Selling in the Seventies

Selling Copiers in the Seventies with Mike Stramaglio

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.

-=Good Selling=-

Selling Copiers in the Seventies with Jack Carrol

Before we start, I thought it would be good to give everyone a little back ground about my relationship with Jack Carrol. 

Jack was one of the principal dealer owners at Century Office Products.  Jack hired me in the summer of 1998 for a sales position in NJ.  One year prior, I had sold my stake in my dealership to my two partners. 

In essence, Jack was my first sales manager.  Over the years I learned so much more about selling, building relationships and was hitting six figure compensation consistently while at Century . In 2009, Century was sold to Stratix.  I have a great respect for what Jack accomplished and valued his leadership.

Here we go:

Art:  What year did you start in the industry and what was your first position?

Jack:  I start in the copier industry in 1971. I worked for SCM Corp, a fortune 100 company. I was hired as a Sales Rep. My responsibilities encompassed sales of equipment and selling supplies to the present account base. At the time, Xerox was the only company selling plain paper copiers. SCM sold treated paper units just like everyone else. SCM manufacture red their units in Skokie, Ill., can you imagine built in the US.

Art:    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?

Jack:  I worked For SCM direct branch in Hillside, NJ. One of three NJ branches. SCM had 75 direct branches at this time. This office also had the regional dealer manager there, the Marchant calculator office and the SCM typewriter division housed here. Because I was a newbie I didn’t realize that SCM also had dealers, until I lost a couple of deals to Superior in Edison. Within a couple of years SCM started to relabel Minolta’s and others. SCM was one of the only treated paper companies to use sheet fed paper. Most of the others all use rolls of paper, so it cut it to size. The market than was dictated by Xerox. It was a rental market. So SCM rented their products, only the small units were sold outright. There was no leasing yet. Our process was in the paper. So, the rental was buying paper each month. Dealers couldn’t do this program, which was lucky for us.

Art:  What was the percentage of copier sales people that made it past two years?

Jack:   SCM didn’t hire very often. The few that they hire lasted 2 years or more.

Art:   What did you like the most about your job in the seventies?

Jack:  A year after I was hire I became a selling sales supervisor. I was transfer to the Princeton branch for this job. I supervised 3 sales people. About 2.5 years later SCM merged the three branches into one in Hillside, NJ which was central. We covered from Bergen to Ocean counties. I was now the Sales Manager and had about 14 sales people. So, most of the 70’s I was managing and going on sales calls just about every day. We also had major account people. We were ranked #2 in the country until they sold out to 3M in 1978. I really enjoyed this job of working with salesmen and being involved in sales every day.

 Art:   What did you dislike the most about your job in the seventies?

Jack:   During the seventies SCM started to relabel much of our line. In     1975 we started selling our 1st plain paper unit. We relabeled the VanDyk 4000, a Whippany, NJ manufacturer. It was 67 cpm and used a roll of plain paper. Some rolls were 11x1500 ft. (heavy). It was like the highly successful IBM I & II, but did up to 40 different sizes. Our next unit was the SCM 1200 roll fed plain paper with a sheet bypass made by KIP. Now we were in the middle of the Japanese invasion and dealers were moving into the marketplace at a fast pace. This was now developing into the price wars because people were now buying and leasing companies were now entering the business. Savin also now had the 1st plain paper liquid unit. Kodak was now in the market with all high-end units…75 cpm +. The other companies were still selling treated paper but now it was with powered toner. The result was the copier wars were on and we were moving up market with a 67 cpm unit. Only the strong would be highly successful

Art:  What was the compensation plan like, was there a salary, what is just commissions or was there a mix of salary and commissions?

Jack:  When I first got into the industry there was no salary. There was a $75 expense check and a $500 per month draw. Selling supplies was supposed to take care of your draw…. sometimes. Based upon the rental plan of either 12, 24 or 36 months and the monthly volume was how you got compensated.

Later, when purchasing/leasing came on we got a direct 7.5% commission plus supplies. Around 1975 sales rep’s salary was $750 per month, senior reps were $1,000. Managers were getting about $25,000 a year. We now also had monthly and quarterly bonus’. President’s Club was an honor from the day I got there and never missed one.

