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I don't believe you are paranoid!  The ecommerce is a real threat for sales peeps.  In order to over come that we as sales peeps will need to wear additional hats to better serve out clients. Those as a trusted adviser,  become more knowledgeable with cloud services, IT services, MSP, MSSP.  It's my belief that we will evolve from just print to be able to consult on all aspects of business office.

I would love to hear from others on this as well, this is a great subject for discussion.

Art Post posted:

@Jason H, you're correct ImageCLASS. I understand the junk bit, just wanted to let others know that some of the manufacturers are active with Amazon

Yes agree! I’m not sure when they went online with them but I remember seeing them and didn’t have any use in selling them after that and the person over that product set doesn’t call or visit anymore 🤷🏽‍♂️

Interesting thoughts, Thank you p4p. I have sold Canon for 20+ years. Many years ago they listed the imageClass line (MFP's under 2,500 dollars) and the entire scanning line and Wide Format line. As such I stopped selling those products as I have always been compensated on hardware gross profit and there was none. Todays buyer is much different and has already done homework before I even get to speak with them. The mfr uniqueness has been commoditized and they all provide the #1 buying criteria.... Reliablilty. Imaging this. HP sells it's hardware to business online. Imagine Xerox buys HP and then moves the Xerox MFP line into the portal. Just thoughts...

@Monte I hope/think that even though buyers will research online that they will still want some interaction with a salesperson. If in fact the manufacturers allow the sale of high end MFP's online then the dealers will have to change a lot of how they do business.

My hope though is that it does not come down to this. I buy a lot online and my wife grocery shops online and has them delivered to the house, BUT I don't look at most things like groceries. I want to go talk to my insurance agent. I want to talk to the car salesman. I don't want to buy those things online, even though I will research online.  

@jason  Good points. Do other people buy cars online? How about insurance? Did they do that 5 or 10 years ago? Guess who is very involved in the purchase of MFP's. IT! They live online. What's the first thing many people do when they are considering a purchase. Google it. In my opinion it's not a matter of if, but a matter of when.

Last edited by Monte

@Monte very true! Very well could be when. I will say with car buying, a friend of ours just bought a new car online - paperwork done digitally, car delivered to her house, and either a 7 or 14 day period that if she didn’t like it or want it anymore they come back and pick it up no questions asked. 

I often times get caught up in what “I” do and how “I” buy and not how “others” buy.

All excellent points. My son (35) asked me the other day about Carvana and my thoughts about them. The first thing that came to mind is warranty, and service. 

I guess the question becomes (at least for me), what will be the relationship with the dealer for service and warranty when you bought the car from Carvana?

Why should the local dealer expedite service, parts or put you at the top of the list for support when you did not buy from them?

"Why should the local dealer expedite service, parts or put you at the top of the list for support when you did not buy from them?"

I think more and more companies, our industry and others are separating the service department from the sales dept so much that each will be required to stand alone if necessary. There has always been a gap between sales and service and who wins is usually dictated by whether the person at the top came from sales or sevice. At some point the service dept is going to say, "I have numbers to hit too and I can't afford to just walk-away from revenue for the sake of the sales dept." The day of sales departments dictating service policy is coming to a close.

@Old Glory I don't think they will walk away from servicing the car also. The service department will need the business.  However the owner of the company can set the mark with giving "preferred service" to clients that buy from them. I don't know when it comes right down to it, I can spend hours researching cars, reviews and pricing before I buy on-line.  How much could I really save?  $1,000 or $2,000 could that really be worth it, if I spend 40 hours doing the research or would I pay a price I helped negotiate and saved all those hours of research.

My gut feeling is that the younger generation does not want to deal with people and would rather deal with a click of the button and deal with the consequences if and when they come

In a way its already gone to the internet and away from the outside sales least for stand alone printers and A4 devices.  If all someone needs is a printer or an A4 to be used for basic printing,scanning and copying.....face it, they really don't need us already. 

If you've been at this a long time you probably remember the days when you sold a lot of A4 machines to small offices.  20 years ago if you needed an A4 you called a copier dealer.  Those days are gone for the most part.  Staples and others became the source for the desk-side tabletop Brother and HP MFP.

With A3 I think the need for an outside sales rep will remain hopefully for the next 10 years if we are lucky.  The logistics of delivering, installing and so forth will make buying these products on-line less favorable for a business.

