Memiors of a Copier Sales Person

Memoirs of a Copier Sales Person "Why We Still Knock on Doors"

It's been an interesting three months to start my thirty-eighth year in copiers sales.  I started the year off with some type of fraking bug that kept me down an out for about three weeks.  February ended up good, March was down and April is still waiting to finish.

It was last Wednesday when I looking at my funnel and thought, "this ain't good, there's enough in the funnel but nothing is moving".  That's my hint that I need to put some rubber on the road.  I spent the last part of Wednesday culling my CRM for some planned cold calls.  Seventy-five percent of these were net news that were not co-operating with my phone call efforts, the rest were existing accounts that needed to have a visit.

My goal was to have twenty planned visits and then make a few unplanned visits to additional net news.  I made sure that I grouped then by town and would drive north and then work my way south to finish the day. 

Knocking on doors is a great way to get a birds eye view of existing copiers and finding out who the DM is.  From time to time you even get to see the pain points that businesses have with office equipment.

The first four calls were non eventful. The fifth call (non-planned) had me eye to with a refurbished wide format copier that was just delivered and waiting for install. While at that location one of the influencers took me for a short tour and then elaborated on how they didn't like their A3 Canon copier.  After a few more minutes our talk centered on quoting for a new copier.  Chalk one up for net new opportunity!

After and hour or so I cleared my first town and moved further south to the next group of planned stops.  I was able to knock out at another ten or so stops and a couple of unplanned calls. This group of visits produced no leads, although I did have some eyeballs on existing copiers that were in place.

It's just about 2PM when I arrived for my next group of calls.  It's interesting that out of all of the planned calls, I was not able to generate any opportunities with the twenty planned stops.  I did gather intel for future calls, but not one of them panned out.

It's 3 PM and I spied a construction outfit that I thought might fit the bill for wide format.  Turns out there was no wide format needed, however I got into a conversation with the DM about computers. He told me that he was looking to go back to having a server. I spied this place pretty good, there were four PC's, three A4 MFP's and I questioned the DM on why he thinks he needs a server.  After another 30 minutes I had the DM convinced that Quick Books Cloud, MS Office Suite and DropBox was a better way to save a few bucks.  I told the DM about my DropBox experience and told him that DropBox business was a great way for him to see his tickets (invoices) that other users had created.  Make a long story short, I was asked to submit a proposal for an A4 color device that could scan to DropBox.  There's number two!

Just a few blocks away was another net new account that I've been stopping in for the last ten years or so.  This was not a planned visit, but one of those extra visits.  Low and behold the DM was there, we chatted about business, and the cold weather.  Can't tell you much that happened after that (because I do have competitors that read this blog).  What I can tell you is that I developed an opportunity for $300K that could come down the pike very soon. Woohoo! That's three!

Thinking back, this kind of day doesn't happen that often.  Maybe I'll get one order, maybe none or maybe all three. You just never know what tomorrow will bring as long as you keep working!

-=Good Selling=-

Memoirs of a Copier Sales Person "Stranger Things Can Happen"

Early in the year I stated that 2018 started out poorly, had a very good February and a so so March.  It's only April 3rd and I'm already feeling the squeeze even with 14 selling days selling days left in the month. After years and years of having the month close early. The thought of it being only April 3rd and fourteen selling days left can mess with your sales psyche.

A few weeks ago I'm in as a referral for a net new account.  It's rather large with two color A3 copiers, three hi speed mono copiers, and a couple of other pieces of hardware.  There are four players in the field including the incumbent.  Over years I've found the hardest deals to crack are those deals where the client is satisfied with the incumbents level of service.  That was the case with this net new account.  During the discovery process, I determined that this was going to be a price buyer.  Thus I position my financials to give me the best shot at this $75K opportunity.  I presented our case about a week ago, and I asked the DM where we sat compared with the other three vendors.  I was told that all four quotes are within one hundred dollars per month!  I just found that amazing since I knew the pricing I gave was extremely competitive.  The account ended up staying with the incumbent because they were satisfied with the support, the brand and the level of service.  I can't blame em, I appreciate those accounts that do the same for me.  I was just amazed with all four vendors being so close.

Another appointment for a net new account came last week.  Within  48 hours after meeting with the client they had made their decision.  There was a flurry of re-quoting because that client kept coming back asking to add this and that. I knew I was cooked when the adding of this accessory and that accessory took me to re-quoting.  I knew that some vendor was offering a sweet deal with all the options. The client wanted to make sure they were comparing apples to apples, thus asking for the re-quotes. Plain and simple I did not have position or leverage because of the brand of the existing device.  Another one bites the dust.

