My background in sales has involved working for an IBM-only PC dealer although currently I'm with a multi-franchise, but pro, IBM PC dealer. This involves the business sales management of the IBM relationship, but does not preclude me from selling other leading brand products.
My background is relevant to this article, as when you can only specify one brand of PC, that brand tends to become the solution. However, with a full range of leading PC products in my kit bag, I still specify IBM PC products as my preferred system to the vast majority of corporate customers.
The benefit of working for a multi-franchise dealer is that the system dictates the brand. While serving my time in the IBM Village at Effective IT, I was asked: 'What do you think the average customer wants?' My answer was: 'The lowest price in terms of purchase price and overall cost of ownership.'
Great, now I had unlocked the door to unlimited demand. I just needed to package and ship it. But I soon began to question my statement, because the cost of ownership drum has been banged for years now, with no one manufacturer able to claim the 'Obvious Choice' PC award. There must be more to it, so these are my thoughts on the additional criteria that shape a customer's decision making process.
I believe customers go through the six Ps of procurement when selecting a PC brand and supplier partner. The first P in my model is performance.
I put it first because it's the criteria that dealers have no control over. The processor platform is Intel and the memory and hard disk configurations differ little between the major manufacturers. The operating systems are preloaded by Bill Gates, although IBM does have an OS/2 offering. Integrated Ethernet adaptors are prevalent across the board. To summarise, the essential components are the same when the lid is removed.
Having got the lid off, the second and third Ps can be addressed - protection and productivity. Protection covers antitheft features like laser-etched serialisation of processors and memory, as well as third-party registration with Retainagroup. In addition, anti- virus software combats unwanted software problems, while tamper notification alerts combat, the devious memory collector. Major manufacturers have an offering along the lines of the standard IBM desktop preload. The installation of hard disks that predict when they are going to fail allows downtime to be kept to a minimum and productivity maximised.
Productivity is the area that has generated the most interest from the small to medium business market where once hoards of IT staff supported Lans before the recession trimmed the headcount. The Lans are still there, but the headcount has decreased. The buzz here is the ability to install software and take control of a user's desktop without going to the desk. Travel is costly, Gartner has spent many years assessing how much, and figures vary from #100 to #150 a visit.
IBM's preload LanClient Control Manager enables unattended installs to the desktop of BIOS upgrades, standard software builds and specific departmental software. Using Wake on Lan, PCs are automatically booted up and down at pre-set time slots. IBM Netfinity 5.1 audits each PC on the Lan and allows remote control of a user's desktop to diagnose or rectify faults. These save time and improve management, reducing cost.
The fourth and fifth Ps involve purchase price. IBM has worked hard to shake off the 'more expensive than the rest' tag. After the latest round of price drops, a fully functional industry standard IBM PC costs less that #700.
Purchase price is no longer an issue, but how the purchase is made covers the fifth P - payment. IBM offers leasing services that take account of the high residual value of product. This benefits the customer because they only pay about 80 per cent of the purchase price.
The sixth and final P is the pamper factor. Every dealer is a reseller of sorts. The difference between dealers is the people and the value we add to the commercial relationship - up-to-date product information, seminars, quick response to requests for quotation, efficient communication links, timely delivery and, above all, care.
Gary Kinzett is new business development manager at First Stop Computer Group.
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