@fisher I agree almost completely, but to play devils advocate I will say that we are selling more desktop printers now than we ever have before. Mostly brother, as we became a partner a couple years ago. I think people are looking for reps to show them a better way than just buying another HP off amazon, but the rep still has to have a higher level conversation with the client...not just hey buy your printers from us. 

We definitely are not out chasing them but we are much more versed talking about them and the benefits of buying them from us rather than the big box store. It has led to some very nice MPS accounts for us this past year. I don’t have a final count but I believe we added about 3 million new clicks this year from printer sales. Not breaking any records by any means but adding an extra 50k or so of revenue never hurts. And thanks to brother for having a minimum advertised price online for the workhorse series that we sell,  our margins are pretty decent for something that cost 500 - 800.00. 

Monte posted:

Hello All,

Interested in your opinion. In 10 years do you think there will be outside Sales Reps doing what we do? I suspect a more educated buyer will source via web and soon an ecommrce platform will replace us. Am I parinoid?

In 10 years there WILL be outside sales reps, and many of them will be the committed, true professionals of today.  The E-Commence platform have changed our business and how we do it.  For example gone are the days when you could duck into a 15 story office building and cold call.  But electronic format can still be your attention getter and facilitate your efforts in creating interest.

I can buy anything on line and cut out the sales person.  Try doing your own investing and getting the right long term result.  I would hate to find my home or business under/wrong insured because I went to an on line policy vending machine.  When the need is significant, a true pro and the value they provide outshines ordering from a site.

10 years from now the churners will be thinned out, if they are there to just catch a renewal.  The MFP will continue to impact each employee within a company and the committed outside sales rep who truly helps and organization maximize an organizations greatest resource (PEOPLE) will flourish.

The position will continue to afford people an opportunity to build a most exciting, rewarding, and interesting career.  Understand your clients business, their priorities, and what keeps your DM up at night. 


I’m a little late to this party but had the thread open since it was posted.  As a 35 year old i straddle the “millennial” and old school gap (in my opinion haha).  There is value of ordering things online that can be commonly used or even basic electronics.  But if it’s anything above basic, I still believe talking to someone even if on the phone, pays dividends.  We recently bought a new vehicle for my wife and explored for weeks online our options, the new vehicles options, what the price range was, anything you could think of.  Then we went silently armed with this information to the local Ford dealership.  We told the guy what we’re wanted, what we had looked at online and what we’re the must haves.  We didn’t divulge prices found or our final number.  What we found was a great experience with the salesman checking every box and coming in LESS than online prices.  

I believe online will cut out a good portion of the sleazeball salesman still in our industry.  An educated buyer will have a little bit of an idea of what’s going on and what they want, but also know that there’s service, setup and an ongoing relationship involved that needs to be considered.  The truthfulness of these remaining salesman will have them continuing to be successful and maintaining a happier client base.  The big box store mentality will continue to erode peoples confidence in those large corporations, HOPEFULLY pushing more business to the Indy channel.  

it could be our geography (central Pennsylvania) but people still want to do business with local people.  One thing we try to do is stress the service and install side (probably like everyone else) but in regard to those Canon products Monte referenced he stays away from (A4, scanners, wide format), we push the small difference to buy local and have our team do the install.  More than not we win theS deals, albeit at much smaller margins, but it’s a victory in our column and not the resellers.  

for the sake of my career and livelihood, I hope we’re still around in 10 years with a still mature but evolving marketplace.  If not, I’m an ok burger flipper 😁

I'll chime in.  Like TML I'm in my early 30's and have been selling copy hardware for nearly 10 years.  I think good sales people as a whole are quickly becoming scarce.  Millennials don't seem to like to interact with others if they don't have to and as most "print" decisions move to IT, online buying is already what they know.  Overall it is a convenience factor, they don't have to submit a form to a website and wait a couple days for salesperson to try and up-sell them to an A3 MFP.  They click a button and 2 days later there is a box at their door.

My example is this: My 60 year old father-in-law is a good ol' local homeboy and always talks about buying local...loves his local spots (cafe, repair shop, etc.)  Well this past weekend I stop by to see a huge snowblower sitting in a crate in his front yard.  He had bought a $1000 snow blower from Amazon.  Now personally, I would have bought it from my local hardware store, had them assemble it and delivery it (and probably pay the same price.) But here is a "Boomer" that couldn't use his smart phone 2 years ago, that bought a large purchase on Amazon instead of local.

I doubt I will be selling copiers in 10 years but things are good right now so I'll ride it out until I can't any longer.



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