Dealers always tell me their customers come first. Why then, have they not given them an easier way to buy?

There are four basic arguments that office equipment dealers make when they decide not to build an e-commerce website. Let me review each one, and explain why they are weak arguments. It’s time to put the needs of your customers first and enable e-commerce on your website.


Argument 1: I don’t want customers to see my prices. If they do, I will immediately lose their business to Amazon, Staples, or CDW.

For years, customers have had the ability to price shop, with or without the internet. Of course they know what they are paying for products. It would take any buyer a few minutes to find a price for anything you sell on a competitor’s website. Have some faith! They will continue to buy from you for reasons other than lowest price: your service, your relationships, and your staff are some of those reasons. At the same time note that the ease of ordering and doing business is very important, and e-commerce is the easiest way to offer that.


Argument 2: My customers like talking to people.

So do I, every Saturday afternoon down at the pub. To think somehow a buyer that needs toner, or even a printer or a computer, somehow feels better about taking an extra few minutes talking, playing phone and email tag, and issuing POs, is silly. If your buyers are 80 year old grandmas (you never call me, Junior…) then I’ll give you this, but otherwise, let’s not pretend that taking an order by phone is good customer service. It’s not. Office equipment is positioned and sold as a technology that improves efficiency. Ordering supplies and service, heck even the product itself, should mirror that positioning.


Argument 3: My sales team can do a better job than an e-commerce website.

OK, this one is common and valid, so let’s explore it. On one hand, I do agree. There are quite a few instances where a sales rep sitting in front of a customer is the best way to sell. Here’s where I see the argument breaking down. First, it’s a lot harder to get those appointments because buyers want to research and buy products online. Much has been written about millennials and their desire to communicate electronically, and since they are the customers, they get to dictate the terms of engagement, not you.



It’s also worth noting that salespeople have a floor when it comes to sales. As more and more hardware is sold below the $2000 or even $1000 price point, sales people don’t get motivated by making a sale that nets them $50 in commission. As volumes decrease and desktop hardware functionality improves, you are missing out on the fastest growing segment.


Argument 4: Because I don’t think my customers are worth it.

OK, we are all in sales, and there is no way that you would ever frame the question that way. You’d probably say that e-commerce is a big investment and you are not sure of the ROI. The entry-level program for e-commerce and digital workflow is $3,000, and $300 a month. Any money you spend should be carefully considered, but it’s not like e-commerce is a fad. It’s not like the concept is unproven. It’s not like you have products that are impossible to sell online (ink and toner!). A new e-commerce website will give your sales team a great reason to go out and visit customers and show them your new website and improved workflow.


Being an owner of an office equipment dealership is not an easy job. Business is tough. Just look at what is happening at the OEM level as many vendors are struggling to reposition themselves amid lower sales. Every dealer I speak with understands that they need to branch out into other technology segments. E-commerce is the best way to do that. Let’s talk.