How can your competitors be signing service agreements with hundreds of customers a month? How are they generating good margins and building long-term customer relationships by offering services? Customers don’t buy service agreements, right? Isn’t that what they’re telling you?
If that’s what you’re hearing, then you should take a close look at the services you’re offering along with your sales approach. Do any of the following pitches sound familiar?
“With a support agreement you’re paying for our availability, in case you need it.”
“If your system fails it could cost a bundle to fix and heaven knows when it will be repaired.”
“This system is pretty involved; you really need us to run it for you.”
Customers are reluctant to contract for services sold using Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt — call it, FUD. It’s also difficult to correlate these sales pitches to identifiable business benefits. Organizational needs compete for resources based on the benefits provided. Needs that can be correlated with the highest benefit typically get funded first. So, banish the FUD and let’s figure out how to correlate our services to tangible business benefits.
Building Blocks to Thrive Upon
The cornerstone to building a successful service base begins with determining what your customers really need. In doing so, you can design your service programs to fit those needs. Sounds simple, but FUD selling has taught us to assume customers can be scared into buying what we want to sell. Not likely! Their business priorities drive their needs, not fear.
To get to the root of their business priorities, ask simple questions like, “What are your most pressing business issues right now?” Or, “In what ways does your physical security system impact your business operations?” We are looking for positive and negative impacts. Your customers may say:
“We have this audit coming up and we’re concerned about getting the reports we need.”
“We’re in a major expansion mode, so we don’t have time for anything else.”
“The IT department says the security server has to be replaced, but we don’t have the budget for a system upgrade.”
These answers present an opportunity to provide your expert services. The audit issue is an open invitation to generate the specific reports for this customer’s audit on an ongoing basis. Perhaps you can find ways to combine information from various systems to create a stronger audit package. This has direct impact on your client’s ability to meet the audit requirements and also makes them look good.
The expansion answer is equally promising. What workloads could the customer shift to you to allow them to focus on the expansion? Are there tasks such as report generation, data entry or ongoing system management you can handle for them? Does the expansion include acquisitions or expansions into new geographies that create an opportunity for you to provide security assessments, design and implementation services?
The server upgrade is a constant hassle and presents an opportunity to offer a server-less cloud solution and perhaps a rental model for the hardware. The secret to each of these “offers” is solving your customers’ pain points with a combination of value-added services, technology and intellectual capital. The only limits are your financial constraints, your skill set and access to the right partners.
Selecting the Right Partners
Once you have abandoned the FUD tactics and are armed with a list of top customer needs, it’s time to take a look at the tools needed to provide solutions. Building a business with high recurring monthly revenue (RMR) is more about philosophy and execution than technology. If you focus on “selling RMR” rather than delivering a bundle of value-added services, the road ahead will be difficult.
Consider the following four facts:
- Just selecting an “RMR product” to sell is not enough to generate success.
- End users buy value added-services, not RMR.
- Building service revenue streams requires organizational commitment.
- Commitment is measured in years, not months.
At this point, most integrators understand that product and installation revenues alone cannot support a healthy organization in the long term. As a result, many integrators are searching for avenues to build their service base.
Naturally, many vendors are lined up to offer a variety of solutions that promise to drive RMR. A great many partners offer solutions to build your RMR. The verb build is essential here because that’s what it takes. RMR must be built. However, it’s important to recognize that any technology solution on its own won’t build a service base unless your organization has taken some basic steps to ensure success.
Many successful service companies start with a separate sales team, built from the ground up. Oftentimes, the existing salespeople are driving large revenue projects which generate big commissions. They have also garnered large salaries to match their experience and results. It’s going to be tough and probably cost prohibitive to shift these staff to the smaller projects that typically generate RMR.
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