Xerox Reseller: How Can I Sell Value?

Last Updated Apr 26, 2010 9:00 AM EDT

How do you compete when your supplier is selling direct... and selling through other, lower-cost channels? That's a problem that Sales Machine reader "lscunningham" has:
My weakest link is selling for value vs selling for price. I sell copiers and printers. We are authorized dealers for Xerox but the competition is Xerox itself, as well as online sales! It's hard to "sell value" when the company's technician is not certified on a lot of the machines that Xerox has out! What should I do about this?
Take heart. Your strategy to "sell value" is right on target. Unfortunately, you haven't fully diagnosed your problem or thought out the execution of your "sell value" strategy.

STEP #1: Research your competition. Contact the person at Xerox who is responsible for your account. (Hint: It's probably some over-worked and under-appreciated drone in channel marketing or channel sales.) Find out how Xerox thinks about channel segmentation. The firm undoubtedly has some kind of strategy defining who is supposed to sell to which group of customers and how they're supposed to execute that strategy. Chances are, because you're dealing with Xerox (a company famous for world-class marketing screw-ups), the channel strategy won't make much sense. However, knowing how your competition thinks allows you to predict how they'll behave. Example: if Xerox's channel strategy is to sell direct to companies with revenues of more than $10 million; you know that if you call on such companies, you'll probably run into Xerox.

STEP #2: Prioritize What's Different. List out everything that your firm does differently (or could easily do differently) from Xerox's direct sales channel. The list should look like this:

  1. We have a sales office in Podunk Heights; Xerox does not.
  2. We can sell Canon printers; Xerox can't.
  3. Etc.
Keep listing until you've got at least 10 items. Now underline the items that you think are likely to be valued by the customer if presented appropriated during the sales cycle. Example: if you also sell Canon printers, you can position yourself as "more objective" than the Xerox guys, who are only going to push Xerox printers.

Congratulations. You now have the germ of your "sell value" strategy when selling against Xerox. You'll need to flesh it out, strengthen your strengths, and ameliorate your weaknesses, but it's what you do differently that will form the reason why the customer might buy from you rather than Xerox.

STEP #3: Use Xerox to Help You Sell. Here's the fun part. Companies that set up indirect sales channels (that's you) always set up channel programs (i.e. training, spifs, etc.) to encourage those channels to sell their products. Think of those programs as a menu of "stuff" that you can use to gain a competitive edge. B, not just against Xerox's competitors, but also against Xerox. Essentially you look for ways to leverage the inherent contradictions in Xerox's channel strategy. Example: if Xerox is offering a special discount on a certain printer when sold through channels, you may be able to undercut the activities of the local Xerox sales rep.

That's pretty much it. The key to selling value is making sure that you're clearly differentiated and that the customer values those differentiation points.

READERS: Any more suggestions?