The assessment is a foundational piece of the sales process and all dealers, resellers, manufacturers have a method, even if it is ad-hoc. I am not suggesting you substitute my outline below for your dealer’s approach; I’m simply relaying some of the steps I’ve seen performed by successful selling professionals around the globe.
Needs assessment versus sales assessment
There are two broad types of assessments: An assessment determining solution requirements and an assessment geared to reveal the likelihood of a sale.
Asking the church secretary how they create, print and distribute the weekly church bulletin is an example of a requirements assessment. Asking what steps a small manufacturing company went through when determining their most recent capital expenditure is an example of determining how best to fit into your prospect’s decision process.
The art of the sale is intertwining requirements and decision process questions in your assessment.
Deep dive or cursory?
Some assessments require 30 days of data collection. For the new, hungry copier rep, a 30-day extension of the sales cycle is difficult to swallow. Unfortunately, this is the way of the world. Dealers prefer to have as much historical usage data as possible in order to secure a profitable engagement. Sometimes, though, when looking at a fleet of 10 or so devices, reviewing invoices and a quick walk-through is sufficient to drive a financial leverage point.
Evaluating the opportunity of a combined MPS and copier deal needs some consideration — it might be judicious to assess and close the copier deal first. Seek guidance from your sales manager or an on-site mentor.
Once you decide on an approach, ask permission to spend time getting to know the business environment and users, and analyze past costs. Not only are you collecting important information, you’re establishing credibility and deepening your relationship. Once you’re given consent, use it.
Ask business questions first
Before heading out into the cube-farm, ask your contact some simple business questions like, “What are you doing to grow your business?” and “Do you find it difficult to find good people?” You’re setting the table. Your assessment is going to uncover areas of inefficiency, workflow bottlenecks and unnecessary costs. Leveraging your solution against the stated business goals is a powerful way to secure yourself as an expert and bring home the deal, so don’t hesitate to ask questions about your prospect’s business plans.
Here is your bread and butter. Interfacing with end-users is where all the gold is located. Of course, while doing the walkaround you are capturing meter reads and machine specifications — but you can just as easily ask how they do what they do in this department. You’re asking flow questions and diagraming their current processes, either manual or digital.
Use the words, “why,” “how” and “show me.” Remember, printers and copiers, for some reason, are personally connected to end-users (I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with people’s insatiable need to complain). As they describe the daily grind, objections and challenge will be revealed.
Draw pictures and take photos
I cannot stress enough the impact of this simple technique — hand-draw flowcharts reflecting answers and processes you’re able to uncover. Don’t worry about the quality; just reviewing your workflow notes after the walk-through and during your presentation will be impressive.
Additionally, use your camera. Take pictures of devices and end-users and put them in your presentation — happy employees around devices is a good picture, but a shot of the supplies closet with cost figures superimposed over the image makes for a stunning impact.
Bring it all home
Literally. Take your collected notes and laptop home, out of the office, when developing your first few findings presentations. It is better to get this task done outside the view of management. Utilize the provided company templates, but incorporate your style.
Volumes have been written about assessments and in the end, just like everything else in sales, the more you do, the better your get at doing it. Don’t be afraid to try different questions and presentation types — you can’t mess it up beyond recovery.