Path Less Traveled: Finding Success When Venturing into Non-Traditional Products

Anyone in business today is going to keep their eyes and ears open for new opportunity. Finding alternate and authentic paths to new, non-conventional revenue-generating products and services is harder than one might think.

Occasionally, I have the pleasure of working with a dealer who really understands how to find those new paths and merge them into their go-to-market processes. But it’s not very often; most dealers throw new products and services into action like someone throwing darts for the first time. They might hit the bulls-eye, but its most likely luck.

With the pace of technology, change is flying at warp speed. Which makes knowing when to jump in, what to hold on to and what to add a constant gamble. It would be great if someone just wrote a “how-to” manual about adding non-typical, non-traditional office-equipment products into the mix and finding alternate paths that drive success. Even with dealer elite groups designed to share best practices and processes, some dealers are simply more successful than others. Which is a nice way to say some dealerships are not successful at all. Reaching in and grabbing your piece of the pie isn’t just about adding new products in your sales bag—it’s about successfully launching new products and services to their top revenue-generating potential.

If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, you likely know the next few things I’m going to say. Why is it that smart, intelligent, leading-edge dealers think they can just throw stuff into their sales bag and it will sell? I’ve heard “Anything we pick up in revenue is a win.” That’s simply not true. Sure, you might enjoy short-term gains, but great sales results come from scalable, repeatable sales processes, and sometimes the distraction of a product battle is costly.

Taking Proper Aim

I remember in my youth, we used to have snowball battles in the winter. We’d each build a fort in the snow and prepare an arsenal of snowballs for the battle. Sometimes I’d make 100 snowballs and line them up so I could grab, throw and repeat. The funny thing is, no matter how many snowballs I had made, I could only throw one at a time. Even though I could pick them up and throw them quickly, the faster I threw them, the less accurate I was.

Your company’s ability to scale and repeat well matters greatly. The snowball analogy gives you a picture of how loading up one’s product line doesn’t necessarily mean great results. When you want to sell other products like 3D and label printers, you have to understand that each of them requires a go-to-market strategy with dedicated sales and—equally important—purposeful marketing practices.

Anyone who’s monitored the 3D-printing marketplace has undoubtedly observed the rise and fall of major players in that industry. Most 3D dealers have come to realize that not every business needs a 3D printer in the same way they do copiers. And those that do are few and far between, so you really have to analyze your TAM (total available market) opportunity for any non-traditional product you want to sell. If you chase the 3D-printer products, you might find yourself expanding from local to national campaigns depending on where your home marketplace is. Most of the dealers that have found a client for their 3D-printing solutions report that it was a perfect fit, but not an expandable, scalable placement.

With the retail market moving from brick and mortar to ship and deliver, the use of label printers is on the rise. However, unless you package them differently, possibly with service and a supply agreement of some kind, you may find yourself in the “what’s your price?” low-profit-margin land.

Security Licensing

I’ve seen some dealers jump into security alarms and video-camera monitoring services. But many dealers don’t realize that many states require a ton of certification and licenses before you can offer these products. I have heard of two instances where dealers didn’t know they needed a license to sell and install security systems, and were shut down immediately. I believe it was their competitors that reported their status to the authorities, and thus ended their venture into the video and security world. Once the authorities have shut you down, how could you possibly compete without your competitors sharing that story over and over?

Speaking of competition, dealers often think that by spreading their wings into other industries, they’ll enjoy a wide-open opportunity for profit and growth. What they don’t realize is that those industries also have strong competitors with real expertise. Make sure you’re ready when you reach into someone else’s playground!

When you choose to market non-typical solutions, try products or services that lean on your expertise and are close to your existing deliverables, like scanning services (completely immersed in the document world), video & telecom services (newer than fax but not a far reach) and digital display (vastly becoming the strong face of large format advertising and yet very competitive).

To consider any of these products or services, you have to analyze many things. Every consideration has to be within your reach and will most likely lead you to rework your current go-to-market strategy. If any one of the fundamental requirements are off or not ready, it can destroy any opportunity for success. The primary indicators for launching new products are as follows:

Having expert knowledge surrounding new possible products is paramount in providing the greatest opportunity for success. Your TAM must be analyzed deeply to assure that adding new products and services has support within your marketplace. Can you imagine trying to sell sand in the desert?

Crafting a Message

In addition, it does no good to add new products if you haven’t created a superior message and marketing delivery of their values. This means having a strategic plan that defines exactly how you’re going to share the news to your marketplace. I’m not talking about adding a new web page for the new products; I’m talking about a full-out professional campaign that’s pointed at the right targets and titles. Your marketing team should define the who, what, when and where of your company’s new-product-launch strategy before your launch.

As you introduce these products to those targets and titles, your sales team has to possess the necessary discipline to stay the course and not break away to your company’s products when things get hard.

This brings up the next point of a dedicated sales team model. For years I’ve seen dealers stumble while trying to place the MPS product inside of their MFP hardware company’s sales team. Many sales reps who do find an MPS prospect tend to break away from that sales cycle, as they realize they’re not going to make quota and thus peel out of the MPS value proposition to secure the revenue. This destroys their MPS forecast—and would do so for any new products you try to launch without a disciplined sales-team model.

Your sales reps have to be given a chance to win with whatever product or service you want them to sell. If they have to bail because your go-to-market plan isn’t realistic, the entire launch will fail, not to mention that the momentum for your legacy products will be destroyed. Set everyone up for success now, or wait to sell the non-typical products to a later date.

Defining Success

Finally, the success of any program for which you’re launching new products starts with a everyone having a clear definition of success. That means your sales team members clearly understand their contribution and what’s expected of them. If some of the team remains with the legacy products—and they should—they need to understand how important their foundational support is to the success of the new product launch. Sales leadership has to manage both sides of the house; they need to balance the momentum of the legacy- and new-products teams.

Since booking new-product sales may take a while, your sales reps have to know what acceptable timelines are. Too much pressure to succeed within the first month or two shows that realistic goals and timelines are missing. The same thing could be said if you’re still waiting for your first new product sale after six months.

It’s not your sales rep’s job to go find the 3D prospects in your marketplace—it’s your job. No quarterback makes up brand-new plays in the huddle. The successful plays are ones that they’ve not only studied, but have practiced over and over again. Lead your team. If you want to sell products that are closely related yet non-typical, do your homework and make sure all primary indicators are reading positive for your new-product launch.

Charles Lamb
About the Author
Charles Lamb is the President and CEO of Mps&it Sales Consulting. His firm delivers proven methodologies and processes that assist dealer principals seeking the shortest path to a successful transformation into the managed services space. He's created complementary solutions including Funnelmaker, Gatekeeper, and Shield IT services. His bootcamps demonstrate immediate results in raising the skill set of those wanting a foundation for selling managed service deliverables. For information on bootcamps, training, or consulting engagements call 888.823.0006, e-mail him at, or visit