Art:   How did you go about finding new business, and what was your favorite of those methods and why?

Jack:  Every Monday was our phone day to set up appointments. Each rep had in a locked in territory. With your territory, you got boxes of prospect index cards. Your job was to keep this info updated. After any appointments, you were responsible to visit your account base and to cold call. Demos were very big. What fun it was to demo these liquid units. Some guys removed their front car seats and threw the small fold up cart into the trunk. You would load the liquid toner in a place where you hope they didn’t see you. When finished you would remove the liquid from the tank in a toilet bowl (mess). Leave the copy in the tray as long as possible so it would dry better. Many closes were as simple as putting the agreement on the decision makers desk and shutting up. Around 1975 you had to have a station wagon. One of my demo programs was convincing one of my accounts in a 10, 20+ story building to let us use his machine for demos. We compensated him and it worked out well, sometimes 10 demos in a day. It was also a referral at the same time.

Art:  What was your favorite brand and model to sell and why?

Jack:  In the 70’s I sold primarily SCM. The 1st 4 years it was probably the double sheet fed console the 211, 30 cpm & very reliable.

Art:  What type of car did you use for your demonstrations and how many demonstrations would you perform in a week demonstration. 

Jack:  I believe much of this was previous stated. In addition to the station wagon and the large building demos, we used a monthly demo day. Each rep had to bring in to the office at least one demo in the am & the pm. We served a nice lunch. This started about 1975 because of our new 67 cpm plain paper copier. This program was successful. Our weekly demo goal back then was 8-10 demos per week. So, doing demo’s in accounts and having the demo day each month greatly aided the sales rep’s quotas.

Art:  Can you tell us one funny story about selling copiers in the seventies?  

Jack:  Not funny but……….Duplifax started when Jerry Banfi traded his wife for a copier dealership. Steak & Beans contest. NY vs. NJ. Every phase of the meal was different kind of beans. The customers in the restaurant loved it. This was when I came up with the demo’s in customer’s offices in multi floor large buildings to get 10 demos in a day.  

The SCM/Kip PPC always jammed under the drum and started to smoke. It smelled like toast. One of their divisions was Proctor Silex who made toasters. Some guys gave away toasters with the copiers. Lucky, they got the employee price. In the early 70’s I knew a guy who substituted plain paper copies and removed the liquid paper copies on the demo.

Art:  What is the biggest problem you seeing facing the industry today.

Jack:  Even though I’ve been out of the industry for several years I keep touch with dealer owners……like Larry Weiss, Andrew Ritchel, and several others.

With Ricoh’s recent changes it somewhat enhances the dealer’s opportunities. Mergers continue, manufacturers constantly keep putting out the software to keep them and the lion share of placements appear to go to the big guys. The small/ regular dealer can’t compete with decent size prospects. So, it will continue so only the strong survive. Obviously, technology is playing a major role every day. So therefore, the industry will continue to thin out.

Art:  Jack, thanx so much for your time on this, I'm sure many of our readers will enjoy this.

