In 2022, SalesChain will celebrate its 20th anniversary as a company. When reflecting on our history and growth, SalesChain has weathered some momentous changes in the office technology sector. Perhaps none of these changes rival the ones that the industry is experiencing right now, driven both by a global pandemic and the lightning speed of technological developments.
But SalesChain is no stranger to changing tides. We have continually expanded our software product with new tools to meet the needs of our customers. We realize that to remain viable, this openness to growth and change must continue. At some point, reliance on traditional photocopy machines will go away. This may seem alarming to a business whose focus is on selling and servicing these items, but it happens to all industries. Like the steam engines that were displaced by the more technologically advanced diesel engines, print media is giving way to electronic data transmission.
The question then becomes, how do you serve the industry, both now and in the future? Office technology dealers must maintain their revenue streams from mainframe machines and accessories while keeping an eye on the future of managed print services, document management services, IT products and services, and others that have not even been developed yet. What will the evolution of these cloud-based services look like? How can businesses expand into products based on the desire for these services?
In other words, how do you build a company for an industry that does not yet exist?
Educators face an analogous question as they train the future employees of this industry. How do you train a student for a career that does not yet exist? The short answer is: You train them to be creative and critical thinkers. These are the most important skills to transpose into the business world of tomorrow. As more baby boomers retire, the incoming generation of employees will be comfortable with cloud computing and will actually prefer it. They will be better prepared to fit into a work environment that does not fully exist yet.
Be Proactive Not Reactive
The employees of the office technology sector will need to quickly learn to balance the managing of current technologies with planning, product development, and marketing for the future. Here are some key things to consider ensuring that your business is being proactive, not reactive, to the changes in the industry.
- Marketing, especially online, is vital. You need to communicate your conviction and your passion for your product through your branding. Blogging and content marketing online will become increasingly important to get your brand out there.
- Since customers have a pulse on the future of their business, you should be quick to collaborate with and listen to them. If you interact with your customers early in the development process and listen to their constructive feedback, the result will be a better insight into their needs. Listening to customers can help you determine the best collection of products now that will help you grow with them. We do the same thing when deciding whether SalesChain customers need to customize their system, or simply configure it.
- Understand your client’s pain points in growth and offer a solution for them. Your product development efforts will be most effective if they are perceived as immediately solving the most irritating client challenge. Develop a clear understanding of what the problem is and you can develop a few features that really matter.
- Do not be afraid to pivot midstream. Harvard Business Review states that “customers’ preferences can also shift abruptly during a development project, as competitors introduce new offerings and contemporary trends emerge.” (Reference #2) Also, “product development work is highly perishable: Assumptions about technologies and the market can quickly become obsolete. The slower a project progresses, the greater the likelihood it will have to be restarted”
- Do not take customers for granted – talk to them and thank them! Product iterations should always be developed with customer input and the understanding that development is ongoing. In essence, your product is never “finished.” You should have a growth mindset that helps your employees understand there are always new things to discover and contemporary trends to exploit.
SalesChain Case Study
Pricing Proposals and Paying Commissions Faster with John Kerling of United Business Systems
Go With Your Gut and Root Yourself in What You Know
SalesChain has managed to grow and reach the forefront of the office technology industry by doing two things: building on our passion and solid foundation and striving to remain relevant. We have a great history that is foundational and will take us to where we are going next. Take your company successfully into the 21st century by doing the same.
Have a clear and strong mission or vision statement that your employees are both familiar with and passionate about. Build on what you know and leverage those creative and critical thinking skills! Create an environment conducive to the generation of new insights by employees and customers alike. Finally, understand that the only constant in any business is change. Anticipate it and plan for it!
Do Your Research
Planning for change means valuing employee time spent researching what comes next. Here are some things your company can pursue to make sure you are not left behind.
- Follow and understand the market trends and evaluate market readiness for any of the latest ideas or products you are considering.
- Identify the traits and needs of your likely new customers. Research market precursors and look for existing research databases published by other sources.
- Be keenly aware of the trends in the economy, which can clearly affect your customers’ ability and willingness to invest in innovative technology and products.
- Focus on the current frustrations and limitations that your potential customers have in industries like the one you plan to move into.
- New products should enhance customer ability with your existing machines and software. If you make your customer feel competent and efficient, they will be excited about upgrading to your new product!
Use your research to identify the gaps in your current operations. Where are your areas of growth? Are there weak competitors you could exploit or displace through new product development? Be visionary and think big! There may be related revenue streams as well as completely innovative technologies that you can grow into.
This article was written by Mary Ellen Hogan