Friday, October 26, 2007

Why Am I Still Selling Copiers?

I'm not!! I'm selling multifunctional systems that can increase your productivity and save time (this way management can pummel you with more work). Yes, the technology of the copier has come a long long way over the past few years.

But to get right down to it, I don't know of any other job that lets me make my own hours, lets me go on vacation without telling anyone (hope my boss is not reading this) , hey as long as you have your phone, pda or pc you're working right, isn't that a rule? I get to travel down roads where I've never been before, and you're looking for the business that's out of the way and that hasn't had six copier salespeople knock on their door that day. Selling in a somewhat rural territory that borders the Atlantic Ocean (New Jersey Beaches) and is littered with farms and office parks, it truly a lot of fun at times.

During the spring I get to pack my waders and fishin pole, in hopes I can find a half hour to drop a line, later in the day I can make sure that I make ALL of my sons baseball games, no matter where they are. You remember the rule, as long as you have your phone, pda or pc you're working!! During the winter I still get in the car to cover every part of my territory. I can remember one year having the digital camera with me during December and I took a day cold calling, however while I was cold calling I also took pictures of homes that were decorated for Christmas. Come on, what other job in the world allows you to do things like this?

More often than not it seems like a quest, the quest to find a new account, or the quest to find someone who actually needs your products, your solutions or your creative ideas. I get up every morning wanting to sell and still have the Desire, Determination and Dedication to succeed in the business.

Over the years I have been offered a Sales Managers job, and have never taken one. Ughhhh, the thought of being in the office from 9AM -5PM would be unbearable along with the traffic, the drive time and the politics in the office! I like being able to wake up at oh lets say 8AM, get my java, and then hit the pc for some early work. Then being out the door by 9AM or so and arriving back home before the traffic starts. I enjoy not being at the office, I am fortunate that I only have to be in once every two or three weeks.

Change is good right? You bet, the technology, the solutions and how we have changed over the years is amazing. Do any of you old timers remember when the prerequisite to getting into copiers sales was that you had to have a station wagon?? Some of you new guys might ask why the heck so you need a station wagon, well there weren't any SUVs back then and you needed something to haul the copiers around in. That's right, back in the old days we would come in in the AM and a load a table top copier in the car, we put them on gurneys then (how morbid was that?). We would then make as many as 20 cold calls a day looking for anyone that was interested in a copier. Back then we had maybe four different models and they all could fit in the station wagon. I can somewhat remember the pitch, I would ask if they were in need a new machine or touch on some of the new features such as reduction and enlargement, and if they were interested, I told then I had one in the car and if they had 10 minutes we could take a look at it right now. WOW, demo on the spot, and then the demo was on to see if we could make the sale and get a check that day. I can remember many days when I didn't come back with the machine and just a check. How awesome was that!

Looking back, I would not change my job for any other job. Yeah, I've called seven letter words, sued (hey it happens) thrown out of places and even ignored the dreaded NO SOLICITATION signs. However along the way, I've been able to attend all of my kids functions, gone fishing, took power naps, traveled down roads I've never been before, gone on extended vacations, hid from the office, hid from the wife, had a few glorious days at the races, enjoyed days out with the wife. Heck, I'll keep on selling copiers (multifunctional systems) as long as they let me!!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Death of The Copier Salesperson

Having been in the industry for 27 years, I have seen many sales people come and go. Ours is a tough road to pave on a consistent basis, some come into the industry and light a fire in the first few months and then they seem to fall off the wagon. There are the seasoned veterans with 10+ years of experience, salespeople who know what they are doing and were doing it right and they then fell off the wagon. What is that? What makes most beginners and seasoned veterans lose their touch, their skills or their enthusiasm?

Some of the newbies that I’ve seen come and go were force fed with leads and accompanied by managers at the start of their copier sales career. Most of them had the art of communication but just lacked the product knowledge. When accompanied by their manager these newbies excelled, or was it the manager that excelled?

What about the seasoned sales people that had stellar sales cycles and then loses it. I have seen some of them lose it forever and just decide to get out of the industry altogether.

Most of us on the Print 4 Pay Hotel knows what it takes to sell on a daily basis; they are the ABCs of selling in any industry.

