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Our Copier Industry & The Hits Keep Coming

 
It's basically the end of October and another year is set to hit the books for most of us. Tomorrow starts the first day of November for me and this is my final push to see where I can finish for 2021.
I wrote these notes last night for my weekly email update below and I've added a few additional thoughts. Keep in mind that I'm still having some issues with proofing (lol, I think I always did but now I have something to tag it on )

State of the Industry

The other day I had a long discussion with my long time buddy Larry K, and I made mention that in my 41 years in the industry I've never seen our industry take this many hits like we have in the last 18 months.  I don't need to rehash every instance of those 18 months but we understand it's been a mighty struggle.
My Concerns/Sales
I have some serious concerns about our industry. First and most important is the continued back ordering of devices and my concern for many of us that make our living in sales. For as long as I remember it's been a commission based compensation with a meager salary.  I like to equate the pay structure as getting waiter/waitresses pay and we're all in this for the commissions because the pay structure would never support the families.

Commissions

If you're only paid when MFPs are delivered and funded then receiving commissions become a waiting game. My question becomes who has the bigger bucks to hold out for the MFPs to be delivered.  The dealer owners or the sales people? This is not meant to rag on dealer owners and I understand the issue at hand that we all face. I would just hate to see our industry lose talented sales people and can only hope that dealers will find ways to help sales people with additional comp or draws to get us all through these times.
Concerns/Techs
I've always seen techs as an aging bunch (just like me) because I don't hear of or see many 20 something technicians. Lately I've heard from multiple dealer owners that they've had many techs leave the copier industry and take jobs out of the industry.   The reason recent frenzy of hiring and compensation offers in the last 6 months. Many of these dealers can't find techs to fill the voids.
Forty one years ago I was hired as a trainee for a copier service school. The school was a 16 week course and at the end of the course that company found every tech a job (of course it was entry level).  The program was run in conjunction with the local government county. The program was funded by the feds along with county peeps and the dealer to facilitate the training program.
When it was all said and done that dealership ran 4 or 5 classes graduating around 120 techs. To boot we were paid an amazing $3.15 per hour.
I wanted to mentioned this because maybe this might be an idea that may help others. I know the entry level position will not fill the entire void, however it's a start.

Copier Inflation

A few more thoughts,  one of the easiest ways to keep the existing techs is to make sure they are paid well and compensated well.  I'm thinking instead of seeing the race to zero we will now start seeing the increase for cost per page, maintenance agreements, and hourly charges.  It could also be a blessing as long as we can finally stop the raise to zero.

Hardware/supply prices are already up and some as high as 10% and we'll see higher prices if the container prices continue to increase for the next year.

Do you recall the idiom "the straw that broke the camel's back", it was more about a number of issues or events that finally added up to the breaking point?  At this time I'm not so sure how many straws we can take.

-=Good Selling=-
Looking for a Greener Pastures?
I have a well respected dealer principal that is looking to higher trained Canon technicians for the Salem, Virginia area. They are willing to extend relocation costs and offer an excellent comp program. I've been to his location and the area is beautiful. A great area of the country, and a great area to raise a family! Please follow this link and contact Paul Story Sr.

If you like something I've posted please feel free to click the "like" button!

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Comments (5)

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@TML  Great thread here!  I must admit that I also struggle to keep my mind focused on the task of selling when you have no clue when your client will get their MFPs.  In some cases it's worse with net new clients that have nothing and need something.  There is a level of anguish that makes it hard to get that can do and can will attitude every day of the week.

After "x" amount of years I have my moments for content management sales and last year I had one for $75K but that was my only one  Alas I am not one to give up and will continue to push.

Thanx again for this thread

Two very real and plaguing topics that no one's discussed up until now.  It's all been "inventory issues, etc" never, how is it affecting the dealers and the sales personnel and those downstream directly.  I'm now starting to see it and if I'm honest, it's starting to affect motivation.  Sales people are all positively incentivized to continue to do better.  How can you keep yourself / your team motivated by selling if the stuff they sold in August / September hasn't even been delivered yet?  We're just now receiving orders from 8/13......yea.

As far as the service side of things goes, the copier technician is a dying breed.  I believe many of our guys stay because they know they have some level of flexibility, but not all dealers operate that way.  While these devices are getting more computer/IT based, there's still a good contingent of the calls that take some hardware knowledge.  It's been a long time since I've seen a technician in their 20's apprenticing and learning the ropes.  Our last young guy left for a job on the railroad.  With increasing wages offered everywhere, it's significantly harder to find the younger talent out there for sales or service. 

