Geo Week News

October 8, 2013

Who Is Competing With Whom?

I have reseller agreements with quite a few laser scanner manufacturers and every one started with a conversation, where we both tried to determine if working together was in our best interests.

Part of that conversation often revolves around the manufacturer wanting some type of assurance that we will not refer a potential client to one of the manufacturer’s “competitors.” So, the question becomes, “Who is your competition?”

This seems like a simple question until you start trying to define it in legal terms. Typically, we all start with a very broad definition of competition: “Anyone else that sells laser scanners or 3D imagers!”

However, when a potential client comes my way they often have some very specific parameters that have to be met. Perhaps they demand a certain accuracy level or range, sometimes they already own something and demand that we only offer hardware that is supported by their current software, or they have a very defined budget to work with.

In reality, it is exceptionally rare that we reach a conclusion where more than one solution is equally acceptable. While many components have very similar specifications, by the time you consider all of the components an end user needs to take data from field to finish, you tend to weed out things that will work but are not optimal. However, I have a feeling you would get some arguments about that from various manufacturer’s reps.

Moving forward, this will only become more of an issue. We are currently researching various sub-millimeter scanners and the technical specifications on those are even more similar than the mid-range scanners that we currently carry. Add to this upcoming software releases like ReCap Photo, and suddenly my mobile phone is arguably a “competitor” to my Leica P20! (not in my opinion, but I think you see what I mean…) This is why I think manufacturers should drop these restrictions on resellers.

Realistically, no one can carry everything. However, I want to stay in business and for me that means carrying a lot of different brands. My client’s expect me (rightfully so, I think) to provide them with an honest assessment of their needs. One manufacturer’s rep once told me that it was like selling cars. If you’re a Ford dealer you can’t sell Mini Coopers, too. I think he’s missing the point.

More often than not, I feel like I’ve got a farmer coming to me to buy a vehicle. He’s heard that there’s a new Mini Cooper vehicle called the “Countryman.” That’s what he is, so that’s what he wants. I tell him it’s a great vehicle, but suggest we talk about how he envisions using this new vehicle. He needs to haul cows in a third wheel trailer, drive in fields, and haul his boat to the lake on weekends. Is it in anyone’s best interest for me to sell him one? No!

He will not be able to do what he needs to do. He will have a bad impression of me, my company, and the vehicle he bought. Showing him a Ford truck would be in the best interest of all of us in the long run, assuming you can look past the immediate effects on Mini Cooper of this one sale to the long-term, client relationship. When he needs another car he will come back to me. And, if a Countryman is the best fit at that time, then I’ll be happy to recommend it to him.

The problem is that nothing in the sales’ pipeline is set up to measure or encourage this type of behavior. Everything is based upon immediate sales and quarterly earnings. If the parade of clients coming to me describing the “useless” piece of equipment sitting in some closet back at their office is any indication, a lot of industry newbies are being underserved by this short-term fixation.

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