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Selling Copiers in the Eighties

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-=

Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Larry Coco

I believe it's important to document as much as our industry as possible before the age of the internet. Not much has changed in sales over the years. Selling is still about prospecting, finding pain and building relationships.

Thus I was able to connect with Larry Coco for our next interview of what it was like to sell copiers in the eighties.

Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Larry Coco

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

Larry: During college I worked as the Assistant to the Controller at Grolier, a book publishing firm. While that was an incredible experience, I believed my calling was Sales. I wanted something challenging and rewarding. Something that took me out of my comfort zone.

I remember reading the newspaper days after graduating college and was drawn to an ad …“ Our average sales representative made more than  $26,000 last year”.

Keep in mind this was my first interview out of college. I called and spoke to Mike Davies, the Vice President. We had a 15 minute conversation about  the role, my background  and he said thanks, but no thanks since I lacked sales experience. He hung up.

My competitive juices were flowing so I called him back and made a case why I could and would be a great addition to his sales team. He listened and finally asked if I could be at his offices that that next morning. No problem.

He and I interviewed for about 90 minutes. I could picture myself selling B2B. He left the room and introduced me to the President, Al Kirschner. He and I then interviewed for over 2 hours. We hit it off. I asked for the job. He let me know they would be in touch. We shook hands and I drove home thinking  this would be a strong opportunity to start my career …working for a local and growing company willing to train me called Copytex Corporation.

The phone rang within 30 minutes of getting home. It was Al making me and offer with a start date. I accepted and started that following Monday. I grew from Sales Representative to Selling Manager to Branch Sales Manager to Vice President of Sales over the next 13 years. Crazy how things happen.

Art: What company or manufacturer did you start with, what was your title and what year did you start (if you have an interesting story about a rookie experience please use it here)

Larry: My title was Sales Representative and I started in 1981.

Copytex Corporation was a core SHARP dealer. We also carried some Mita boxes since that gave us edge to edge copying when the SHARP units did not.

Al had been a top executive with APECO ( American Photo Copy Equipment Company). When they went out in the late ‘70’s many of their top people opened SHARP dealerships. The list of successful owners became legendary.

I recall the first  week shadowing a couple of sales reps (cold calls and appoinments), being assigned a  SHARP SF-741 demonstator and learning how to present. My job was to cherish it. By end of week I needed to demonstrate it for my VP. I was well prepared and got  5 stars.

Week #2 I was sent to Copier Bootcamp at a Philadelphia Airport hotel No frills. The training was intense ( very industry and sales specific). We were given homework assignments every night. Lots of practicing and roleplays. I realize now they didn’t want us out at the bars… was best to put us on lock down. Some classmates did venture out, partied too much, and came in the next day unprepared. They were sent packing. No questions asked.

Reflection: One day my trainer brought us to downtown Philly to make cold calls. We went into a large corporate building on Center Street, top floor of course,  and I watched him do about 10 calls. He was smooth. It was now my turn to take the lead. I was a 22 year old kid with my big  pants on.  Time to shine. While feeling anxious, I was determined and each call saw my confidence grow.

That was until we came across a BIG double door that said XEROX on it. My trainer said go ahead with a smile on his face and we walked in. I greeted the receptionist with a “ Good Morning, my name is Larry  and I represent Sharp Electronics…” She seemed taken aback, said please wait here, and left her desk. Within a minute a man came out identfing himself as the Branch Manager. He asked me what I was I doing there mentioning  we were competitors. Thinking quickly, I responded it always good to know what your competitors might be doing and that we should ideally set up a meeting. The Branch Manager was speechless, my trainer began cracking up, explaining finally I was in training.  We all had a good laugh. As we exited my trainer  gave me a bear hug, told me I had guts, and was going to crush it in this business. Trial by fire.

Reflection: Back from Bootcamp. I was given a territory ( Yonkers area of Weschester County). Mike directed me to go out for the day and make cold calls after completing 20 telemarketing calls. I wrote my name on a bunch of blank  business cards and grabbed a stack of brochures.

I was now on my own and started calling on every door that wasn’t locked in Dobbs Ferry, NY. My mindset was that every call was an opportunity and a great way to meet new people. I noticed the more I smiled,  better responses came my way. I made 35 calls, got 3 appointments and drove back to the office all fired up.

Mike came with me on the 3 appointments over the next 2 days. We rolled my demonstrator out of my Ford Country Squire Wagon with wood paneling and sold 2 SF-741’s as he took the lead role, one to a lawyer ( Thank you Mr. McCormick) and next to a delivery company. I came back to the office and rang the bell twice. You never forget your first sale. Best feeling ever!

Reflection- Lasting Impression: In those days, mailers had a purpose and a place. There was a return card coming back when a prospect had interest. I called one in particular, made an appointment, needed the help of my  technician to carry it up a flight of stairs ( the SF-741 was big, brown , beige, and ugly), and sold it to one of the partners.