Yesterday, I'm with an existing account for multiple placements.  We've had the account for fifteen years. During the discovery process I caught the statement that they'll also be receiving additional quotes. I then fell back to the value points that they've been happy with the brand, the service and the support right?  The answer was yes and I then asked why the need to get additional quotes?  My answer was, "we'd like to know what else is out there".  I left it at that because I know that they've been very satisfied with our services over the years.  Even though they will go out and get additional quotes I know we're in a good position because changing vendors means RISK.  RISK is the unknown when it comes to service, and support.  With this account, I just need to stay the course and let the ball travel.

In my recent Sunday night newsletters I've referenced March Madness in the copier industry.  The end of March marks the year end for most if not all of the copier manufacturers.  Dealers are offered special buy-in prices before the end of the year and in many cases those special prices find their way down to the end user. The same is true with Direct, maybe not as much with the pricing but the end of year to pile on any an all sales to drive the year end numbers.

Am I a fan of March? HELL NO!  It's still cold, it's still snowing or raining.  I'm one happy camper now that March is over and looking forward to a great spring, summer and fall.

-=Good Selling=-

Memoirs of a Copier Sales Person "Differentiating the Price Buyer from the Value Buyer"

Differentiating the price buyer from the value buyer was a conversation I had last week with one of our VIP/Premium Print4Pay Hotel members.

I'll start with why I found this to be an important topic.  If you follow or are connecting with many of the sales soothsayers on Linkedin most of them are missing the point when it comes to selling.  Note I did not mention sales but "selling" which is the act of closing the deal.

Most will say create value, build a relationship, and don't drop your price.  All I can say is WOW, how long have they been out of main stream sales or are they just throwing BS.  There are more "price" buyers now than there ever was.

Differentiate

I'm still in SMB sales after thirty eight years and have found that we (sales people) need to differentiate the price buyer from the value buyer in a short amount of time.

The sooner that you can make that call will enable you to increase your chances to close both the price buyer and the value buyer. There's no need to walk away from the price buyers, identifying the price buyers early allows you to save time in the selling process. With all off the spiffs and bonuses that are available in our industry, the price buyer plays an important role in meeting quotas and achieving bonus levels.

I don't work for free, at times it takes just as much effort to sell one copier as it does to sell five.  However, I also believe it's better to make five dollars than no dollars at all.

If you're in a major market you know how competitive it is out in the field.  Identifying when you can an can't make GP can increase your orders!

How To Make the Call

Over the years, I've learned to use my eyes, ears and a few questions that help me identify what kind of buyer I'm meeting with.

1.  If you're meeting with a "C" level exec, before you go in for the appointment take a short cruise around the parking lot. If the parking spaces are marked for execs check out the types of vehicles in those spots.  Porsche, Mercedes, Range Rover, Maserati, Audi all indicate that someone is a value buyer.  When at the reception desk pose this question, "that's a beautiful Maserati in the lot, who does that belong to?" It may not be the "C" level exec you're going to meet with, but if it is, you've used your "eyes" to help put a check in for the "value" buyer.

2. In most cases I'll ask for a tour when I'm in a larger office when there are multiple copiers.  Yup, we're there to identify the make and model number of each copier, and to check the meters.  Look a little closer to the paper that they use.  Are they using a brand name of paper like Hammermill, or are they using Staples or Office Max paper.  Hammermill or brand name paper puts another check in the "value" buyer.  

3. While you're on the tour you'll most likely see laser printers, in addition to the printers take some time to see what type of toner cartridges they're using.  If you're seeing all remanufacturer cartridges then you'll be putting a check in the "price" buyer.

4. Listen to your client, they will give you clues. One of the clues of a price buyer is that they'll want to rush you through the presentation process. If that's they case a check goes in for the "price" buyer. I've also noted that arrogance and rudeness is also associated with the "price" buyer.

5. Ask these questions in this order.

a. What brand of copiers did you have before these Ricoh copiers?  If they answer Ricoh, that will tell you that they "value" the brand. If they answer with any other brand that will tell you there is no brand loyalty (most likely a price buyer)

b. Who is your current service provider and then who was your previous service provider?  If there current service provider (dealer or direct) is the same as their previous service provider.  That will tell you that they have brand loyalty along with dealer or direct loyalty.  They are a "value" buyer, however there is a strong loyalty to the brand and the service provider.  You may want to ask, "I see that you've had the same brand and service provider for many years. Is there something wrong with the current copiers or service provider"?