Jack: glad you enjoyed it, it was fun to go back in time

-=Good Selling=-

Selling (Copiers) in the Seventies with Fred Habbal

One of the main reasons for this compilation of Blogs for Selling in the Seventies was to lend some insight as to what it was like to sell copiers in the seventies.  As far as I know there is little to nothing on the web about our industry in the seventies.  I wanted to make sure that we'll have this compilation of blogs to look back on in the future.
We'll be posting one of these up for the next two months, so stay tuned for excellent content from these pro's!
Here we go!  I'd like to introduce Fred Habbal who is the Owner of Vision Office Systems in Charlotte, North Carolina. 
Art: What year did you start in the industry and what was your first position?
Fred:   I started in 1979 as a sales rep. 
Art:   What company aka manufacturer or dealer did you work for during the seventies and what brand of copiers did you sell?
Fred:  I worked for White Business Machines and the products I sold were Minolta and Sharp copiers. 
Art:  What was the percentage of copier sales people that made it past two years?
Fred:   It was about 10% that made it past 2 years. 
Art:   What did you like the most about your job?
Fred:   What I liked the most about my job was that the industry was evolving, maturing and growing. The manufacturers constantly developed new features, new technologies and it created a lot of excitement starting with the liquid toner and the paper on the roll. Then the dry toner with paper on the roll, and then the plain paper. After that, the reduction and the enlargement features and the exciting auto paper selection that dazzled the customers. After that, came the thermal paper fax machine and of course, after that, the plain paper fax. So, as you see, the industry was always moving forward and since the customers always wanted cutting edge technology, it gave us the opportunities to upgrade the customers.  That created a wonderful environment and a great income for us. So, in short, we sold the machine and a couple years later we would sell an upgrade as customers could not resist the newer technology. 
Art:  What did you dislike the most about your job in the seventies?
Fred:  What I really disliked about my job was that we had to deliver our own equipment to demo and install. 
Art:  What was the compensation plan like, was there a salary, what is just commissions or was there a mix of salary and commissions?
Fred:  The compensation plan was as follows:  $250 salary per month and the commission was 50% of the gross profit. 
Art:  How did you go about finding new business, and what was your favorite of those methods and why?
Fred:  The way I found new business, was cold calling, networking and constantly driving in my territory from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day and that gave me a feel for the business activities in my territory.  I knew who was moving in, who was moving out, who was renovating and who was building a new office complex. My favorite method was cold calling because every office I went in, I made friends, so after a while just about every customer in my territory was also a friend. And since people buy from people, I was very successful and I used those customers as a reference to sell to other customers. 
Minolta 450Z CopierArt:   What was your favorite copier brand and model to sell?
Fred:  My favorite brand and model to sell was the Minolta EP450Z. It was the first machine that had the auto paper selection and the zoom lens that was in 1/10 of 1% increments. Everybody loved that machine and I sold tons of them and made tons of money. 
2017-04-24_21-22-58Art:  What type of car did you use for your demonstrations and how many demonstrations would you perform in a week?
Fred:  When I was hired, I was told that I had to buy either a van or a station wagon. I chose a Chevrolet Impala station wagon cause I could not see myself driving a van. 
Art:  Can you tell us one funny story about selling copiers in the seventies?
Fred:  The funniest thing that ever happened to me, when the president of the company passed me and asked, "What are you doing today?".  And I answered, "Among other things, I am taking a customer out to lunch and I'm going to close the deal then". So, he said to me, "I will go with you and I'll help you". So, reluctantly I said okay. At the office we all had an understanding that when your boss is with you in a meeting or lunch with a customer, that you kept your mouth shut and your boss did the talking and if you dared speak, he would kick you so hard under the table to remind you to shut up!  So, when I spoke at the table, I see the fire coming out of his eyes and he kicked HARD!  But, unfortunately that day, it didn't go his way and he missed me and kicked the customer. The customer jumped and of course he apologized profusely. I wanted to laugh so hard but I knew if I did, he would have my funeral!  Anyway, it did work out and I got the order. That was an office story for years. 
Art:  What is the biggest problem you seeing facing the industry today?
Fred: The biggest problems today are the manufacturers think that they can go it alone and bypass dealers. Also the short-sightedness of the manufacturers and their thinking that they can conduct business in this country like they do in Japan. No more loyalties to the dealers and it seems to me that they are working hard to destroy the dealers that made them a lot of money and continue to do so. I think the most destructive thing the manufacturers did is opening direct operations. They must have forgotten that they had all those branches in the 80's and had to close them all because they did not succeed. Maybe now they realize their mistake and are beginning to close the direct operations again. 
It was a pleasure answering your questions because you reminded me of the early days and how fun it was and now at the age of 63, with 2 adult children and 3 grandchildren, that industry has been good to me and with my kids being involved in my company I hope they experience the pleasures and success that I have. This is my legacy. 
Art:  Fred, thanks so much for this, the kicking of the client is a classic! 
-=Good Selling=-
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