Delivery was set for that next Tuesday. On Monday I got a call from the buyer asking me to stop by anytime that afternoon. I did. He sheepishly looked down at the floor and told me his senior partner wanted to cancel the order since they only buy Xerox. Note: Keep in mind Xerox had a 90% + marketshare in 1981. I asked what we could do to salvage the order and he said nothing.

He then said he was curous as to how much commission I would have made and I told him $200. He retreaed to his office for a minute, then held out an envelope saying I deserved it and this was for me. I opened it realizing it contained $200 in cash. I told him thanks so much but I couldn’t accept his kindness. He said “you will and are,  case closed “.

I bought myself a classic watch, we kept in touch, and he became my customer 2 years later.

Reflection- It’s Time to Leave Grasshopper: Probably  one month into the job, I set an appointment with a large private school. Mike and I role played the meeting for an hour prior. As we walked up to the entrance, he put his hand on my shoulder and said. “ You are ready, this is your call, you got this”.

That was a pivotal moment in my career as  he had faith in my abilities. He passed the torch and I never looked back. Note: Yes, I did sell them 2 SF-850’s ( 33 copies per minute complete with document feeders and sorters ). Nice!

Note: Mike could sell anything and taught me a great deal about sales. He had this striking presence. He knew how to work a crowd. We complemented each other since he had a more care-free and daring attitude while I was the structure/ process guy.

Xerox Vintage Copier Photos Download JPG, PNG, GIF, RAW, TIFF, PSD, PDF and Watch Online

Art: If 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.

Larry: I always represented myself as a division of SHARP Electronics. Strong brand recognition for consumer products like TV’s and VCR’s.

We had 3 SHARP models …SF-741, SF-811, SF-850. That was it. Imagine that young people?

My favorite model during the first 6 months had to be the SF-741. 6 copies per minute, moving platen, a paper master wrapped around the drum good for 600 copies. You had to talk a great deal when making a copy on this unit waiting for the copy to appear in the exit tray. It printed on acetate for overhead projections. It threw off some major heat. I made sure to always show that feature as if it were magic. The unit listed for $2,995.00 and our bottom price was $1,995.00. All day long!

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?

Larry: Tenure at Copytex was rather strong. I would say turnover was close to 20%. Our team was made up of talented professionals that understood the importance of Prospecting. It was drilled into us that Activity breeds Performance. We worked hard and played hard.

Our daily manta was 20-20-2….Every day we were accountable to make 20 telemarketing calls, 20 cold calls, and to secure 2 qualified appointments.

That was the expectation and if you chose not to put in the time and effort, this was not the right company for you. You didn’t make the cut.

We were expected to write out and have  at least 100 mailers ready to go every Monday morning. This was not an option. You simply did it for the right reasons.

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

Larry: Definitely individual growth and being part of an Elite TEAM. We were a close knit bunch, ultra competitve with each other while always celebrating team member and company successes.

I started in 1981 as a sales rep, worked my up to Selling Sales Manager by 1983, Branch Sales Manager in 1985.

Reflection- Incentives Count: We put many individual and team incentives in place. One was Dress for Success. In short, if /when a rep made their quarterly revenue quota, he/she was given $250 and additional monies for going over and above.

We would have a team dinner and then go shopping for anything work related…shirts, ties, a suit, shoes, briefcase. Anything to improve image.

Another was the launch of President’s Club which involved  an annual trip to a rockstar destination along with money to spend and events to enjoy. Those stories stay with me

Looking back at it now, we had cold call days every Tuesday and Thursday. Mandatory. We would block out 8:15 am -12:15 pm , team up with a rep, take turns blitzing each others territories. On my day, the leads came to me. The next time all leads went to my fellow rep. Bob  would cold call the odd floors in a building, I would do the evens.

Bob would handle left side of street, I would handle the right. We fed off of each other.

When a rep was close to making President’s Club and needed a bit of a push, we would do team blitzes driving lots of appointments. We helped one another for the right reasons.

Reflection- My Mentor:  Some of my best memories occurred after 5:30 pm a couple nights per week . I would wrap up my day and walk into Al’s office. We would talk for a couple hours about  life, sports, business.

Those discussions were invaluable. Here’s an example… Al was a very smart and classy man / business owner. He taught me to Think Yiddish and Dress British.

Big sports New York Yankee fan. Was on th SHARP Dealer Advisory Board. Often we were invited to SHARP HQ in New Jersey to work with other SHARP Dealers and share Best Practices as were both growing and profitable.

Reflection- Paying it Forward: Al taught us to have gratitude for others. Every month that an employee achieved their targets, on that very first day of the month there would be a hand written note from the desk of Al Kirschner on the recipients desk recognizing  a job well done.

Even in the present moment if I am having a bad day I reach my hand into that box of notes from Al (it sits in the corner of my office  still), read a few, and all is right in the world again.