If their current service provider is not the same as their previous service provider. Then, I'm putting a check in for the "price" buyer.

You'll need to figure it out on the fly. Don't waste much time on the "price" buyers, give them your best price the first time.  Assume the order and move forward with closing.  Let them stop you, if they don't stop you keep writing!

You can't sell everyone, but you may pick off a few "price" buyers by not playing the price game.  The quicker you can obtain the order will get you closer to the next "value" buyer.  

For those "price" buyers that you do pick off, they will see the value of your support and service over time.  That time allows you to turn that price buyer into a value buyer the next time around.

-=Good Selling=-

Memoirs of a Copier Sales Person "Revenue Quota's Don't Suck"

"Who is the competition?", "What are they offering?", "Did you ask to see a copy of the competing proposals?".  These are all questions that I'll ask a new rep if I hear that they are having problems with securing the order.  Believe it or not here are the answers that I received.

  • I don't know
  • I don't know
  • No, I didn't think of the that

Many might say, well just focus on your companies strengths and everything else will fall in line.  I say, that's hogwash!  Most reps don't dig deep enough into the clients "needs" well.  Thus, what ends up happening is that most will quote an equal feature for feature replacement or a copier that may be a little bit faster.  Most don't have a clue what their copier can do and what their competitors can't. 

For those of us that have REAL quota's that are based on REVENUE & gross profit.  We need to sell.  We need to figure out the price buyer and the value buyer. If you can't do that you won't last long in this industry.  

Make a decision, do you want the price buyer because you need the revenue?  That's a call only the salesperson can make.  Keep in mind that you/we can't sell everyone and every so often you do need to walk away.  You can spend the same amount of time selling one copier or 5 copiers. Which one would you choose?

However when you don't have squat in the opportunity column you're pretty much screwed and you need to take the price buyers.  That's why it's so important to keep a pipeline that is three to four time your monthly quota.  That's deals that you think or will close in that 30 day cycle.  Forgot about the 60 and 90 cause those are going to happen unless you get very lucky in the 30 day cycle.

For those of us that have revenue quotas, and most of us do, there's a certain amount of pride that you feel when you're reached your quota. Turn it around and when we don't hit the revenue quota, we can feel like we didn't give it our best effort, or have the feeling of underperforming.  Those are the highs and lows of selling with a revenue quota. 

Personally I've had a revenue quota for the last nine years.  Then another 29 years of gross profit revenue. At times I wish I could go back to a gross profit quota just to slow down a bit.  On the other hand having a revenue quota always keeps me on my toes for continued prospecting.  Yes, I'm the type of person that would rest on my laurels if I had a big gross profit order, and yes I would suffer the next month because I didn't prospect.  Been there, done that, I'd rather have a steady stream of orders because I need that dopamine rush every week or a few times a week!

-=Good Selling=-

On My Way Home!

I wrote this blog more than eleven years ago.  Thought it would be time for a repost.

I was on my way home from Palm Beach, Florida (went there to watch my son's college baseball team) and the wife and I decided to get a drink at the airport in West Palm.

I ordered two Bloody Mary's, one for me and one for the wife. After I ordered, the bartender asked if I would like a double for $2.00 more, I agreed and our bartended asked if I would like a triple for another two dollars, I agreed again.

While I was there I watched this bartender work his magic. For everyone who ordered a beer, he would then tell them that for every beer they ordered they could get a shot for an additional three dollars more! This guy was must have poured and additional 30 shots while I was at the bar!

He also worked his magic for the mixed drinks like I mentioned above.
This guy was a terrific sales person and he probably didn’t even know it. 

Ask and ye shall receive, I am taking a note from his aggressive style and will be asking all my clients if they would like an additional small from MFP for only $8.00 more per month!

-=Good Selling=-

Memoirs of a Copier Sales Person, "You Can Never Have Enough Stuff"

After years and years of selling copiers I've learned that there are certain items that you need to stuff in your car.  Because you just never know when your stuff could help out an existing client or a prospect.

Here's a list of some of my stuff and the reason I keep that stuff in my car.

Phillips screwdriver:  Every single screw on a copier requires a Phillips head. You never know when a cover needs to tightened or with the simple twist of a screw you can save someone's day and have the copier operational.

Knife:  NO, the knife is not for the client!  I keep a sharp knife available for removing shrink wrapping, tape, opening paper boxes.  That knife once allowed me to clean off a plastic burr that was causing mis-feeds out of a paper tray. 

