Mike has been a member of the Print4Pay Hotel as long as I can remember. While Mike and I have never met we've been able to communicate via our message boards and Linkedin over the years. I believe these stories are important because much of what we were taught has been lost through out the years.
Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Mike Karasik
Art: How did you find your way into the copier industry?
Mike: I started my career at Dun & Bradstreet back in the early 70’s eventually got into sales with them and actually that’s where learned to cold call for new business. Around later part of 1979 I started looking for a new opportunity and interviewed with Pitney Bowes & Lanier to sell either Word processing systems or mailing machines. After being a top performer at Dun & Bradstreet for a few years Lanier told me I didn’t meet their sales aptitude. Finally Interviewed at Minolta Business Systems in Miami Florida got hired and started my new sales job on February 8th 1980. First month sold $30K and second month sold $55K and never looked back.
Art: What company or manufacturer did you start with, what was your title and what year did you start?
Mike: I started as you can see with Minolta’s direct Branch operation in Miami and the date was February 1980. My title I believe was Account Manager. I really wasn’t a rookie for long because of my previous sales experience. But I did have a funny rookie story. I had downtown Miami as my territory for many years and one of my first sales there was to an Import Export business in the old Bank of Miami Building. First appointment he agreed to buy my Minolta EP 310 for $3995. So he opens his briefcase and starts to hand me cash! So before I totally freaked out I realized we were in a Bank Building and got him to buy a cashiers check made out to Minolta Business Systems.
Art: Frak, that's wild with the cash! Since you worked for a dealer or manufacturer please tell us what brand(s) you sold and what was your favorite model top sell and why that was your favorite.
Mike: In the 1980’s I worked mostly for Minolta until 1989. My all time favorite copier hands down was the Minolta 450Z. The first month we had a warehouse full of those in October 1983 I sold 18 of them mostly one to a customer. Paid for my wedding and a house full of furniture at the time. Late in the 80’s I worked for Delta Business Systems also in Miami which was at the time one of the largest Canon dealers in the Southeast. My all time favorite Canon was the NP 6650, a very reliable copier that could handle some large volume.
Art: The Minolta 450Z was one of my favorites also, almost everyone we sold went as list price! So, what was the percentage of copier sales people that made it past two years and why made them last or not last so long?
Mike: Well back than not many sales people would stay past 2 years. But at Minolta in the 80’s we had a very good core sales group of 7 to 8 that stayed and produced consistently. And it paid off by Fiscal year 1987 & 1988 we were the top Minolta branch in the country.
Art: What did you like the most about your job in the eighties?
Mike: I enjoyed the challenge of competing on a National basis with other sales reps around the country within the Minolta Branch network. We got to know each other on the President’s Club trips and many of us are friends to this day. Minolta’s Direct branches in the 1980’s was a wonderful place to work and many of the top execs were great people and leaders. Finally I also enjoyed selling over 1.1 million dollars in revenue in 1987, mostly due to the Minolta 470Z and enjoyed many more of those successful type years.
Art: $1M in 1987? Now that's pretty impressive for that time period in our industry. What did you dislike the most about your job in the eighties?
Mike: Well I really didn’t find anything that distasteful except the fact you had to work consistently which remains the truth to this very day.
Art: What was the compensation plan like, was there a salary, what is just commissions or was there a mix of salary and commissions?
Mike: Back in the 80’s it was draw against commissions. And the draw wasn’t very much so getting a substantial commission check at the end of the month was important.
Art: How did you go about finding new business, and what was your favorite of those methods and why?
Mike: I was a crazy cold caller turning more door knobs that I care to remember. I learned this before I got into the copier industry, so cold calling didn’t bother me one bit. In fact I took it as a challenge that I could turn more door knobs and personally talk to more people than my peers. I followed up my previous weeks cold calls with a phone Monday to try and set up my appointments for the week. I would average 400-450 cold calls monthly and I got so particular about my time management for cold calling that I would only see appointments in the morning and block off cold calling for the afternoons, except for the last week of the month.
Art: That's really impressive with that amount of cold calls per month. Now I can see how you hit the $1M in revenue. What was the first sales book that you read that and what did you take away from it?
Mike: I must say I did not ever read a sales book of take any courses or seminars etc for sales. I did enjoy listening to sales motivational tapes back in the day. Brian Tracy and my all time favorite Zig Ziglar! I believe two of his best quotes “ Our greatest weakness lies in giving up” and this one “ everything you ever wanted was on the other side of fear”!
Art: What type of car did you use for your demonstrations and how many demonstrations would you perform in a week demonstration?
Mike: Well my first so called copier car was a 1979 Blue Toyota Corolla station wagon. It served me well and the collapsible cart fit just fine with my strapped down Minolta EP 310. In the beginning I would average 8 to 10 demo appointments per week, Until late 1982 when the company curtailed demo and machine deliveries by sales reps ( deemed to risky for both sales rep and equipment). After that we sold off the brochures or did demo appointments in our showroom. I preferred selling off the brochure for a faster close if possible.
Art: Can you tell us a couple of funny story about selling copiers in the seventies?
Mike: Well I started at the very beginning of the 1980s practically at the tail end of the 70’s I guess. What I remember were a couple of things. First not all the middle managers were willing to buy a Japanese made product. They either loved Xerox and American made or some of them back than were veterans of WW2 and a couple of them showed me the door once I told them who I was with. Second thing was that I had to be careful and aware of my surroundings because I had a downtown area it seemed easy for the Savin reps and others to follow me into accounts so I needed to be discreet. Once I had an appointment with a single attorney law firm and as I was qualifying the attorney there was commotion in the outer office and a rep busted into our private meeting screaming don’t buy from him. Totally freaked out the attorney and he asked us both to leave.
Art: That's a first, in all my years I never had that happen where another rep busted in and stared bad mouthing. What is the biggest problem you seeing facing the industry today?
Mike: Today It is the decline of printed materials. OEM’s are closing or selling branches and dealers need to be really good at what they do carving out a niche as to their relentless pursuit of excellence in service and sales. Also the dealers need to diversify and expand into areas that they can do well as prints continues to decline.
Art: If you had to would you do it all over again, if so what would you change?
Mike: I would do it over again as I believe the 1980’s and most of the 1990’s for that matter was a great time to be in this industry. What I would have changed is probably staying put with Minolta and not jumping ship when I thought I needed more of a challenge. You know greener grass isn’t always on the other side.
Art: What’s the one piece of knowledge that you’d like to share with new reps entering our industry?
Mike: Well I would say be consistent in your work habits. Use time management to set time parameters for each task you need to get done to advance finding viable prospects and get really good at turning them into customers. I know with this crummy pandemic making physical cold calls has been tough and finding people in their offices has been tough. But it is ending and things are opening up. So my final advice is prospect, prospect, & prospect, and be consistent in prospecting.
Special thanx to Mike for doing this for us. We don't ever quit prospecting is such an important message. Feel free to reach out or connect with Mike on Linkedin