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

Larry:  During my first few months on the job I noticed sales reps pressing in the last week of the month for orders. I would estimate that 75% of the business came in the last 5 business days. That was nuts to me. It was apparent reps would drop price out of desperation to get the order before month end.

Personally, I did not want to be part of that roller coaster ride. By my fifth month selling, I decided to give myself a new end-of-month date…the 24th. In other words I needed to achieve my quota by that date and everything else was gravy. While many reps tend to take a breather in the first  week of the month, I was out prospecting the last week of the month, more prospecting in the first week along with qualifying, presenting proposals, and closes.You get the rest.

By 1983, I lowered that close date methodically to the 15th.  I truly believe this was an important key to my consistent success. I was not in panic mode and was able to sell at higher gross profit levels. This was my way of creating a sense of urgency and it worked.

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

Larry: I started with a salary of $600 per month and a commission plan based on a mix of revenue and profit. We had a monthly quota commission along with a quarterly revenue bonus. In addition each quarter we had a target of 30 units ( a box, document feeder, sorter, duplexor all counted as one unit). I believe we were paid $30 per unit and I averaged 50+ units per quarter. Quarterly payout of $1,500+. Ka-Ching!

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

Larry:  New Business was a mix of consistent telemarketing calls, cold calls, sending out mailers, and securing referrals.

I made it a point to ask for referrals even when I was told no thanks.  I gave myself a target of securing at least 8 referrals per month. I would estimate that 35% of my business came from referrals…shorter sales cycle, instant credibility, ability to maintain higher revenues and profits per deal.

Reflection- Backwards:  We utilized lists and called on them often. While most reps started at A, moved to B, then C, I started at the back of the alphabet thinking those businesses were not called as often. I worked my way from the back

I saw too many sales reps start working a list and quitting on it before they are half way through the alphabet. I became highly efficient at New Business Development.

Reflection- Know the P&L: Since I came to sales with a financial background, a comfort zone was calling on CFO’s and Controllers. I spoke their language.

During the Eighties I worked that horizontal really well ( these professionals of course tended to know one another, hence the referrals ).  I was invited to present and demonstate  at their semi-annual meetings and  became the “ copier guy” to the financial community.

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

Larry: First sales book was …

How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins

Takeaway: To be fearless and have a well-defined plan.

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

Larry: I bought a used wagon that was so big it needed its own zip code. By 1983 I earned the right to have a new company car every year with all related expenses paid. Tremendous incentive!

My job was to create appointments, demonstrate, and close. I believe I averaged 10-12 demos per week.

Reflection- Triumph: Driving out with a copier and coming back end of day with an empty trunk was more than satisfying. It made one feel like a warrior returning from battle. We would honk horns.

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

Larry:  Story I can laugh about now: My crew was made up of characters in the Eighties. I recall one night where a few of the sales reps went out for dinner and drinks. They came back  to the office late to get their cars and remembering we had a sales meeting first thing the next morning.

They decided to push the giant dumpster from the parking lot and block the Copytex entrance thinking the meeting would be delayed.

It took a number of us to move it back that next morning. Our sales meeting started on time. Nice try though…

Another Story- Pleasure to Meet You: Growing up in NY I promised myself one day Copytex would become the official copier company of the New York Yankees.

We called on the account for 7 years knowing they were a Xerox house ever since Chester Carlson invested xerography in the 1940’s.

We finally broke through and won their business. Had 7 competitors and we were the only ones that did not do a trial since we offered performance and copy quality guarantees. Rather, we brought them to our office for a VIP tour and they were blown away.

One day while being in the Executive Offices George Steinbrenner came into our meeting. I was introduced to him and said, “ Hello George, pleasure to meet you”. He said he heard good things and that his name was Mr. Steinbrenner. He added that I needed to call him Mr. Steinbrenner until I made my first million. He walked out of the room. At that point Brian Cashman ( now Executive Vice President) was an intern with the Yankees and told me not to worry about it.

About 15 minutes later Mr. Stenbrenner came up to me from behind, put his hand on my shoulder and said with a smile, “ you can call me George”.

Hammertime-  As I transioned from sales rep to supervisor, I realized time management was going to be key. I spent the first hour of the day strategizing with my reps, the rest of the morning wearing my sales rep hat, then afternoon into evening taking on the role of manager spending a good deal of time in the field.

One particular morning I greeted our president. His face was tight and I   knew he was on a mission. Al told Mike and I to get the entire sales team together for a meeting in 5 minutes. It was to take place in the warehouse.

He led us to an old copier propped up on a gurney. He began to express his frustration that too many used copiers were being sold in place of new.

He then proceeded to pick up a hammer and swing it at the copier. He barely grazed it, lost his balance, and fell to the floor. We were stunned and went quiet. You could hear a pin drop until Al got up smiling. The warehouse boomed with laughter. My sales reps helped to smash the copier to bits. Warehouse manager said “ I’m not cleaning that up”. Bottom line: Al made his point.

