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I'm writing an article for the website about the abundance of office equipment choices available from a hardware and software perspective. I'd like to get insights of Print4Pay Hotel members as to whether or not they feel they're being overwhelmed by their manufacturer with all of these choices, how they keep up with all of this and if having so many choices is really necessary? Also, how do your customers feel about the number of product offerings?

By the way, I don't want to take credit for this article idea; it was Art's suggestion and a good one at that.

Scott Cullen
Managing Editor/Writer
Office Dealer, Office Solutions, ENX, OPS Today
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Of course one of the ways i keep up is with this web site, I can learn hardware and software as I "need to know" and still concentrate on prospecting, demoing and closing.

To the new "recruit", how can one possible learn the features and benefits of the entire Ricoh line. We (COPI) sell the entire line, out of eight sales people we probably have two that have the knowledge to "sell it all"!

I have seen numerous reps come and go, when they have had to learn product knowledge, sales and the art of prospecting.

Our company does not incorporate "verticle marketing training". However I am a firm believer that in todays imaging business you need to learn one verticle market at a time.

Take Engineers, Architects, Contstruction, etc... cold call them, call them, get the demos and see what they need. They will need wide format products, billing software and mid size MFP's. Keep calling on them until you become and expert in thier needs for imaging. Once this has been accomplished you can attack another verticle market in your territory.
I believe this type of selling will work in the large market areas, however in rural areas you will have to diversify and learn as you go.

My customers, most of them enjoy that they can use me for all of their needs, laser printing, fax, copier, color and now scanning. know I have to become an expert in scanning software or at least knowledgable to sell it.

I would say five to six hours a week is dedicating to learning the new features and software that is required. What a system can and can't do.

I don't see how the second tier manufacturers can effectivly train thier dealers when they have a higher turnover of personell.

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I see it as a positive. The fact of the matter is, "it is what it is" and it's not going away. You must be a professional in the business today. This means you must continuously learn about the technology that you build solutions around. And that technology changes at least a little with each new product that is released into the field.

Then you must know the pros and cons of your product as it relates to your competition. Then you must take that knowledge and learn the skill to interact with a tremendous variety of levels of contact within many different industries. Business owners, financial executives, human resources, technology driven, and end users in balance, to name a few.

Art suggests vertical market training as a possible path of success and I agree with him as long as the marketplace affords the program. We happen to have a mix of concentrated, high NOPA - tight geography and high NOPA - very loose geography. Each territory has a slightly higher NOPA than suggested by BTA. So, the vertical market approach is practiced in select markets, like those targeted by the digital duplicator rep.

Novice reps are required to prove themselves by targeting accounts with less than 6 systems or under 50,000 per month in total copies. During this program they receive very close interaction with senior reps, their manager and our experienced systems engineers. It is highly unusual that they conduct a product/solution presentation on their own. They are "hunters" for 12 to 18 months, that can make a very attractive income. While learning the technology which we realize can be overwhelming.

Along the way they learn how to be effective at making appointments with decision makers. Then they learn how to uncover a business' applications and document flow. This is the the most critical part of the business, uncovering the way a business communicates with their internal and external clients. It is the only way we can build a solution and likely the reason we have so many solutions. There are just too many different ways for a business(customer) to tell their story every day that we must be able adapt to as many as possible. We can't do it all, even with all of the solutions available from our manufacturers, and when we encounter a situation that isn't a good fit, then we must accept it and move on to the next one.

It is not as easy as pulling up to your office in the morning and loading up a copier or two in the back of the stationwagon and coming back at the end of the day with two orders. I would say that for the person willing to pay their dues, it can be very fullfilling, fun, competitive, challenging and lucrative. There is nothing better than starting out one day with a decision maker that you catch at the wrong moment, they hang up on you and six months later you have effectively earned time on their calendar, learned more about their business, uncovered areas of pain (known or not), built a solution appropriate to their real needs, and inked paperwork that is mutually beneficial. The best part is when they truly thank you after they realize how you have just increased their overall productivity by 20% or more (given them back several hours a day, week or month to be more competitive in their business), made it easier to communicate with their clients, and taken one or more things off their mind that keep them up at night. You can't do this without all of this overwhelming technology.

New reps coming into the business really need to interview the company as much as the interviews them. It is important to strike the right balance of giving it your all, while at the same time receiving the support in areas that are not critical to the sales process. The business is extremely rewarding and if they happen upon a dealership that markets products from the Ricoh Family Group, then they have one of the most valuable tools at their resource in the Print 4 Pay Hotel.

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Great Article

The biggest problem we have had lately is product inconsistency from RICOH. Each new system has or does something slightly, but significantly, different from the last one released. The 2035 was a step up from the 1035/45 but even with the advancements it was still lacking the SMTP authentication that we had previously. Then comes the 2022/27 with major advances in scanning (SMB,FTP,LDAP) and enhanced fax features, etc…

Its great to tout the “new technologies” of the latest systems but if during qualify it is determined the customers needs are more in line with a 2035 then you have to be careful. You don’t want to confuse the customer regarding the systems capabilities nor do you want to leave them with the feeling that they are not getting the latest and greatest.

We are hoping the 2022/27 is a core product, feature-wise, for the near future. And have spent a lot of time training on it. But who knows?

It’s difficult for reps to know all the slight inconsistencies and when qualifying a prospect. Consequently it can make it even more confusing for our customers.

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