Selling Copiers in the Seventies with Ed Mclaughlin

 

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Selling Copiers in the Seventies with Ed Mclaughlin



Ed Mclaughlin is Executive Advisor with NEXERA, A BEI Services Company. In addition Ed was also President of Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America. Please visit his profile on LinkedIn

How did you find your way into the copier industry? 

My path was an odd one for sure. After discharged from the Air Force in 1969, I became an accountant for Sperry Rand, UNIVAC international Division. I was also attending the evening Division of LaSalle University, working on a Degree in Business Administration. I did well at Sperry, but I was very interested in the diversity of the sales process. As opportunities came about, I was always passed over. Later I was told I was too valuable in my present position, and I thought well, it’s not what I want to do, so I started looking around.

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

I didn’t want to work for just anyone and didn’t think about the copier industry. Still, I was attracted to the 3M Company. An opportunity developed, and I grab it. I had more than a few friends tell me I was crazy accepting the copier job. I wanted to be in sales, and I was miserable being pigeon-holed by my present employer, so off I went.

If you worked for a dealer please tell us what brands you sold and what was your favorite model top sell and why that was your favorite.

That was in November of 1971. 3M was a great company, very diversified, and I saw it as a tremendous opportunity to learn about many aspects of the business. The training they put into us was fantastic. Throughout my time there, I attended numerous training programs. We were exposed to an abundance of efficient business processes and the necessary skills that were a benefit not just in selling, but in business in general.  

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

I was hired with four other people at the time. Within six months, there were two of us still in the sales force. The truth is that the quick turnover scared me a bit. I was a young husband and father, and the thought of being out of work was, well, horrifying. It was also quite motivating, and I took the responsibility seriously. I decided I was never going to have a bad month. The work was hard, really, and a lot more physical than I had thought. We took our copier wherever we went, and they were heavy to move around. The ”209” copier was about 250 lbs. I had a city territory when I first started, and that meant steps getting in and out of buildings and not many elevators.

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

When I later got a more suburban area, I thought I died and went to heaven. I often thought about the rapid turnover and wondered why it was so extreme. I think there was a disillusionment to the whole idea of sales. Sure, you could make good money, but it was a lot more involved than you may be prepared to experience. Once I got promoted to account sales, the physical part got a lot easier.

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

Compensation was a mix of a small base salary and commission. We also received a quarterly bonus based on our hardware number. There were two levels the first level was you received 1.5% of your supply sales in your territory. If you achieved the 2nd level, you received 3%. The payout could be excellent. Once promoted out of territory sales, it became more salary and bonus. We were responsible for growing the account and received quota and bonuses accordingly.

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

The way we went about cold calling, freely walking around buildings, and just calling on people would get you arrested today.   What does carry over, though, is the need to understand where we are in the business process. The principle of “think on your feet” and “shut up and listen.”   The concept of seeing things through the eyes of the customer has stayed with me throughout my whole life. I not only have learned to apply it to business but life and family.

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

As I came along in this business, I didn’t read “sales” books I read “business” books. 

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

3M provided us with a station wagon; mine was a 1969 Nash Rambler station wagon with a broken rear door.

If you pulled out too fast, the force of the copier in the back on the rolling cart would push the door open. We were provided a harness to secure the beast in the back. I put a strap under the bumper. This way if the copier did push the door open the harness and the strap would keep it from completing the fall to the ground.

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

I look back on the early days with a mix of fondness and a little bit of “what the hell was I thinking.” I can honestly say I learned a great deal not just about selling but about business processes and, most of all, about people. It was an education if you wanted it to be.

The way we went about cold calling, freely walking around buildings, and just calling on people would get you arrested today.   What does carry over, though, is the need to understand where we are in the business process. The principle of “think on your feet” and “shut up and listen.”   The concept of seeing things through the eyes of the customer has stayed with me throughout my whole life. I not only have learned to apply it to business but life and family. 

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

I remember one day when a particularly aggressive guy tailgating me over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge pulled up behind me at the toll gate within inches of my rear bumper became startled when as I pulled away from the toll booth, he right behind me, the door suddenly flipped open. The 250 LBS 3M “209” monster came screaming out of the back. It had an automatic document feed on it, and it hung just inched from the windshield of his beautiful new MGB sports car. I knew what the look of fear was that day. I jumped out, pushed the copier back in the car, jumped back in, and took off. The MGB took a few seconds to compose himself, and I noticed a safe distance between him and me as I traveled down the highway.    

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

What would I say to those getting into the business today? Learn your trade, not just your technology but the technologies that impact your products.  More importantly, learn what these things mean to your customers and how they affect their performance. And above all, understand business in general.  You will always communicate more effectively if you have a similar vernacular and common ground. A good rule whatever you do.   Finally, be curious, I started my business career in 1969 I’m still learning today.

-=Good Selling=-

Note from Art:  Ed never knew you were in the service.  Thanks so much for your service in such a troubled time.

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I remember Ed very well. We both worked for SCM. I was in NJ and he was my counter point in Philadelphia.  I got to interface with Ed at SCM national/ ,regional meetings. Because I lived in Pa. I attended benefits meetings at the Philly branch. After the meetings sales would go out to a bar and many conversations were exchanged. It was a different time 

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