Ok, One More- Getting Tossed : One morning I was cold calling a building in Scarsdale, NY. One of the executives that happened to see me in his lobby let me know soliciting was forbidden.  I told him I appreciated the feedback. On to the next call.

Within 20 minutes the building manager found me saying I had to leave since tenants were complaining. In other words, I got tossed.

2 weeks later I was back in Scarsdale delivering a brand new copier in that same building to one of the companies I had cold called. I decided to pay a visit to the man that had me removed. The receptionist remembered me. She was kind enough to let him know I had returned.

He came out asking what I needed. I responded it was not my intent to upset his day. He was fine and said the rules are the rules. Of course I did mention that I had just installed a new copier with his neighbor and thought he may want to take a look and consider upgrading. He said he would.

He called me that very next day and asked if he could get the same deal his friend did as they both had Xerox 3100’s way past their prime. Absolutely! Goodbye X and hello happy, new SHARP/Copytex customer.

BTW… he was kind enough to give me a referral that turned into another sale in that same building…

You never know until you try.

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

Larry:  Lack of fundamentals that are considered repeatable Best Practices.

Dealers/ Branches lack much needed sales process and structure to grow and retain talent.

In general, sales professionals don’t understand the importance of having and deploying a distinct plan, relationship building, and preparing for memorable engagements in advance. Lack of practice and role play. After all is said and done, we must Earn the Right.

Note:If you can’t demonstare or present a product/ solution/service to your manager or fellow sales professional, you can’t do it well for a prospect.

Reflection- Take Two: I brought my video camera to the office and set it up on a tripod. All sales reps were taped doing a series of presentations. Each rep had their own tape and was required to go home, watch, and tell us what they could do differently. Constant learning that proved to be invaluable.

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

Larry:  No regrets.

Perhaps I would have worn some type of back belt carrying so many copiers up and down flights of stairs.

Also would not have worn a good suit on those days when carrying a Savin liquid copier out as a trade and forgot to remove the tank. UGH!

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

Larry: Invest in a career vs. a job. Live with Passion.  To be successful this is not a 9-5 gig. It requires dedication and hard work.

Start early, wrap up late.  Surround yourself with successful people.

Think out of the box. Challenge yourself to learn something new every day.


Special thanx to Larry Coco for sharing his exploits in the eighties. If you have a comment please leave the reply section. If you'd like to reach out to Laryy you can reach him via Linkedin.

Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Harold Spieckermann

Just like that I'm honored to present my interview with Harold Spieckermann.  Harold is a long time Print4Pay Hotel member and has helped many of us over the years on our Print4Pay Hotel forums.

Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Harold Spieckermann

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

Harold: A friend interviewed for the position I was hired for and said he wasn't interested, but the gentleman doing the interview asked if he knew of anyone and mentioned my name. I was interviewed at my house and my wife made her famous Chocolate Chip Cookies and I was offered the position.

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

Harold: I went to work for Modern Business Systems from Jefferson City Missouri. I was a “sales rep”. I started June of 1981. I sold in North Central Missouri. I called on current accounts and new. My base was $1,000 recoverable draw.

My first day out was to call on 20 predetermined customers (my manager and I had picked them). My manager then called the customer and told them to call “collect” after I had left the call and ask for Joe, which there was no Joe and the call was not accepted. The manager, Jim Graf (who was my mentor) knew I had been there. One customer didn’t call and Manager Jim called then said yes I had been there. On the way home after those 20 calls, I saw a new business and stopped and asked if they needed a copier, I sold them a SCM roll fed copier. I called the boss and asked “what does it sell for and how do I write up an order”? He said take a piece of paper and write up the order, have the customer sign and get a check for ½ down and the rest when I delivered the unit. The check was for $1,200.00 for ½.

Art: If you worked for a dealer or manufacturer please tell us what brand(s) you sold and what was your favorite model to sell and why that was your favorite?

Harold: We sold Savin liquid toner devices and Royal copiers, then switched over to Ricoh and even a few Canon and Panasonic. My favorite copier to sell was the Savin 895 with 1- 99 images per original, equipped with a semi-automatic document feeder and did 11 x 17. It sold for $8,495.00 and the stand was $295.00. Lease was $127.43 per month for 60 months and at the end the customer owed 10% or $849.50. It was worth 18 units and each unit was $40.00, which equaled $720.00 in commission.

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?

Harold: I was in a sales class of 18, there was a class every month in Jeff City Missouri, after 8 months I was the only one left. We had offices in 7 states. Fortunately my boss showed me the power of upgrade! We also had a demo process of a 30 day trial and once 30 days passed they owned (leased) the unit.  I made the presidents club that year!

Art: What did you like the most about your job in the eighties? The freedom to call on any kind of business.

Harold: If I worked hard, I could make good money!

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

Harold: Not much i disliked

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

Harold: Recoverable Draw of $1,000 after 6 months of 100% of plan it moved to like $1,600 recoverable draw.  I never had a salary until the early 2000’s. We made our money on commission and your “keep the job responsibility” was 15 demos per month (we hauled the copiers with us) .

