An independent software vendor recently started working with Canon’s copier channel in Canada to help dealers move from pushing point products to selling document management solutions.

Nashua, N.H.-based eCopy Inc., which provides software for Canon’s MEAP-enabled devices, has made the move

after working with U.S. dealers on a five-step sales process called Keeping Leadership for the past two-and-a-half years.

Tim James, vice-president of North American sales at eCopy, who developed the program, said traditional copier dealers are stuck in a three-step sales mode.

“”The problem is they can’t compete and there’s price erosion in the marketplace,”” said James, who was interviewed at Canon USA’s Digital Solutions Forum in Las Vegas last week. There the ISV announced the second release of its ShareScan Open Platform. (eCopy uses Canon’s dealer channel to distribute its products.)

Unlike a traditional sales pitch, selling document management solutions starts with going to the customer and doing “”discovery work,”” said James. This includes finding out which applications the customer is running, what its operating costs are and what its workflow looks like. But James said this can be a challenge for dealers whose customers typically don’t share this type of information.

The next step involves sales and technical people working together to come up with a solution based on the customer analysis, then implementing it. But instead of passing implemenation off to service providers, said James, dealers need to be part of this process. After that, the dealer needs to ensure a smooth transition between pre- and post- sales. Lastly, the dealer should follow up with the customer 60 to 90 days after the implementation using a measurement tool to determine if the solution is a success and calculate the return on investment.

James also advises sales people to get as close to the CFO as possible , because that person is in charge of all financial decisions, and not those that pertain to a particular area such as the printing/copying department.

On the whole, James said copier dealers should more closely look at how they measure a successful salesperson.

“”The biggest problem we found was that the top sales manager is the person who sells the most stuff,”” James said. “”(Dealers) need to promote the sales people of tomorrow. I hope they are more solutions oriented.””

James added that dealers also should look at hiring new people or partnering with independent software vendors such as eCopy and not systems integrators.

“”As far as partnering with systems integrators goes, we’ve found there’s usually a control issue,”” said James. “”There hasn’t been any that I know of that have worked out well.””

Keith Kmetz, program director, hardcopy peripherals, solutions and services at IDC said Canon is predictably continuing to leverage the copier channel.

“”We’re seeing a trend among vendors towards moving to alternative channels,”” said Kmetz, who also attended the conference. “”(Canon) has an existing channel that’s a good selling base but they come from copier orientation.

“”The traditional dealer is not the same as 10 years ago.”” In today’s printer market more connectivity and networking products require dealers to partner with a value-added reseller or hire a software engineer, he said.

In other news, Canon unveiled 14 new printers, copiers and multifunction devices that offer enhanced networking capabilities and allow for greater integration of Canon’s Multifunctional Embedded Application Platform (MEAP) technology. MEAP provides a common interface that third party software developers such as eCopy can use to create applications for Canon’s imageRUNNER line of multifunction devices.

“”We’ve been on a steady march forward towards greater level of connectivity,”” said Dennis Amorosano, director and general manager of integrated solutions division at Canon USA. “”We’re bringing technologies to the table that represent the third generation of the image platform architecture. We’ve expanded the architecture and created the internal platform known as MEAP giving (dealers) the opportunity to drive customizable opportunities for the customer.””

Hardware products announced included: imageRUNNER 2270, 2870, 3570, 4570 black and white engines; 2230, 2830 and 3530; colour-enabled C5800; and high-end 5570, 6570, 8070, 85+, 9070 and 105+ models. Products will start shipping this month and into the beginning of 2005.

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