I caught one of Ray's video last week and I was surprised when Ray made mention of his copier career. Yup, Ray also slung copiers just like most of us. I reached out to Ray a few days ago and asked if he'd like to be give us some insight as to what it was like to sell copiers in the eighties.
Selling Copiers in the Eighties
Ray, what year did you start in the industry, what company and what position did you start out with? 1989
Did you work for a dealer or direct ? I worked for Lanier Worldwide Tampa Office.
What was the percentage of copier sales people that made it past two years? 10-15%
What did you like the most about your job in the eighties? Really the 90’s but still 30 years ago. It was a great experience learning how to sell. Lanier was a world class operation and had the industry’s best training in those days. The comradery and the fun of business was awesome.
What did you dislike the most about your job in the eighties? I really liked the job, as all jobs sometimes the people can be challenging to one’s happiness. One of the greatest things in those days was that many prospects did not have copiers. I remember selling a lot of gas stations copiers with coin ops.
What was the compensation plan like, was there a salary, what is just commissions or was there a mix of salary and commissions? $2,000.00 a month all draw and if you went two months in the hole your draw was eliminated until recovered.
How did you go about finding new business, and what was your favorite of those methods and why? Knocked on doors and looked through newspaper for new business licenses. I loved cold calling that’s what we did most of the time in those days.
What was the first sales book that you read that and what did you take away from it? Tom Hopkins “How to Master the Art of Selling.” Lanier made that book part of their training on day one.
What type of car did you use for your demonstrations and how many demonstrations would you perform in a week? A Chevy mini cargo van it held two coffin carts so I could leave the office with two machines and come back with none.
The demo! Yes, we did Demos and lots of them. Every successful sales rep knew that it took twenty cold calls a day and ten demos a week just to survive. It was the copier industry that came up with the saying “if you show it, you will sell it.” With a loaded van, you headed out to your geographical territory, and keep in mind we used paper maps to navigate around neighborhoods, looking for that lonely church. We all knew churches ran tons of bulletins. Every time you drove by church, you could practically hear the sounds of clicks. More clicks equaled more money. Once we found a prospect (basically was everyone in the world), we would sell the demo.
Can you tell us a couple of funny story about selling copiers?
The craziest demo I ever did… Tony the Crab salesman had a van on a street corner. The kind of street corner where you wouldn’t want to even think about buying a crap from the back of a van. Although buying crab wasn’t the goal. Selling Tony a miniature Crab Flyer printing press was.
Remember, before you could sell Tony the copier, you had to show Tony the copier. This is the sole reason all successful copier reps carried long extension cords. Yes, Tony may have had no power in the crab van, but the gas station parking lot Tony called his storefront did. Once the cord was plugged into the lonely outlet in the men’s room with no door, it was time to start making copies.
I know everyone is asking themselves - what the hell does a Crab Sales Guy makes copies of? You may have guessed, of course - it would be one of the crabs. So as I began my pitch that included explaining how every crab vendor should have flyers, and why outsource that, I quickly grabbed a big blue crab from the cooler in Tony’s van (it smelled like shrimp to me), and I immediately set the crab on the glass and hit the big green button. Out came a picture of the blue crab, well it wasn’t blue - color capabilities were not available yet - but once Tony saw the crab printed on that sheet of paper he was sold.
What happened next is something all copier reps face occasionally. You may have guessed, he couldn’t get approved for the 5 year lease. He was able to muster up enough cash and of course a few crabs for trade, so Tony quickly became the proud owner of a slightly used machine, the one that had been rolling around in the back of my van for months.
So when I think back on those good old days, I ask myself what Tony would think today. He more than likely went paperless, has a Facebook page, his van is probably in a junk yard, and Uber drivers deliver his crabs. Yes, I am also quite sure Tony has a crab app.
What is the biggest problem you seeing facing the industry today? The reality that over 80% of the market is vulnerable to innovative disruption. A4, lowering volumes, and new challengers will cause disruption.
If you had to would you do it all over again, if so, what would you change? I would say that doing it all over again in these times would not replicate anything of the past. However, I would do it all over again regarding the education, and excitement of an evolving industry.
What’s the one piece of knowledge that you’d like to share with reps entering our industry? The advice a district manager told me. Gary Moore, said “When you are successful selling copiers in your future you will not need to interview for a job, you will interview a company and decide if you will work there.” Rest in Peace Gary.
If you'd like to know more about Ray, you can get his bio on Linkedin. I would also suggest that you follow Ray because he posts excellent content and is also a regular posted on our site. Thanx for this Ray!