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Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Kimberly Hinkley


Hey everyone!  Our new blog/interview is with Kimberly Hinkley.  Kimberly is a long time Print4Pay Hotel member and is currently active in our industry.

Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Kimberly Hinkley

Art: How did you find your way into the copier industry?

Kimberly:  It was about 1985. I started part-time at a computer graphics distributor in southern California entering commission payout data for the sales team during college on an early IBM computer. We sold computer graphics controller boards, Matrix film recorders(early 35mm slide generators for the movie industry and presentations before Powerpoint!) Matrix film recorders were used by Pixar to create Tin Toy (1988) the animated short film. We sold the first laser printers, dye sublimation printers and thermal wax printers. At that time the movie studios, marketing agencies and banks were the early adopters. I saw how much the reps were making and moved into a sales position calling on a dealer base. One of our dealers was a Sharp fax and Panafax dealer and eventually a Ricoh dealer. They offered me a sales position and I joined their team in Orange County California.

Art:  What company or manufacturer did you start with, what was your title and what year did you start?

Kimberly:  The dealer I went to was an early adopter of color technology and we were a Ricoh dealer and also became a Xerox color VAR. We actually went to Xerox offices and trained their sales teams on color! I was a color specialist. The first couple of months were tough and the dealership actually stopped paying me! But that next week I closed (3) major deals and never looked back! Customers at that time were Cal Tech, Unocal, IBM, Home Savings and Loan, Orange County Register (newspaper) and move studios such as Paramount.

Art:   What brand(s) did you sell and what was your favorite model to sell and why that was your favorite?

Kimberly: Sharp, Panasonic, Ricoh and we became a Tektronix dealer big time. We sold the first 12x18 solid ink printer(Phaser III) that would print on any type of stock. It was revolutionary and we had customers pre-order before it released at full price of about $25K! I was one of the top 5 in the country for selling those darn solid ink printers!

Art:  What was the percentage of copier sales people that made it past two years and why made them last or not last so long?

Kimberly:  I would say 25%. In those days you really had to verticalize because not every industry could afford color and you had to become an expert on color and color matching as your customers were from entertainment or marketing. If Warner Brothers needed a certain pantone grey for Bugs Bunny you needed to try and get to it to match! You had to have an understanding of Photoshop, Pagemaker, EFI controllers and if anyone remembers Colorbus and Management Graphics Solitaire.

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

Kimberly:  We were cutting edge- We even had the Sharp color fax (you had to have two). I think they were about $15K a piece. You were the provider of info since your prospect couldn’t research it “on-line”. You had to do demos and samples. You had to know the PC and eventually the Mac.

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

Kimberly: Probably the product demos since you never knew what quality or color the customer expected and you had to be pretty accurate. You never knew what file type they were bringing to print from. We had everything from plastic surgery before and after photos and photos that would be presented at trial (I had to print a dead body photo on a Canon bubblejet wide format for one demo!)

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

Kimberly: I don’t remember commission structure and the salaries were low. My first position was a draw type structure and for awhile we were paid on supply orders as well.

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

Kimberly: Referrals, we also did quite a bit of advertising in industry publications. Phone calls. In those days there was no GPS of course so I had a Thomas guide for Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

Art: What was the first sales book that you read that and what did you take away from it?

Kimberly: I don’t remember the first book- but always liked books such as “Good to Great” and books on companies with great history behind them

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

Kimberly: As a color specialist ,we actually were able to get most people to come into the office in the early days. But the fax reps did plenty of demos wheeling around a Ferno Salesmaker cart and placing them in a van. I joined Lanier in about 2000 and at that time they were just phasing out the need to have a station wagon or van.

Art: Can you tell us a couple of funny story about selling copiers in the seventies?

Kimberly: Well we had a gentlemen bring sample files to print that were of scantily clad women. We had a language barrier and I wasn’t sure what he was bringing to the demo. When I inserted the disk and the image popped up I jumped to see if anyone was in our front lobby since we had glass windows! That was a shock. Some of the early customers that were using color were from the adult entertainment industry. We called on the company that rates the videos (kind of like the Oscars-lol). While in the lobby waiting I picked up their magazine and opened it up and just about fell off my chair!

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

Kimberly: Well of course the natural one of declining service revenues for print/copy and some of the low pricing that we see on bids. In the last few months, I have noticed long time  customer/vendor relationships dissolve and I wonder if some of our competitors have not been able to weather the Covid situation as well as we have. This opens up opportunities for us to gain market share as customers are looking for other alternatives.

Art: If you had to would you do it all over again, if so what would you change?

Kimberly: I had a chance to join Xerox in the early days- kind of glad I didn’t. I have worked with some great people especially during my tenure at Lanier (the best trained sales team) and now with Toshiba. Been through a couple of mergers -Canon/Oce and Ricoh/ Lanier. Such a career of experiences.

Art: What’s the one piece of knowledge that you’d like to share with new reps entering our industry?

Kimberly:  Try to find a vertical(ideally an industry that interests you) so that you can become familiar in their paper flow, terminology and requirements for documents. Now everyone is a potential customer and it is overwhelming. Nothing wrong with starting with larger companies as they have “professional buyers” who should have a better understanding of service and value, rather than a person who is making the decision and has never been involved with making a copier purchase. I can’t stress enough about having business acumen, reading business news and understanding what is going on with the financial markets. If you are explaining lease versus purchase and FMV and $1.00 out you need to help navigate and appear that you know what is going on. Have confidence in your product, enthusiasm and know that you still can make a very good living in this industry! I have for 36 years!

Kimberly Hinkley is currently Branch Sales Manager for Toshiba Business Solutions for DFW/West Texas.  Please feel free to connect with Kimberly on her linkedin page or you can leave a response her.

Thank you Kimberly this awesome!

-=Good Selling-=


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