A Managed Service Solution: Use ‘the finance’ to Get Started
I was recently invited to submit a feature article for imageSource mag’s October edition. imageSource Mag is one of the office channel’s leading resources. The latest industry news, credible articles from dealers and resellers, and profiles of new and cutting-edge technology vendors are delivered by imageSource.
Please find my recent feature re-published below.
Today more than ever, your customer’s experiences when dealing with you will dictate whether or not they will invite you to take a wider view of their needs. Makes sense. If you are doing a good job – and they trust you – it is highly likely that they will want you to do more for them.
Hopefully, that wider view will lead to a Managed Service Solution, or it might just be, for the time being, you sell a wider range to that same customer.
To me, in a nutshell, that is what is taking place in your industry. You know where you want to get to, i.e. being a Managed Service Solution provider, but it is a tough step to take all at once; therefore many small steps are required.
As the old African proverb goes – ‘how do you eat an elephant? – one bite at a time.’
So you have to do something to start eating that elephant, and for us here in Australia, many of our more enlightened vendors start by changing the way they use their finance offer.
To do this, habits have to be changed and this is never an easy exercise.
To change habits, the first step introduced is that instead of going to market with what they have always offered, i.e. a rental agreement or lease to own agreement, or a cost per copy or Managed Print Plan; the sales team is instructed to use a Managed Service Solution agreement – every time.
Think about it. All you have done is change the form that your sales people use to close the sale, yet the ripple effect is huge.
So let’s look at what happens to the people involved:
- Your sales team will know that you are serious about the need for change
- Your sales people will have to learn how to discuss the Managed Service Solution which automatically morphs the discussion with your customer into the wider solution that you can offer
- It sets up an expectation from your customer that there is more to your company than they had pictured
- Finally, when you do go back & sell something else, it is simply a Variation or Add-on to the existing Managed Services Plan as previously discussed with your customer
Clearly, the simple change of finance paperwork you present has generated some interesting possibilities and changed the view your customer has of you. They start looking at you as someone who can do more – and the Managed Service Solution is tangible proof that you can – and are expecting to do more – for them.
Finally, you have created a fertile environment for your sales people to go back and sell more, using the Managed Service Agreement as the basis of future discussions.
Let’s talk about that Managed Services Agreement you intend to use from now on and what the customer is looking for from it.
We all know that your customer generally wants some or all of the following:
- One bill for ‘all they can eat’ each month or quarter
- One ‘throat to choke’
- One Master Agreement that makes ‘add-on’s’ and variations easy
- One document to cover all contingencies
Folks, I am sure it is the same in the US as it is here in Australia, and that is that if you take this scenario to most of your traditional funders/finance partners, then you had better take an interpreter, because you will be speaking a language that most of them will not understand, or if they do, they will not be able to support. This represents a massive challenge for many of them.
To illustrate the point, let’s look at a scenario.
Your current print based customer wants a solution that also includes:
Hardware – printers over 36 months on Managed Print plan, copiers over 48 months on a Managed Print Plan and a server over 36 months
A Software Solution for data management and storage – financed over 36 months
Plus, you are talking to them about managing their Network at some point in the future
It is hard enough for your finance partner to cope with different terms on the one agreement, let alone finance the software and then maybe find a mechanism to bill the customer should you win the Network Management business.
Then, overlay the need for one document and one bill. Then overlay on top of that, the systems required to administer this complexity to produce a simple transparent solution. Ouch!
To the Point
In Australia, we have seen these types of transactions at the ‘big end’ of town for some time and they are becoming more wide-spread every month.
The point of this article is simple; if you want to keep doing a good job for your customer, then you MUST set up the right finance offer to do so, as this finance offer will form the bedrock of your relationship with your customer as it deepens into other products and services. So it had better live up to expectations else your customer’s experience with you will be downgraded.
My message to anyone looking to develop into a Managed Services type solution is a simple one. Take a fresh look at your finance partner, and maybe use the following as a basis for determining whether they are right for you.
If you do look elsewhere, then here are 7 tips when doing so:
- Do not accept the limitations that your finance partner will want to shackle you with. Do it the way your customer wants you to – not how your finance partner has always told you it has to be done. That won’t work anymore!
- Start by using a Managed Service Solution agreement now, which can cater to the needs of you and your customer as the relationship deepens.
- Make sure your finance partner can show you what they have done, as the difference between ‘doing’ and ‘done’ could cost you your three biggest accounts.
- Don’t crucify this new finance partner about ‘rate.’ Too often in Australia, good technology dealerships ‘cross the street’ because of a cheaper rate, only to find disappointment later on, and of course, a poor experience for the customer. So don’t let ‘what’s your rate’ be your master. Expect them to be competitive by all means, but not the cheapest because the cheapest is not going to be the one that helps you when you need it most.
- Make sure that the new finance option can live up to expectations when financing your legacy business as you do not want to put it at risk in the quest for the solutions discussed here. The right finance partner will be able to do both as they will be committed to you and your industry.
- Finally, it’s not how big you are anymore that counts; as today it is – how fast – and so you might find that the best option might be a little less well-known than the big names.
Remember – it is all about the experience of your customer, be they large or small – and your finance offer to them – which will be the enabler of that relationship. Why not get it out into the marketplace now with a Managed Service Solution today.
As a mate of mine always reminds me – ‘the mind goes where it is most charmed’ – so make sure your finance offer adds to your charm.
Managing Director, S.E. Rentals
S.E. Rentals are the finance as a service specialists that will help you grow your business by providing finance solutions in an 'all things technology' future. We provide you with the flexibility, scalability and agility to help you achieve your Managed Service objectives, and our unique in-house software platform, Finance Oxygen, automates the process for you