About a month ago I had the opportunity to attend the BTA National event in New York City. While at the event I ran into Steve Mcbride, Steve is currently VP of Sales with Innovolt. We had an interesting discussions about the cool Bluetooth technology with the Innovolt Smart Protectors (you can get these from Polek & Polek) and how techs can identify the voltage in the MFP through a smart phone. I also found out that Steve had started selling copiers in the late seventies.
Thus, I asked if he would like to be a part of our Selling in the Seventies Series. Steve's was happy to oblige and his comments are below.
Selling Copiers in the Seventies
- What year did you start in the industry and what was your first position? I started in the industry in 1978 right out of college as a basic sales rep with no accounts and no defined territory. One of the owners gave me a price book of the copiers my company sold and business cards and told to go see if I could sell anything.
- What company aka manufacturer or dealer did you work for during the seventies? Worked for A&S Copier and Computers
- If you worked for a dealer please tell us what brands you sold? We sold Dennison and Minolta copiers.
- What was the percentage of copier sales people that made it past two years? We had about 5 reps that started at about the time I did, and I was the only one in the industry less than 2 years later.
- What did you like the most about your job in the seventies? If you got out and worked hard you could make a lot of money for a 23-year-old sales rep.
- What did you dislike the most about your job in the seventies? No real training being unsure what I really needed to do to be successful.
- What was the compensation plan like, was there a salary, what is just commissions or was there a mix of salary and commissions? $500 a month draw against commissions. With commissions being 40% of GP.
- How did you go about finding new business, and what was your favorite of those methods and why? Cold calling was my main way to prospect because I didn’t know any better. Not unusual to make 4o+ calls a day. I used cold calling as a teaching tool, every account I called on I would ask to see their copier due to being new in the business, so it was my way of learning my competition and getting into the building to see what they were copying in their business.
- What was your favorite brand and model to sell and why? In the 70’s my favorite machine was the Minolta EP310. At $3995 you could sell them a bunch of them at full retail. It was also a DRY toner copier that enabled you to compete against Xerox a little easier.
- What type of car did you use for your demonstrations and how many demonstrations would you perform in a week demonstration. I used a pickup truck and all our technicians had station wagons. We didn’t haul a machine around all the time, but I would still do 3 to 5 demos a week but closing rate per demo was high.
- Can you tell us a couple of funny stories about selling copiers in the seventies? 1. One of our sales reps (not me) had a copier in their pickup truck and went through a car wash at a paper mill with the copier in the back. 2. One time I was moving a Minolta 101 and apparently didn’t drain the tank all the way and my new white shirt had some nice toner stains all over the front of the shirt.
- What is the biggest problem you seeing facing the industry today? With clicks declining in many areas I believe our industry will be moving to more of a services industry and many dealers are not positioned to make that move, nor have the desire to move into other service offerings.
- What was your quota back in the seventies, was it revenue, GP, units? $25K a month in revenue was the quota but I was paid on GP
- Back in the seventies Minolta copier models started with EP and Canon with NP. Do you know what those stood for? Electrostatic process and New Process
Steve thanks so much for this. Many of us including myself had no clue as to what it was like in the seventies. Also seems like you were great at doing demonstrations. Copier demonstrations is practically a lost art in our industry now.
If you'd like to connect with Steve, his Linkedin profile is below.