Also curious to see how shipping costs and inflation are handled by the manufacturers.  I know we're told inflation and lack of inventory happens because the economy is doing so great (.....FJB), but seriously what is going to continue to happen when shipping costs rise as exponentially as they have.  What about the cost to drive and some of the ludicrous tax vehicles for mileage that are being discussed get put into place?  Not only will we have higher wages, but we'll have higher costs to just drive which most of our roles have to do to get the job done. 

Agree with @fisher and @John Mooney.  Software / solutions is certainly a great pivot, however who's doing the selling of it.  Sure you can take your hardware rep and train them up to be dangerous enough to set an appointment with the right people involved, however is that taking away from them selling.  Agreed there is certain solutions that revolve around the MFP / print that can be sold, however when you're talking ECM/EDM, that's a completely different beast and one not always easily tackled by a hardware street rep.  Not saying you can't teach new tricks, but I agree that it could be a built in objection to the rep when they're in there trying to sell the box.  We all want the customer saying yes as much as possible so that they sign the deal, why throw a no or a different obstacle in the way.



As always, great post @Art Post!

@John Mooney posted:

As a shout from my mountain top, sell solutions! There is a crazy amount of low-hanging fruit out there and nearly every customer I talk to with my hardware reps is telling me that they've been looking at content management solutions for HR/AP/AR etc. and most sales reps never bother to even ask.

With the right partners in place, it's a much easier conversation than you'd think and the profit margins are pretty killer.

We just closed a nice Docuware deal with 30K in GP and the hardware rep lost the hardware to Kyocera just a year ago. The customer wants to expand the workflow for more departments and users as we finish phase 1 of implementation and my rep made a very nice commission check just for setting up the introduction.

I spent 15 years on the hardware side, and moving to the solutions side has been a game-changer.

Now only if dealers could understand it's not just about clicks anymore......

I honestly think its folly for a hardware sales rep to bring up solutions or software as part of the hardware sales cycle.  It needs to be a separate conversation and preferably a separate sales rep.  I'm not going to introduce possible objections into the hardware sales process or be the up-sale guy.  Better to be the "I have a guy" guy.

Beyond that, the "Solutions" my manufacturer is constantly pushing are overpriced and leave little room for the hardware rep to make money and just look like something to potentially sour the customer relationship if it can't be supported properly or turns out not to be of true value to the customer.   Some of the solutions they push quite frankly should just be free.

Despite the manufacturer hype I still believe the customer just wants a machine that copies, prints and scans reliably and a dealer that is responsive when there is a problem.  They certainly don't want their employees standing at the copier playing with the display or waiting for the "smart" display to get done talking to some cloud application and stop spinning.

Just my humble opinion.

@John Mooney posted:

As a shout from my mountain top, sell solutions! There is a crazy amount of low-hanging fruit out there and nearly every customer I talk to with my hardware reps is telling me that they've been looking at content management solutions for HR/AP/AR etc. and most sales reps never bother to even ask.

With the right partners in place, it's a much easier conversation than you'd think and the profit margins are pretty killer.

We just closed a nice Docuware deal with 30K in GP and the hardware rep lost the hardware to Kyocera just a year ago. The customer wants to expand the workflow for more departments and users as we finish phase 1 of implementation and my rep made a very nice commission check just for setting up the introduction.

I spent 15 years on the hardware side, and moving to the solutions side has been a game-changer.

Now only if dealers could understand it's not just about clicks anymore......

great reminder that there are still many opportunities and these can can support and sell solutions will the winners in the long run

As a shout from my mountain top, sell solutions! There is a crazy amount of low-hanging fruit out there and nearly every customer I talk to with my hardware reps is telling me that they've been looking at content management solutions for HR/AP/AR etc. and most sales reps never bother to even ask.

With the right partners in place, it's a much easier conversation than you'd think and the profit margins are pretty killer.

We just closed a nice Docuware deal with 30K in GP and the hardware rep lost the hardware to Kyocera just a year ago. The customer wants to expand the workflow for more departments and users as we finish phase 1 of implementation and my rep made a very nice commission check just for setting up the introduction.

I spent 15 years on the hardware side, and moving to the solutions side has been a game-changer.

Now only if dealers could understand it's not just about clicks anymore......

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