I will touch my own experiences in the field and experiences from others in the industry, it’s more or less what not to do to kill a salesperson.

Our job is not easy, I spend many countless hours researching account volume history, service history and the costs they have incurred over the life cycle of their piece of equipment. For some, selling the customer is easy (great closers), for others they must rely on grunt work, crunching the numbers and making them happen for the customer and presenting the customer with effective ROI’s. Sometimes, it gets old when you have negotiated with the customer, closed the sale and then have to negotiate with management to secure the order. I realize most of this will probably only happen on the dealer side of the channel. However, this tends to be on the top of my list.

Industry Trends: Not all but most Managements inability to know current industry trends, whether they are cpc’s, or document technology. Your competition, what they are doing and how they are marketing themselves. Management that cannot change on a dime or Management that has not done their homework with new technologies and services that can be offered. Management has a tendency to move slowly. I’ve noticed that there are many proactive dealerships that are putting the time and money into becoming the leading Dealers in the merging technology of copiers, printers and document management. Management more than ever needs to be experts in the industry, they need to eat, sleep, and breathe all aspects of the industry.

Vertical Market Selling: New salespeople are not focusing on vertical market applications or selling. Too many dealerships give their salespeople Carte Blanch and let them sell every product to every market! This creates a sales person that does not have enough product or solution knowledge to be effective in selling for gross profit. Gross profit is needed for the health of the dealership! The salesperson is then forced to selling boxes on price rather than solving a problem for a customer or saving them time with new technologies and software.

Training: Many dealerships offer little or no training at all. How can we put people on the street and ask them to sell solutions or be successful when they must decipher the products, features, advantages and benefits on their own time? Time is the key element in sales, time is needed to prospect effectively and find the customers who are ripe for the new services and products that dealerships offer. A true sales person prospects by day and quotes by night!

Selling: Owners in small to mid-size dealers selling machines or taking leads when there are capable sales people to handle the business. Selling Owners must get out of the selling business and focus on financing and marketing of their company. From a first hand experience from two different dealerships, I’ve seen Selling Owners not focus on their business! Taking leads away from competent salespeople and either making the sale or not. Talk about killing someone’s ego, or hurting them financially, nothing lowers the moral more than a salesperson finding out the owner took a lead in that territory. Owners (as long as they have a sales staff) need to focus on vendor or bank financing, expanding profit margins and the marketing of their company.

Commissions: More salespeople come and go because they do not get paid on time or the rules are changed during sales cycles. Some salespeople are paid commissions monthly, some bi-weekly and others earn bonuses either at the end of the sales quarter or the sales year. Changing pay schedules or changing how and when commissions are paid whether it starts bi-weekly and migrates to monthly or the other way around has got be one of the most frustrating times for sales people. Most of us earn 80% of the money we make in commissions or bonuses, changing or upsetting the commission flow may and can cause financial woes with any salesperson. Make a plan and stick to it.

Salespeople: Most sales people in our industry treat the job as a 9-4; most will blame someone else when they lose a sale or a customer. Most will never achieve their quarterly or yearly sales quotas. Most will find a job outside of the industry. Most of them could not care less what happens in their industry after 4PM in the afternoon. Most of them find time to hide and say they are producing work. Most of them will not last two quarters in this business.Yet there are many that are on top of their game and continue to further their knowledge to support themselves and their family and a lot of them make a very good living in the office equipment industry.

My article started out as to how a salesperson can “die” in our industry. How stellar achievers that were once on top were now designated to the trash heap or decided to leave their company for greener pastures. I felt like this story is more about the typical grind that we go through on a day-to-day basis. The great high’s we can get when we’ve closed a deal that we have been working on for months or years or the feeling when you meet someone for the first time and get the order that day, plus getting the price you deserve. Why is it when a customer needs info or a quote we call them ASAP and get them the information RIGHT AWAY. Then after trying to close the customer on numerous occasions you get an answer from the customer stating that they’ll call you in a week. Well it’s been five damn years and I’m still waiting for you to call me back!

In order not to let a salesperson die, companies need to focus on where their company wants or need to go. From there they need to give direction to the sales team for monthly, quarterly or yearly goals. Goals need to focus on new accounts, satisfied accounts and referrals from old accounts.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Copy Machine Sales Suicide with The 3-5 Plan

Over the years there have been a few articles in reference to why the 3-5 plan is bad for Dealers and I admit there are some pros and cons. However, I'm going to tell you why the 3-5 is bad for the customer and bad for the sales person!

