Late March 2nd (Monday), 2020 my wife and I arrived in Newark Airport from my Presidents Club trip to Aruba. It truly was a great week although we were peppered every day with news headlines with COVID19. I asked my wife “is this something we should worry about?”
Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week back continued to be the normal selling days that I’ve been accustomed to for the last forty years. It was Thursday of that week when the North East USA when the news was stating to shelter in place. Calls to offices were going unanswered, emails not being return and by Monday the 9th of March our entire office and sales staff was told that we are working remote now. That was 13 months ago and I’m still remote here in New Jersey.
I’m now 100% remote from my home office and I was one of the fortunate ones I guess because years ago I set up a home office for the Print4Pay Hotel. Thus I had everything I needed with PC, printer/scanner/copier, desk and a not so comfortable chair. I’m guessing I had more than most with the immediate optioning to remote working.
Those early days were spent making the phone calls and after a day or so I realized that there was no one in the office to pick up calls. I thought what’s going to be the best way to stay in touch with my clients and that answer was email.
Since no one was in the office I accepted the thought that no one is going to be buying copiers. The only thing I could do is to keep in touch with all of my existing clients and tell them about the IT services that they might need for all of their remote workers. In addition, I asked how they were coping with the new normal and how they were doing business. With every email I sent I made sure that I asked at least one question (hoping for a response) and positioned the question as the last sentence of the email.
Inserting those questions helped big time because I was able to learn more about what my clients were experiencing and allowed me to continue to ask additional questions. Almost more like texting but in an email format.
Those types of emails persisted for more than a month. March and April were definite months I want to forget. I believe I sent every existing an account an email in that time frame and I believe that helped me in the coming months.
All of my existing prospects fell of the table except for one account, we had a rather unique email chain going and during April we were able to schedule a couple of MS Teams meeting. I give credit to Stratix for quickly adopting the MS Teams platform to help us stay engaged.
I asked my-self early on what is the biggest driver for my clients now since many of them was in the same boat on the same creek with me. If there’s no revenue coming in what is going to make clients listen and buy. I went through this type of scenario one other time in my career and that was the great recession of 2008-2010. The lesson I learned from that is all clients will listen if you can reduce their costs.
It was also during that time that I was still out and about helping my wife with food shopping since that was another unique experience. While I was out and about I took notice that there was still activity with construction projects. Commercial and residential business was still happening and that told me that the AEC (Architects, Engineers and Construction) market was still active. It was then that I set my sights on all of my AEC accounts. I reviewed every account that had copiers and wide format, did the cost analysis in advance of email or speaking with them. When I had the final numbers of what I could save each account I then made the emails and calls and presented the savings. When most clients are presented with the unknown of future revenues they will hunker down and cut costs because they don’t want to go out of business.
With help of a net new client who purchased a production MIRC printer. May turned out to be my best month ever in the industry and I was able to sell $200K of gear and seventy-five percent of that was wide format device.
By the end of the quarter, I believe I was over $300K in revenue.
The theme of concentrating with the AEC market and reducing costs was still the name of the game for these three months. I’ll admit that I also had a stroke of luck with that net new client that bought the production printer because they bought another one from me. Each one of those was a $60K hit. In fact before the end of the year they purchased another which made a total of three.
All through out these months there’s once thing I didn’t do and that was to give up and say I can’t take this or I can’t do this. I looked at this event as to why can’t I do this, and why can’t I excel at this. Thus every week when we had our weekly sales meeting I wrote down a sales quote on my small white board that I was using to give me that mental edge to keep pushing forward. I was not enamored with oh why did this happen to me but rather why not happen to me. I can do this.
Another key for me is that I was able to have Zoom meetings with my peers in the industry about every two weeks. On those calls we would discuss what’s working and what’s not working and learned from others what they were seeing and doing.
When it comes right down to it, I worked by butt of so I could be assured that I would not fail.
After I had run my course with most of my AEC accounts I turned towards my commercial accounts. With summer COVID19 numbers being down across the summer more accounts were adopting a hybrid work schedule. Prints were down BIG time, but I kept with the theme of saving them money and most of that was with analyzing there pre-COVID19 print volumes with the existing print volumes. Pretty much right sizing the volume while still keeping the same style/speed MFP and that’s because at some point in the time we’ll be back to work and print volumes will migrate upward.
In addition, I partnered with a lead company to supply me with leads. I did this out of my own pocket because you need to spend money to make money. The lead service was so so at best but gave me additional net new prospects to keep me busy.
I would also say that a key to my success is that I never stopped prospecting whether it was with emails, phone calls, text messages and my monthly email campaign to net new clients. I never stopped believing that I could excel in this type of new normal
At the end of the year, I had my best revenue and commissions in 40 years. I’m also a firm believer that the harder you work the luckier you get.