It was good to see Darrell Leven at the recent BTA National Event in New York City a few weeks ago. During one of the breaks we had the chance to chop it up a bit about the imaging industry. Where we started and how we go to where we are today. During that chat is when I found out that Darrell started selling copiers in the late seventies. I asked if he would mind contributing to our Selling Copiers in the Seventies blog.
What year did you start in the industry and what was your first position?
June 1, 1977
Territory Sales Representative
Modern Business Systems, Inc.
Started the Quincy IL sales territory. Went there with a Savin 770 and a Savin 220 in the back of my station wagon. They were the only two machines in the territory when I got there. Three years later, had sold 423 copiers, had 4 technicians and a branch administrator in the new Quincy Branch Office.
What company aka manufacturer or dealer did you work for during the seventies?
Modern Business Systems, Inc. Jefferson City, MO (headquarters)
Territory Representative 1977-1981
Branch Manager Springfield IL 1981-1984
Corporate VP Marketing 1984-1987
I sold Savin as a territory rep.
Initially I sold the Savin 220 (coated paper) and the Savin 770 Plain Paper machines.
Soon the Savin 780 with ADF was added to the mix.
Later the 700 series was speed/ feature upgraded to the 870 and 880. The Savin 895 was added to the product line to offer reduction and 11 x 17.
We had a kick ass 60 month M-2 lease plan.
If you worked for a dealer please tell us what brands you sold?
Savin was the core product we sold in the 60’s and 70’s In the 80’s, switched to Ricoh, added Panasonic and Konica copiers. Also sold Exxon fax, Compucorp word processing and OKI white boards
What was the percentage of copier sales people that made it past two years?
What did you like the most about your job in the seventies?
It was a great time to be in the industry and Modern Business Systems was an outstanding company and industry leader.
What did you dislike the most about your job in the seventies?
Really nothing, it was an exciting industry, great people, great team and the money was great.
We had fun every day. We kicked ass and took names.
What was the compensation plan like, was there a salary, what is just commissions or was there a mix of salary and commissions?
Salary and commissions….lots of bonus opportunities and sales incentive contests.
How did you go about finding new business, and what was your favorite of those methods and why?
Cold calls, networking, community involvement. I enjoy meeting people so all was fun. I would credit most of my early success from referrals from the people who bought from me. I knew more people in Quincy and the surrounding area because of cold calling than most people who had lived there their entire life.
What was your favorite brand and model to sell and why?
Savin 880 Great machine, feature rich with AutoFeed and was the highest commission machine.
What type of car did you use for your demonstrations and how many demonstrations would you perform in a week demonstration?
First car was a 1973 Ford Galaxie station wagon. Soon traded for a 1979 Ford Econoline Van….to haul 4 copiers rather than two in the wagon. As a new rep in a new territory, I sold and installed all the copiers….needed a high volume delivery vehicle.
Our goal was 20 demos a month.
Can you tell us a couple of funny story about selling copiers in the seventies?
There are many but you would have to know the characters in the stories.
Prospects used to get excited when you showed them that the big orange lever on the side of the Savin 770 Copier could switch paper size from 8 1/2 x 11 to 8 ½ x 14 ….. that was a big selling feature over the Xerox 3100….it only has one size cassette in the machine.
What is the biggest problem you seeing facing the industry today?
Change and Profits.
What was your quota back in the seventies, was it revenue, GP, units?
Modern worked on a unit value system. Each machine had a unit value assigned. Units also were paid a commission amount.
Back in the seventies Minolta copier models started with EP and Canon with NP. Do you know what those stood for?
EP - Electro Static Process Excellent Process / Electro Process/ Excellent Prints/ Every king of Paper/ Extra Profits ?????
NP – Nano Particle No Problems/New Process/Near Perfect/????
Note from Art: The last question was interesting since Canon and Minolta were always competing against each other. The EP stood for Electrostatic Process ( the joke in the industry was eny paper), as far as the NP, well I'm really not sure and hoping someone can and tell us.
Darrell Leven National Sales Manager BEI Services 816-729-7037