The 3-5 is basically three years of service and supplies rolled into a 5 (60 month) year lease plan. What's wrong with the plan?

Lets look at this from the sales persons view.

The sales person may be able to get the upgrade in the First Upgrade option, however securing additional business after the first renewal will not happen. Here's and example. Customer A: Enters into a lease agreement for a Multifunctional Copier System where the MSRP is $15,000, and for five years the payment for the lease is $300 per month, the customer also agrees to service and supplies for three years or 720,000 pages. The cost per page is .0125, the total cost for service and supplies is $9,000. The lease cost for the $9,000 is $180, the lease payment for the 3-5 then becomes $480 per month.

Now, lets say that the customer reaches the three years on the lease and the 720,000 pages at the same time (36 months) LOL!. You want to upgrade them, at this point in time, you have a balance on the old lease for $480 x 24 or $11,500. You then lease them another machine for $15,000 or $300 per month, now you'll have to add in what they owe plus another $9,000 for 720,000 copies. The customers new payment is based on $15,000 for the new machine, $9,000 for the NEW 720,000 pages and $11,500 for what they owe. The new payment then becomes a whopping $710 per month! So, this is the first upgrade after 3 years, what happens when the customer needs to upgrade again? Well, the same scenario takes place, the new machine for $15,000 = $300 per month, $710 x 24 is owed which equals $17,040 = $340.80 and then another $9,000 for 720,000 pages for $180. Payments have now escalated to $820.00 per month for a $15,000 piece of equipment. TRUST ME, I HAVE DONE THIS WHEN I DIDN'T KNOW ANY BETTER AND I LOST EVERY CUSTOMER THAT I SOLD THIS PLAN TO!

Now, do I have to tell you why this is bad for the customer? Not only is it bad, but it borders on sales suicide! Also, with the leasing companies not excepting deals over 175% of MSRP, you may not even be able to upgrade them at all! With the above scenario I was being kind and assuming that the customer would not run out of service and supplies before three years. What happens when they run out in two years and still have three years of payments left and now you have to add an additional 240,000 copies to cover them for the next three years? It can get real ugly!

There are many spins on the 3-5, there's a 4-5, a 2-3, they all don't work! So, if you're in the business for the long haul and you want to keep your accounts and keep them coming back to you, then stay away from the 3-5 or anything like it!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ricoh Americas Eliminates COO Position along with Tom Salierno

Ask me if I am shocked! NO, however it was a piece of interesting news. Eliminating a position to me is a polite way of saying you services are no longer required.

Rumors have been rampant the past few months of huge financial losses coming from the Direct Channel, along with Dealers up in arms about the Direct Channel selling boxes below Dealer Cost. Couple this with recent surveys sent to Dealer Salespeople asking about the downward sales of Segment One machines, and they just don't get it yet, A3 vs A4 machines, 11x17 mfps vs non 11x17 mfps.

So, now enters Martin Brodigan, currently President of Ricoh Canada, assumes the position of CFO of Ricoh US. Was there a CFO of Ricoh Americas before this and if so did someone else get eliminated?

Keeping with tradition of my blogs, I still believe Ricoh Japan and Ricoh Americas Corp has "relaxed" during the last 18 months and has been resting on their laurels. Out went the talk about TDV (Total Document Volume), and in came we're Ricoh we have the best equipment and you should have to pay more. This was the talk track to the dealers and then comes the Direct Channel trying to save its own market share by selling equipment below cost.

Enough said, I for one still believe that Ricoh makes the finest products in the world, however they have to straighten out their Direct Channel and make them a profit center. Dealers can no longer subsidize the Direct Channel.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Copier Sales Forums

For those of you who don't know, the p4photel operates 1 unique message board that cater to Copier Sales People, Dealer Owners, Dealer Principals, Support, Manufacturers Reps and Copier Service Engineers. We have dedicated message forums for Ricoh Family Group (Gestetner, Lanier, Ricoh, Savin and Infoprint), along with Canon/Oce, KonicaMinolta, Toshiba, Kyocera and the just released Xerox board.

