Before You Adopt Seat Based Billing or Change Your MPS Program, Fix This Sales Model

In 1995, the richest man in the world, and the CEO of the (then) most powerful company in the world, Bill Gates, wrote a book called ‘The Road Ahead.’ In it, he predicted what technologies would change our lives, and how. In the original publication there was one concept he missed completely: the World Wide Web.  While the second edition was laced throughout with the profound changes brought on by the Internet, it’s clear that sometimes we miss the most obvious things when we look too hard at minor fixes. Still, the CEO’s lack of understanding where business was headed cost Microsoft its position as the world’s biggest company. What’s the equivalent concept or word in the imaging industry today? E-commerce.

Don’t get me wrong, Managed Print Services (MPS) and Seat Based Billing (SBB) have an important role. All companies need value added solutions for their customers, but what cannot be missed is that overwhelmingly, most small business clients prefer to buy products and services when they need them, transactionally. In fact, even when one considers IT Services, most companies do not contract that per seat; it is still done on an “as needed” basis.

Transactional sales do not mean low value add or low margin. One need only compare Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts to see that the same product can have very different experiences. Transactional sales is an important part of business. Small business is an important market segment, and it must be managed effectively by your business.

Today, transactional business should be synonymous with e-commerce. The other day I spoke with a customer who told me that their customers were not interested in e-commerce. My response to such a comment is now pretty standard: “Really? That’s strange because 100% of Amazon’s customers prefer to buy online.” I probably lost the sale because of that, but it felt like the right thing to say at the time. If you don’t have a good e-commerce model then customers that prefer such a model have already left, and new ones will never switch back to a telephone order once they have experienced an online option from another vendor. In 2016, the minimum standard for an imaging dealer is to have an e-commerce site.

Do you provide the minimum standard? Have you lost customers over the years to an e-commerce competitor? It could be easy to dismiss the lost customer and justify that their leaving was based on price, but that could be a convenient answer. E-commerce is not just about price. Buying online is convenient and fast. It can be a great experience. Winning customers back may require a rethink in your transactional business model.

Why stop there? Check out this quick video to see how transactional e-commerce can also mean value added services (and even higher margins).

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