I think the first time I met Mike Stramaglio (CEO/President MWA Intelligence) was at some National Ricoh event when he was President of Hitachi Koki Imaging Systems. At the time, I was with Jack Carroll (former principal of Century Office Products), I did not have to chance to speak with Mike at that event but listened carefully as Mike and Jack traded off a few stories about the Minolta days. After Mike had left, I asked Jack, "who was that?". Jack then proceeded to give me the low down on Mike's career with Minolta and then Hitachi Koki. It was apparent that the two of them had a great relationship.
Over the next 15 years Mike and I have had the chance trade some emails and chat some at industry events. A few months ago, I reached out to Mike to see if he would like to be one of our "Selling in the Seventies" guru's.
It was not until I heard Mike's answers that I realized what can be accomplished by sales people in our industry. The copier sales guy that makes it to the top and keeps on going. That's fracking awesome, and should be fodder for younger reps that they too can reach for the pinnacles of success in our industry.
Selling in the Seventies
What year did you start in the industry and what was your first position?
Mike: Wow, Art I haven’t thought about that in a long time and I am proud to say my career in the copier business began year mid-year 1974!
A young guy of 24 years of age who barely knew what a copier was?! A friend of mine I used to play a lot of baseball with told me “Mike I am working for Xerox selling copiers and making really good money and you should do it too!” So out I went and interviewed with Xerox, A.B Dick, 3M and a few others now gone and I took the first job offered to me which was with 3M as a up and down the street sales rep!
It was a fantastic opportunity for me and I will never forget they sent me to Minneapolis for some of the best training I ever had in my life. Amazing experience!
What company aka manufacturer or dealer did you work for during the seventies? If you worked for a dealer please tell us what brands you sold?
Mike: I worked downtown Chicago for a year or so and all of my training paid off and was making good money working with a great team and manager! I was young …had some money and working downtown Chicago what could be better!
One day my manager resigned and that was a real disappointment because I had a great deal of respect for him and we had a lot of fun as well. He went to work for a brand new Toshiba copier dealership and since the 3M copiers were mostly Toshiba built and branded 3M, it a easy transition for my old boss and a few months later he recruited me to join him at the dealership. I had a great commission program and could sell anywhere and to anyone! I was on my way!
What was the percentage of copier sales people that made it past two years?
Mike: My experience with turnover was actually pretty good in that 70% of the sales people made it 2 years or longer. We were well trained, energetic, well paid and ambitious in a growth industry. It was a wonderful learning environment for anyone who wished to work and make money!
What did you like the most about your job in the seventies?
Mike: I liked everything about building my career in the 70’s ! It was a professional and exciting environment for all of us who served the industry and the few things your question made me thing of ….. I had freedom to be as good as we wished to be, I had terrific people around me who really cared about my success and invested their time in me with outstanding mentoring, I remember how proud I was in the 70’s to be cutting my own path with a product that was breakthrough and truly made a difference. Freedom to win and freedom to lose and I didn’t like losing much!
What did you dislike the most about your job in the seventies?
Mike: Good question ….I did not like having to load machines (heavy very heavy) on a Feral Washington cart, lug the demo equipment up three flights of stairs and or elevators! I had to have my own station wagon and moving that equipment around ruined my suits, probably broke my back and always spilled toner! Of course the flip side is that I always sold the demo equipment because I did NOT want to bring the machine back down!
What was the compensation plan like, was there a salary, what is just commissions or was there a mix of salary and commissions?
Mike: Haha ….a salary!? Yes there was a small salary and the rest was draw against commission and boy did I like the commission! At the dealership my first comp program was $15K salary, $20K draw and a commission program I could earn up to $130-150K if I KILLED it !
How did you go about finding new business, and what was your favorite of those methods and why?
Mike: New business was easy …..only three methods! Phone canvassing, cold calling and referrals! I loved cold calling because back in the day it was so much easier to just walk into an office without security or signs keeping you out and frankly people were ok with it. If you could cold call you could make a lot of money and meet some great people.
What was your favorite brand and model to sell?
Mike: Way back …..my favorite was the 3M VQC 209! It was such a cool machine to demo and I had a ball with it in front of people! Of course when we moved to plain paper my all time favorite machine was the Minolta 450Z !
What type of car did you use for your demonstrations and how many demonstrations would you perform in a week?
Mike: I bought a “beater” Chevy station wagon and I would never be happy if I wasn’t doing two demonstrations per day! It was a numbers game and it had to happen that way!
Can you tell us one funny story about selling copiers in the seventies?
So many funny stories ….literally every day was funny! One that I can remember it was a hot summer day in Chicago and I was lugging a Toshiba machine over to Northwestern University. Back then you had to park far away from the procurement area and if you can imagine rolling a copier across campus figure how where I was going and so I finally figured it all out and I pulled the copier into the lobby and I was hot and sweaty and had to use the bathroom !
So, a guy in a suit was walking by me and he stopped to ask me what I was doing and what I was pushing. He was a nice guy and I told him why I was there etc. I asked him if he would watch my machine for a few minutes while I used the men’s room and he was kind enough to help me out. I came out and he said come on I will take you where you need to go.
He helped me with the machine up to the office and when we got there he introduced himself as the man I was there to see! I was so embarrassed that I asked the guy to watch my machine while I was in the bathroom …OMG!
Funny enough he bought the machine and throughout the next few years I ended up selling more than 110 machines! I never will forget that experience and I hope relationships are as important today as they were back in the day! Actually I KNOW they are!
What is the biggest problem you seeing facing the industry today?
Art….I see many problems but the opportunities far outweigh the problems!
Obviously “print” is slowly eroding and our industry is adjusting to this singular issue. But to me the biggest challenge is “change management” in that the channel needs to welcome a new infrastructure (ERP) capable of IoT, Artificial Intelligence, true accounting capability for real tie data and analytics. We need to be bold in making the right investments for Managed IT services or what I refer to as Managed Business Services (MBS).
MBS is the umbrella for the new and exciting multi billion dollar growth industries coming our way with robotics, services and a level of software for Intelligence we have never imagined before. Our industry leaders must promote the new tools, new strategies and frankly new distribution. Dealers who fail to be aggressive will indeed fail and or be sold!
Thanx, Mike this was awesome, I find it fascinating to learn more about what the business was like in the seventies. I appreciate the time and the look back in the past.
I enjoyed my time with Mike and I hope that others enjoy these blasts from the past from those excellent sales people that sold in the Seventies.