We keep the boards dedicated to the manufacturer for a few reasons:

1. Not many sales people like to share share their secrets with the competition especially when they are in your back yard.
2. A greater sense of camaraderie is achieved over time when communicating with other reps that are experiencing the same success, greater success or failure.
3. Sharing information among sales reps global! Whats working in one market may not work in another.
4. The ability to get information on a timely basis, and when your customer needs it! There are too many products now for me to be an expert, however with the resources of others, I can rely on their knowledge and expertise to help!

So, whether you are the new rep, the seasoned rep or the expert, we all have a place on the Internet to share your experiences, and ask your sales questions. Hey, we're all in the same boat so we might as well row together!

-=Good Selling=-

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Track Your MFP Sales Data!

How many of you write the MFP Sales order and then complete all of the paperwork that's needed to get the machine installed and then WHEW! You're glad that you finished the paperwork . If you're like me we have a Sales order, Lease doc, Bill of Lading, RGA (for lease return), Site Survey (God forbid if someone didn't know there was a few steps or stairs), Network Survey, Connectivity Cafe Doc, Commission Doc and any addendum's that may have to deal with the lease returns. Man that's a lot of paperwork!

Well, you're still not done, any sales rep worth their weight in gold, will also have a Sales Data Spreadsheet! Within this spreadsheet they will input Customer Name, Term of Lease or Buy, Lease Payment Amount, Name of Leasing Company, Gross Sale, Units, Model Numbers, Gross Profit, What type of Pricing Plan from Manufacturer, Cash Spiffs, MU to you the sales person, the wholesale cost of the unit, the profit on the entire deal, the amount of pages captures for each system and percentage of new business compared to old business.

Most of you may ask why do all of this extra work when my company tracks all of this data? I would say to you that the company tracks the data for themselves and will not ever give it to you, you think they want you to know what type of profit you are making for them? Plus there are many other benefits to tracking you own data. Within seconds you can go back years and get a better handle of you is ready for an upgrade, or do you have enough commissions coming through to take care of bills.

However, the single most reason to track your data is that most owners of Dealerships will state that sales never makes them any money! Certainly, I believe this is hogwash! However, when you are in need of a raise or looking for greener pastures your MFP Sales Data Tracker is your road to negotiating a better deal with your current employer or you future employer. Percentage of Profit, and Percentage of New Business along with New Pages Captured will put you in the drivers seat and will help you negotiate a customer comp package.

Dealerships need to act quickly with reps who are not making the numbers, and sales guys who are not making the numbers might want to think about getting another job, maybe taking orders for cars.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ricoh SP W2470 Pricing Blunder?

Could the SP W2470 be the biggest pricing blunder by Ricoh Co. in Japan?

A few months ago, I thought the pricing for their new Ricoh W2400 was out of whack (and I still think so), and now the SP W2470 comes along with an MSRP $11,545 and you HAVE to buy a dual roll feeder for the unit! That's right no single roll feeder is available! This is a MAJOR fault! Ricoh should have offered both a single and a dual and let the customer decide what they need, NOT THE MANUFACTURER!

MSRP with Dual Roll Feeder and the base machine is $15,204, I thought they should have come in around $12K tops, and they would be able to capture more TDV and increase placements while increasing consumable revenues. My thoughts is that many of the existing Ricoh 240W customers would add this unit as a extra and or a backup unit. However, not at this price!

Which leads me to this, I could offer my customer a Ricoh W2400 with copy and print with a single roll feeder for a list of $16,593. There's a difference here of $1,389. Now you tell me, what would the customer rather have just a printer that would lease for $296 (60 month rate factor) per month or a copier and printer for $323.56 per month? Right, for $27.56 I'll steer them to the copier printer all of the time! It amounts to less than a DOLLAR a day to have the copy feature! Oh, and by the way! Where is the form feed key on the Ricoh W2400???? If you send a wrong paper size to the printer you can not force feed the job, you must delete the entire print job.

Last year I sold 19 Ricoh 240W units, while only two had dual roll feeders attached. For me almost 95% of my units had a single roll feeder. Give the customers what they want!

Now on the other hand it would be nice to have the Ricoh SP W2470 in a 6ppm configuration, clients could justify the cost to add a standalone 6ppm system in addition to their existing machines.

