proceed with other projects with perceived higher priorities.
Vince Sabotta, Access Systems
“When [the reps] go in, they’re told specifically that they’re going after the owner, with the office manager or IT guys responsible for the copiers,” Zegarra explained. “To have them try to figure out who to speak to for our particular segment is difficult, though. They struggle. You can’t cold call a document management system. We tell them that’s not how you’re going to succeed, unless it’s a small enough organization where the person you’re seeing at the front door is someone who handles more than what they’re doing.”
Suffice to say, the educational process a dealership requires of its sales force can go a long way toward determining the success of an account executive’s endeavors when going belly-to-belly with a customer. Some account executives demonstrate a greater capacity to learn the software offerings and be fluent in their conversations with customers.
The fluctuating technical knowledge of account executives can cause a dealership to re-examine its approach to selling ECM software. For instance, 18 months ago Gordon Flesch Co. decided to employ a dedicated team focused solely on ECM.
“We tried for many years to have our traditional account executives sell ECM,” Dotzler said. “Many were successful, but we determined that the long ECM sales cycle was having an impact on the account executives’ ability to sell other solutions. While the dedicated team approach requires an added layer of collaboration, we believe it will yield better results over time.”
Impact Networking employs a tiered and ongoing training program that begins with a two-week Boot Camp, where new hires are provided specialized training from experts in all departments, covering the full range of products and services. Six months later, a one-week camp incorporates all of the knowledge account managers have developed and examines strengths, weaknesses and best practices to ensure continued success. These camps are in addition to training sessions conducted every Friday to keep all the teams updated on the latest Impact technology.
Sabotta noted that most software companies make resources available—extensive online and classroom-based learning—to help representatives sell their product. Access Systems’ account representatives keep their certifications current with every partner in the portfolio.
“Understanding the latest capabilities of the available solutions allows us to put the customer first,” he said. “Our consultative approach ensures we will deploy the right solution on the customer’s schedule and within budget.”