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

Harold: Cold calling, referrals, Referrals was the best! Hallie Gibbs rode with me once and he asked every customer “do you know anyone else looking for copiers or services we offer?” out of 23 calls that day, we got 2 leads.

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

Harold: Ziz Zigler’s book “see you at the top ''. I took from it that one could make a living in sales, if they helped enough people get what they wanted, by asking questions and not telling!

Art: What type of car did you use for your demonstrations and how many demonstrations would you perform in a week demonstration (may you can find a pic an add it)

Harold:  We were required to do 15 demos a month. I had a 1981 ford F100 with a 4 speed and six cylinder with AC and a camper shell to haul my equipment on gurneys.

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

Harold: I was cold calling near Kirksville Mo., in the fall of 1981. I stopped at a John Deere dealer and asked if he wanted to look at copiers? He said no not at this time, but come back in in December and I might need one to take off my taxes as my bookkeeper is wanting a new one. I added these notes to my “hot box” of 3 x 5 cards to call on in December.

The first week of December I stopped and walked in with my overshoes and London Fog coat, in 8 inches of snow. The owner said “son what can we do for you?” Well he was sitting around a wood stove with a bunch of farmers. I said “well I stopped in September and you said you may need to buy a copier for taxes in December so here I am”. He slapped his knee and said “I surely did say that, and I need one. BUT I will buy whatever you have in the truck, if I could start the old John Deere A out back”. Well I verified the call and said “the unit I have is a Savin 895 and is $8,495 and the stand is $295” one of the old farmers said, “don't worry son, he's got a truck load of cash”! I said, “It does run right, the tractor?” He laughed and said yes it does, it's a hand crank. I said okay, I will be back in a minute. He said where are you going? I said, ``Well I am going to put my coveralls on cause when you spin that flywheel with the pitcoks open they spray some oil out as you spin it”. One old farmer said, “looks like you just bought a copier bud”! He did buy that copier!

Another story, my Mother in Law had a Savin at her work place and asked me, “What are you going to do when you sell everyone a copier?”  I said, "I have no idea, I haven't sold them all, yet”.

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

Harold: Relying on social media to create your business leads, people still buy from people. Taking too many shortcuts to try and get business. Not following up, not understanding the sales cycle’s length, not pre-planning the calls, winging it. Not taking the business seriously.

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

Harold: I would have stayed in my territory and never moved, I didn't realize the potential of recurring business every few years.

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

Harold: This is still an exciting industry, we have more products to help in the office than we ever have had before. It all boils down to what Zig Ziglar said “Selling ain't telling, asking questions is”.  And recalling the other quote and even saying it to customers, “I can get everything out of life I want, if I help enough other people get what they want, so tell me, what is it you want”. Corny maybe, but it is all about communications. Thinking they have a college degree and are pretty smart, not understanding this is work, no one owes you a damn thing. Under promise, and over deliver. If you do not know the answer to the question, tell the customer you will get back to them on that, AND DO JUST THAT!


Thank you Harold!  The farmer story is classic especially when he dared you to start the tractor.  Great stuff.  Stay safe and be well!

Please feel free to post a comment and you can reach Harold via his Linkedin page.

-=Good Selling=-

Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Roland Tolan

Roland and I found each other about 6 weeks ago on Linkedin.  Seems Roland and I have a similar background with selling copiers.  We both started in the eighties. While I was on the East Coast and Roland was on the West Coast.  We've never met but hoping our paths will cross soon!

How did you find your way into the copier industry?

In 1985, I was 23 years old.  l was ready to join the sheriffs department in Los Angeles CA., my mom begged me not to do it.  A friend of mine was a salesman at small Toshiba dealership in Anaheim CA., and told me over a couple of beers that they are looking for sales people and there's a lot of money to be made in this business. The rest is history.

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

I started with Alltech Business machines in Anaheim right across the street from Minolta Business Systems (ended up recruiting me 4 years later).  My hiring managers name was Tony Napoli ex Pitney bowes rep.  Funny guy.

He told me that I will be a mercy hire since he didn't think I will make it in the business but he needs people in the field canvasing.  Great start with lots of confidence.  He also told me I need to buy a station wagon since I'll have to drive around with a copier gurney to do demos door to door. So I did it.

One Saturday I was driving by a small business park running errands and I noticed a lot of cars and open doors at this one place.  I said to my self maybe the business owners will be working alone without a gate keeper. So the following Saturday I loaded up a moving top 1OPPM Toshiba copier securing the top with a bungee cord. I went to the first open door and made my way to the back office since no one was at the reception desk.  I met the owner, introduced myself and asked him if he wants to see my copier.  He smiled and told me bring it in because he needs to make some copies. So I did and he loved the copier and then asked how much?

