Getting the Best Price on Computer Hardware for Your Small Business, Part One – Big Box Retailers

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Getting the best price on computer and technology hardware for your small business, part one big box retailers.

One of the most popular services that my company, My IT Department, performs for our clients is acquiring computers, servers and other technology related purchases for much less than my clients are paying. Since we only service Long Island New York I wanted to write a few pointers to help people that are not in our service area to get the better prices.

There are many different options available to small business owners for purchasing hardware. The option we are going to address in this article of the series is big box retailers like Best Buy, Staples etc. Big box retailers can either be the most expensive or the one of the cheapest options for businesses to buy through for three main reasons. First, they are priced and designed for home users, from a retail perspective home users tend to be less frugal with their technology purchases and more interested in “bells and whistles”. In other words big box retailer put more fancy sounding stuff in the computer or a fancy mouse and can now charge a lot more because home users are buying the “experience” not a tool for business. Second, big box retailers advertise a lot. Someone has to pay for those advertisements, you are someone. Third they have to pay for retail space, employees, shrinkage, security, insurance etc. Once again someone has to pay for expenses. So how can the small business owner maximize their buying power with big box retailers?

First, make sure you have a business account with the retailer, not a personal one. If you do not have dedicated sales rep, than you do not have true business account (regardless of what they say). You want a dedicated sales rep, you need a dedicated sales rep, more on this later.

Second, plan to move all relevant purchases to whichever retailer you decide. That includes office supplies, furniture, anything at all, including things that you can’t find on their web site. The more you buy the more offers the company’s automated programs will give you. (Spoiler alert) The retailer would love to have you as a customer, but at the volume you will do as a small business they won’t do anything to keep you as a customer since it will not affect the retailer’s bottom line. Your sales rep however will be affected by you pulling your business and although most do not work on commission, most receive incentives (bonuses, trips, days off etc) for better performance. Additionally all of the business account managers I have ever worked with have quotas that need to be filled for the quarter. If you can make up even a small percentage of your reps quota per quarter with the extra items than do it.

Third, do your homework. Every big box retailer price matches with all the others. If you are making a sizeable purchase (more then $250 for one item) then check circuit city and Compusa (still online), Target, Walmart, Kmart, Officemax etc. Once you have a model number from the website of the retailer you are using just copy and paste it into the online store search for each retailer. The search can be found on every store’s home page. If you can find a lower price, call your sales rep and tell him which store has it lower. He will price match or beat it. Once you do it a few times you should be able to do a search of all the big stores in less than 5 minutes. TAKE NOTE: Most companies have their own product codes for items that are in their internal systems. You must get the manufacturers product number or the UPC code. If you don’t you will not have any results on any of the other retailers’ sites.

Fourth, make sure you become friendly with your sales rep. They will be your “man in the inside” and they have access to the deals the public does not. (Spoiler alert) A couple times a month a rep from a tech company will come to the retailer’s headquarters and allow them to sell a small number of products very cheap or with a lot of incentives. Why they do that would require another much longer article. Also the reps often have access to closeouts and clearances that are found in the warehouse or end of life of a model. But these only get offered to certain customers and the reps need to sell them fast or they sell out. They only call the customers that they know will buy or ones they want to do a favor for. You want to be one of those customers. To become one of those customers all you have to remember is that one hand washes the other. As I mentioned before the reps have a sales quota they are obligated to meet, but some months are harder than others. So if they need to make some numbers and call you to “discuss your technology needs”. Don’t be shy about asking if they need it to make their numbers. If they say they do, then maybe buy that extra case of paper or toilet paper or mice or coffee you had planned to do in a week or two now. But gently remind them that you are going to need computers in a month or two and they need to call you if they see a great deal or closeout.

Finally, be prepared to buy a computer when the price is great, not necessary when you need it. If you have to buy a computer when you need it and can’t wait you will pay full price for it. If you don’t have any spare computers in your office and your rep gets a good deal, buy one if he gets a great deal buy two. And above all else, remember that the person at the other end of the phone is just a wage slave trying to feed their family and carve out a little piece of happiness in this world. They don’t want things to go wrong any more than you do. And just like you, if someone is pleasant and appreciative they will want to do nice things for them but if the person is quick to anger or impolite they will only do what they have to. In other words mind your manners, please and thank you go a long way.

Part two – what you need to know about value added resellers