Your Maintenance Sell Upkeep

A disaster in the Northern Italian port city of Genoa. A spectacular bridge collapse. Too many souls perish.

All the more shocking because it appears a tragedy which should have been prevented.

Among the swiftly labelled culprits was construction industry corruption. The Mafia infested sector happy to either regularly skimp on the supposed spec or over-engineer and expand projects wholly unnecessarily. Blame landed too on the Benetton fashion family owned Autostrade d’Italia who allegedly neglect essential infrastructure maintenance with similar purpose. Then there was also the issue of the original design itself. Now considered fatally flawed.

Media attention unsurprisingly focused around the issue of maintenance. The easiest target for the lazy journalist. Regardless of whether they are or are not the true worst offender.

Yet the photos of the latest rounds of works on said bridge from a couple of years back are not a pretty sight. Allowing the road builder’s claim that a billion euros got spent last year on maintaining Italy’s roads to be roundly dismissed as either too little or misdirected.

This brought to mind the vexed issue of maintenance in general.

The shift from big ticket initial outlay to small incremental periodic rental style payments is much welcomed. An unstoppable trend growing from old-school lease swap out deals of last century. Thankfully this hugely helps user cash flow and contract commitment (and exit) flexibility.

It’s over twenty years since I last sold “software” in any other way. One of the happy asides was that you no longer had to struggle to persuade buyers to pay annual maintenance charges.

Depending on specific sector, these fees were typically the same for all similar players. A percentage of the overall deal would be charged on a yearly basis. Say anyway between ten and twenty percent. The idea being that the client got access to a phone help line and all future upgrades for “free”. Though in reality the moment even the slightest bit of bespoke work crept in, upgrade fees would emerge and they were never measly.

In other (non software and physical kit) solution sales, where maintenance charges still exist they are under pressure.

When I experience seller pain with this, I usually find myself wondering two things. Why the required amount is singled out as a separate figure in the first place and why it has the invoice line title ‘maintenance’.

I get that in competitive environments you may be forced to breakdown costs in an unhelpful and tricky-to-make distinctive manner.

Yet the winners I tend to deal with zone in on better lifetime project values. TCO was the early label for this sell; Total Cost of Ownership. It evolved because vendors with lower day one costs were so in large part due to their ongoing project costs being so much more to recoup any purchase shortfall. They would, in affect, buy business. An underhand tactic which needs the solution sell counter of factoring in future OpEx with present day CapEx.

I recall my 2011 post based on a 1998 talk I saw which touches on this, using machine stoppage as an example.

Also, here’s a piece from 2015 I read that includes showing how you can “educate” when dealing with plant.

Then there’s the naming itself. Maintenance is fine if your prospect understands its worth. Many sadly do not. Synonyms have the knack of helping to establishing this necessity; upkeep, sustenance, servicing among them.

Upkeep is a particular old friend of mine.

In any case, solution sold products and service invariably involve an element of ongoing care and aftercare. And you ought have both your plan for ensuring the bridge stays safely in place and your way of showing how you insure against maybe just the one instance of unforeseen closure.

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