I said $1,500 knowing my cost was $850 and everything over I was getting 35% commissions. He said I want to buy this machine. I will write you check now. I said okay, I wrote up the paperwork,  got the check and left the copier.

Monday morning at the sales meeting it was my turn walked in my managers office and handed him the signed paperwork with the check. His eyes got big and said when did you sell this copier? I said to him Saturday on a demo. He repeated Saturday a few times in disbelief,  I said yes.  So he shared my story with the other guys.  Every Monday I was bringing in a couple of checks when no one else would.  A lot of sales reps would come to me and ask me for advise.  One year later the owner came to me and asked me if I want to be the sales manager since he wasn't too happy with my boss who hired me. I took the position.

If you worked for a dealer or manufacturer what brand(s) you sold and what was your favorite model top sell and why that was your favorite.

My top model and favorite unit to sell was the Toshiba BD 9110 copier console 55 pages per minute.

Great machine and you could tandem to units to have 11Oppm to be able to compete with the one ton Xerox 1090. Great times sold a lot of those and the Toshiba BD 7720 color machine with an editing board.

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

Twenty percent made it past two years and the rest were not able to keep up with cold calling and rejection or moved to other opportunities. The biggest thing I could not teach is work ethic. My late father whom I lost to cancer last February at age of 91 always told me when I was a kid that I could stay in bed dreaming or I should get my butt out of bed and pursue my dreams. I never forgot that ever.

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

It was lot of fun and everybody needed a copier,  intense times,  only a couple of big stores like Price Club were selling small desktop units like the Sharp Z70 (money guzzler). We made a killing with the Adler Royal fax machines that used thermal paper.  I remember I always carried a pair of scissors with me to cut the print when the page was printed.  When I got the sale I ended up throwing in the scissors with the machine. Fun times!

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

Nothing at all.  I loved my job and I loved training new people how to make money. It was challenging and fun.

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

As a rep I had a $1,500 salary a month for the first ninety days and then it turned in to a draw against commissions. The commissions were 35% of GP and after ninety days when the draw kicked in was 40%. Car allowance was $125 per month.

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

My favorite was cold calling door to door I wasn't a big phone guy.  I liked to meet people in person and inquire about their hobbies and businesses it was interesting plus I got to meet lots of friends like that.  Door to door was and still is today the most effective way since you get to see everything inside their business.  In addition with every cold call I wasn't asking if they are in the market.  I was asking a lot of questions and eventually got to know that the existing machine was not liked and service wasn't that good.  Just asking open ended questions and you got a lot of feedback that helped nailing down a deal.

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

I wasn't much in to sales books. I must have been a natural I did like Brian Tracy and paid $150 to go see one of his training sessions. Got a lot out of it.

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

I had a Buick Century station wagon and I was averaging 2 demos a day and close at least 1 out of 2. On Saturdays I would do 2-4 and close almost every one. I made great money at a young age and bought my first house in Yorba Linda CA two years later. I was only 25.

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

One that stays with me was the one time I did a demo for a color machine in Beverly Hills at Buddy Holly's mansion.  He wasn't there but his manager and business operations person was there.  He told me to set up the machine outside.  It was by the pool side on the patio, secured the break on the gurney and did my demo. They loved it!

We went inside going through the paperwork when we all hear a splash. Sure enough the break came lose and the gurney and the copier ended up in the pool! We looked at each other and I had no words except waiting to get my ass chewed.

Buddy Holly's manager looked at me and said do you think it would power up and work?  I said jokingly if it does will you buy it?  He looked at me and said I'll buy it and I'll tell Buddy the story he will probably incorporate this event in one of his shows.  Of course we had to order one up since my demo was drowned!

I will never forget, this had to do with one of my fierce competitors and actually I am still laughing today. Like I mentioned in the very beginning across the street from us was one of the direct Minolta Business Systems branches.  There was a sales guy there by the name of Dan Bisaw very smart , aggressive and a hard worker, always gave me a great fight (professional).   One day I was cold calling and I encountered a very psychopath customer.  The second I walked in he came storming out and started yelling at me to get the hell out of his office,  because he was sick and tired of sales people soliciting.  I asked him for a business card and told him I will let everyone in my office know not to ever come here.  He gave me one and kicked me out. 

When I got in my car the light bulb came out and I said to myself laughing, I know exactly what I will do with this card. I drove over to the Minolta branch and told the secretary as I was handing over the psychopaths business card that Dan Bisaw was in his office some time ago and my boss wanted to buy a copier and its urgent.  She said thank you and that she will get a hold of Dan to go there. I told her to make sure he takes a small copier with him to demo. In the meantime I grabbed a sandwich and parked across from the psychopaths office. His door was opened.

I kept waiting as I was eating and about an hour and a half later a station wagon pulls in front of the door and Dan is unloading his gurney with a desk top machine on, then puts his briefcase on the gurney and starts rolling towards the door. As he got half way through I hear  screaming who the hell are you?  Get the f..... out of my office Dan  is shocked he tells the psychopath but your employee told me that you wanted to buy a copier.  "Get out liar loser I don't have any employee!"  I saw a pen a pen that flew by Dan's head on the way back to the car. I could not stopped laughing. Of course I called him a week later and told him about the incident and how he ended up there. We became good friends after.