AC Power Cord:  Yes, on occasions loaner copiers or new copiers can be delivered with out the power cord.  Having one in the car can save the day with an install. It has for me.

Anti Humidity Desiccant Bags:  One of my favs here! With my territory bordering the Atlantic Ocean, it's a fact that paper that's been laying around in a copier or out of the wax ream wrapping will collect moisture.  What does damp paper create?  Crappy prints or copies.  For my Shore clients I'll place a bag in each paper tray for them. Most comment, "wow, that's a great idea!"

Network Cable:  All I can say is, it's better to have a couple than to have none at all.  Always be prepared!

Tape Measure:  Will your copier fit in this space? If you don't have a tape measure, well you're kinda screwed on giving a yes or no right?  Wouldn't it be better to say, "I've got a tape measure in the car, let's check it out".  Here's neat hack if you don't have a tape measure.  Each sheet of paper is 11 inches in length, use the sheet of paper to measure the space.  It's really cool when you do this with a client, because you're asking them for help measuring the space also!

Powerline Ethernet Adapter:  Can't do with out this one! It's a little pricey but you never know when it can save your ass. Like today, I received an email from my service department that a net new install could not be connected because our copier did not have a wireless card. 

I processed that email for a minute or so and realized that the client never told me about needing a wireless device, and nor did I ask if they needed a wireless card for their MFP.  Even if they did tell me they needed a wireless card I would have never recommended the manufacturers option. It's just to damn expensive and the range is horrible.

Yes, I keep an extra Poweline Ethernet adapter pack in my car. In this case, I was able to stop at the clients location within the hour, installed the powerline adapter within ten minutes and have them printing from their laptops within 15 minutes.  Client was happy, I was happy and the end result was a great experience for the client.  Yup, I need to go order another one tomorrow from Amazon. If you check out the link, I usually go with the Netgear or the TP-Link, both work well!

Rant:

First and foremost, when the heck will the major copier manufacturers recognize that a wireless card/adapter should be a standard feature! Every POS A4 MFP that I see at Staples or Best Buy has a standard Wifi. 

In addition why are the manufacturers wireless card so darn expensive!  For the price that the manufacturers charge I can buy a small Epson or Brother POS A4 MFP with Wifi!

We (salespeople) are the front line when it comes to client support and client satisfaction.  Let's face it, if we're not giving fanatical support then someone else will.  The key is to never stop giving fanatical client support and your client will never ever leave you.

-=Good Selling=-

Memoirs of a Copier Sales Person "Slump of Slumps"

I'm proud and excited about starting my thirty-eight year in down the street aka SMB copier sales.  Needless to say, the start of 2018 has not been terrific in fact I'm probably off to one of my worst starts ever.

I guess I could call it the perfect storm.  Right after Christmas I took two weeks to recharge the batteries and get ready for 2018.  It's a great time of the year just to stay at home, kick back and enjoy relaxing.  Nothing to do and no where to go can be a great salvation.  But that was not the case, I contracted some type of Jersey cold/bug that knocked my ass out for the two weeks of vacation and another entire week.  It was about four weeks before I felt better.   

I don't care how good of a sales person you are, four weeks out of action is going to hurt.  

One thing that I've learned in sales is that you always need to be prospecting.  Now one is going to prospect for you and you can't count on leads suddenly appearing out of thin air.  Always remembering that winners make things happen and losers wait for things to happen.

During the last two weeks I've been able to re-build a pretty decent pipeline. If you've been in copier sales for a period of time you'll have experienced "the deep freeze".  That's when your pipeline continues to fill, you have plenty of meetings, and more opportunities that you can shake a stick at.  But you can't close a deal or get those deals to move forward. It's not that the clients are buying from some else it's more like every deal is stuck in a time warp.  However, you still continue to add additional opportunities each week.  

I've been in these cycles before, they suck! But there's not much work you can do but keep stepping up to the plate and take your swings.  Sooner or later the cup of opportunities will runneth over and you'll be writing plenty of orders. Geesh, I'm hoping that going to be next week, because I've only got two weeks left in my month .

We all go through slumps, some minor some major, and some you have no control over. It's our job to continue to work hard, work smart and never stop prospecting.  Thus, if you're ever in a slump, what I can tell you is that slump will end, can't tell you when, but what I can tell you is "the harder you work the luckier you will get".  

Have you experienced a sales slump, if so would love to hear about it and how you came out of it. Hit up the reply and tell us!

-=Good Selling=-

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