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

There isn't much customer loyalty anymore.  Boxes are boxes and all for the most part do the same. So the game is a total different level today. Smart dealers that evolved from analog to digital,  offering MPS and IT services are thriving and growing and eventually are bought up by the Mega Dealers for market share consolidation and eventually them selling as well. The issue with some of those is that in the process they destroy the small dealer hands on culture of customer service and the things they've done to become successful.

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

Definitely I would do it all over again. However, I would do a total solution company with technology offerings and one stop shop for everything a business needs from copiers, printers, scanners, phone systems, mailing equipment, marketing services for small companies etc.

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

First tip is to always work hard and never give up,  train yourself to learn IT language and be a chameleon when it comes to offerings.  Don't lead with the copiers lead with services and workflows, be analytical and always ask open ended questions. Most important is hit as many possible doors every day and keep your pipeline full at all times. You will thank me or your manager that you did. Buy yourself a comfortable and durable pair of shoes. Once in front of a decision maker close, close and close some more until the sign, because chances are if you leave without the paperwork signed you won't get the deal. Because the next salesperson will reap the benefits that you created.

If you'd like to reach out to Roland Tolan you can find him on Linkedin. Here's the link to his profile. I'd also like to thank Roland for his effort and time for doing this for us.  We never stop learning and I picked up some pretty cool stuff from Roland on this.

-=Good Selling=-

Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Marian Janes

Marian and I have never met, however it seems we were both selling copiers in New Jersey in the Eighties.  We connected on Linkedin about a week ago after I read one of her replies to RJ's comments for "Selling Copiers in the Seventies". While I was hustling copiers in Central Jersey, Marian was doing the same in North Jersey.

Selling Copiers in the Eighties with Marian Janes

How did you find your way into the copier industry? (feel free to us a story of how that happened)

I received a degree in education and then decided I didn’t want to teach. When I was 25 years old, working as a Naturalist at an Environmental Education Center here in NJ, I was making $11,000 a year-a paycut from my previous job as a YMCA Program Director where I made a whopping $13,000.

All my friends were advancing their careers, buying stuff, traveling, fancier mixed drinks, etc. I never had any money. I started skimming the “want ads” and found a company called Ricoh was hiring. Since there was no Google I really didn’t know what they did other than make cameras. I thought, how bad can it be, running around taking pictures all day.

When I interviewed the manager asked me to sell him the chair I was sitting on-how strange. I went part by part explaining the chair and why it was so great-ending with-“so, you wanna buy it?” I was a natural-right? That clinched the deal. The next week I started along with a few others and when they rolled a copier in the room I thought-what the hell is that doing here and where are all the cameras? Sales suited me well and I tripled my income in 3 months. The rest is history.


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

I started with AOE Ricoh, previously known as American Office Equipment, in Little Falls NJ, by the Frito Lay distribution center. AOE later became Ricoh Business Systems. I started around 1981 and my title was Marketing Representative. A few years later I went to work for MCS Canon, formerly Metropolitan Calculator Systems, in Paramus, NJ, also as a Marketing Representative.

I remember as new sales rep it was required we take our manager with us. Since I knew little about sales I let him handle the first appointment and teach me the ropes. I think to impress me and stoke his ego he decided he was not going to leave without a sale. The fierce negotiation over the smallest copier we sold was in full swing. As he gave his final ultimatum we sat there in silence. All of a sudden he stepped on my foot so hard that I wanted to scream out in pain. It was then and there that I learned, he who speaks first loses the sale.

But I got even on one of our calls together. A cloudy day when we packed up the copier a headed out Route 80.  As I was driving we were chatting away when we both realized our exit was fast approaching. Not realizing we were in express lanes and there was a median between us and the exit lanes I proceeded to move over a lane. All of a sudden we were air bound, hopping the median, and crashing down on the other side. My manager was terrified, we both were after we realized what just took place! It was actually exhilarating-like a real life chase scene, only the victim was the copier bouncing around in the back.

If 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?

I sold primarily Ricoh and Canon copiers. Early on I also sold, but more replacing Apeco units. I also sold calculators and the first facsimile machines. My favorite copier model was the Ricoh 6080. I like big and fast and it gave my competitive spirit a boost as I could now go up against rivals Xerox and IBM.

My favorite sale was facsimile. I volunteered while at MCS Canon to take on this challenge which ended up being a great experience. It was relatively easy to get an appointment since people were intrigued although skeptical. Fax directly opened the door to appointments with the VP of Finance. Fax machines were much more portable than copiers and they were many times sold in multiples. Plus-it was fun. I would bring two units with me and a simulator. As customers needed to see to believe we faxed all kinds of documents from one to the other. My favorite was an engineer who was intent on folding his blueprint in 16ths, faxing each segment piece by piece, and reconstructing it with tape on the other end. I never even had to ask for the sale.

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

Actually, about 50% of us stuck with it. Some because they were related in some way to the owners and others because we didn’t know better. I stayed because of the team and there was a clear path to making money. Those who left just didn’t like the small draw and strictly commission pay rate. They also got discouraged by rejection. Someone told me early on that if it takes 100 calls to sell one copier then each call is worth $1. Although I always sucked at math I liked to believe that I made something for my effort on every call. Thanks for the dollar!

What did you like the most about your job in the early days of copier sales?

I loved the freedom and flexibility of being on the road. As a highly social human being I made it my business to go about making friends with as many people as I could within my assigned territory. The wham-bam-thank-you-maam mentality my sales manager tried to instill in me never worked. I was able to easily get appointments and build trust. Sales came about more through friendship and many of my customers attended my wedding! People kept asking, how do you know this person and that one? They bought a copier from me and we became friends!

My co-workers and I always went out after work and there was much comaradiere. There were also lots of sales contests and I won a lot!I felt so empowered and brave heading off into the trenches day after day and actually producing over time.

What did you dislike the most about your job in the early days of copier sales?

The copier dealer mentality of my managers and the business in general. By nature I possessed a consultative mindset which was repeatedly challenged. If you lost a deal that seemed likely, they laced into you with foul, uncensored remarks. If you didn’t fit in with the guys you were not happy. Fortunately, for me I have thick skin and made it work.

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

I think it was something like $500/month draw plus commissions. There were also special bonuses, like box bonuses for specific models, unit bonuses, quota bonuses, etc.


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

Master The Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins. I guess I thought it was cool that I was working in a capacity that people actually wrote about. Tom’s book gave me not only a framework for selling but the motivation to keep at it.

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

It didn’t take me long to realize that I was going to have to trade in my beloved Toyota Celica. After months of missed opportunities since there was no company van available I bought a Suburu wagon that couldn’t get out of its own way. Now I could grab a copier and a cart anytime I wanted-unstoppable!

Our initial goal was make 100 phone calls, get 8 appointments or presentations, resulting in 4 demos and then 1 sale. My goal was to do 4 demos a week and close 1 sale-4 minimal for each month.


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

The stigma of selling copiers was not very glamorous. My dad, an accountant in an office in the town where we lived, despised fast talking, pressure solicitors. When I told him I was selling copiers he stood up, looked me in the eyes and said, “my daughter is NOT  being one of those!” I felt so dirty!

A few funny stories about me and my cart. It was not out of the ordinary to load the copier on and as I was pushing it into a corporate office having it flatten in front of my eyes. Since there were no cellphones I had to use the receptionists phones for my SOS calls.

Another time I had an opportunity to close a sale of a mid-sized copier. It was snowing and sleeting and I had on a suit and stockings, since pants suits were rare. I was determined to get the copier there and close the deal. Halfway up the sidewalk I slipped on the ice and as I grabbed the cart for support I fell, and the entire cart is now pointing upward like the titanic, with the copier strapped to it.

One of my biggest embarrassments is a day I recall since I was first, going to make a sale and second, wear my very new white linen pants suit. Although it was a small copier I had it strapped tightly to the cart. When I got to the customer location they escorted me a conference room where the old copier sat on a stand in the corner. Fresh off of sales training I remember someone saying it helps to have the customer envision ownership. So, that’s just what I did. I walked over to the old Saxon, grabbed it off the stand and held it close to my chest as I turned to bring it to my cart and replace it with the new one. I clearly didn’t think this through as the black liquid toner proceeded to run down my new white linen pant suit onto their newly carpeted floor! And they still bought it!

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

As a sales coach I am reminded daily that nothing has changed. The biggest challenge people bring to me is basic-communication. How to have a productive sales conversation. Simple things like asking questions!  As copiers become more commodity based and easier to obtain the role of the sales person is shifting as are the conversations. Sales people need to modify their communication when interacting physically versus digitally. There is opportunity within every conversation.

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

Not much! I would have bought a darker pants suit. Being able to share all this makes me realize the personal growth that took place as a result of my time selling copiers. There are things I Iearned about myself and my capabilities that I am calling on once again as an entrepreneur. I keep reminding myself that if I sold an ugly copier I can certainly sell myself. As my business evolves it takes me back to those days where I had the opportunity to create something from nothing. When I reflect back I mostly remember fun times with good people and great customers!

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

Don’t let the industry define you-find a way to define it and differentiate yourself. Always put people first and believe that you are in service to them and their needs. Be that refreshing person who provides a creative and innovative spark to your customers buying journey. If you learn to ask the right questions and then listen, your customers will tell you what they need and how you can help. Listen with the ear of the heart, where relationships are formed. Have fun!

Please feel free to connect with Marian Janes on Linkedin or post a reply here