On another note seems to me that there is still another segment of the market that is untapped. A market where there are 3 to 8 employees and all they need to do is print. They are out sourcing some 40 - 80 prints a month and can't afford payments of $296 and they are buying ink plotters whether HP or Canon. It would be nice to capture these customer also.

My general opinion is that Ricoh Wide Format is resting on their laurels with the Ricoh SP W2400. Their concern was to not capture more TDV, but to hold pricing similar to the outdated technology of the their competitors. And, while I'm on the subject, most of my customers could not give three hoots about the Document Server, Web Image Monitor, and Desktop Binder Lite. Thus with the launch of the Ricoh SP W2470 they have priced these units so they will not sell!

How many will I sell this year, one, yeah one might be right.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Padded Lease Rates! Ethical or Unethical, Where do You Stand!

Ethical or Unethical? Some companies use em and some don't. For those of you who are new to the business, I'll try to make some sense of the "padded" lease rates. "Padding" means to increase the lease rate factor from what the leasing companies published rate is. Meaning, the leasing company will provide the Direct Branch or Dealer with a rate factor of .0276 for a 36 month fair market value lease, thus a $10,000 piece of equipment would cost $276.00 per month to lease. Dollar amount times rate factor equals cost per month.

Now, here comes the sneaky part (geez, I hope I do not get phone calls from attorneys with pointy sticks!). The Direct Branch or Dealer will raise the rates to the reps, such as the rate going from .0276 (36 month FMV) to .0289 (36 month FMV), thus a $10,000 piece of equipment will now cost the customer $289.00 per month. The Direct Branch or the Dealer will then "back out" the rate. Meaning, take the payment and divide by the real rate factor (.0276) which will then equal the total dollar amount that is paid to the dealer by the leasing company. In this case the dealer would receive $10,471.01 or an increased revenue of $471.01 by "padding" the rate!

What's unethical about this you might ask? For me there are a few items that bother me. (A) If I am the sales person and I wrote a sale price of $10,000 for the system it would not be true, because we would actually be receiving $10,471.01 and not $10,000. (B) The fact that it is an FMV rates means the customer would have the buy-out price assessed at $10,470.01 and not $10,000 as stated on the sales order. So, if the customer wanted to purchase the equipment at the end of the lease they would be asked to pay the FMV for the $10,470.01 and not $10,000.

Many reps just quote a price per month and never show the customer the actual cost of the unit, so would they then be ethical because they never quoted the actual sale price for the piece of equipment? In other instances the leasing companies will actually give a percentage of the total dollar amount back to the Direct Branch or Dealer by giving them higher rates, thus the "padding" comes directly from the leasing company.

My beef is why do we (Direct Branches and Dealers) use "padded" rates at all? If you want more profit for your box just increase the cost of the box to the reps and let them do their thing. Padding rates in the long run may lose more sales, because the monthly payment will be higher than your competitor if you are both at the same dollar amount. What happens when a smart rep looks at a competitors quote and realizes that the rates are "padded". Surely he will tell the customer that they are be over charged in the monthly cost and the Direct Branch or the Dealer is not what they seem to be.

I'm sure there are many arguments to this, however it seems to me that there is no place for "padded" rates in our industry.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Whats Wrong With Equipment Leasing Companies?

Geez, I would have a shorter blog if I asked "Whats Right With Equipment Leasing Companies"? Keep in mind that when signing any legal document, the buyer needs to read the terms and conditions, however what happens is that most signers forget the Ts and Cs.

Here's a few gripes that have and the reasons why most leasing companies fail to make the cut of taking care of the customer.

  1. End of lease notification: Why must there be only a "window" of time when the customer can notify the leasing company that they would like to return the equipment. There are a few that will allow any time 30 days prior to the end of the lease, however most will have a "window" and if you do not meet that window, the customer will be caught in a "roll over" scenario that could be as little as 30 days and as much as one year!!! Wells Fargo will "Roll over" for one year!
  2. Restocking Fee: This has got to be the worst! Charging to restock the copier when it was never in their stock in the first place! Citi Capital was the main culprit here, and I'm sure there are others.
  3. Call for Remaining Payments: When a customer calls about the remaining stream of payments, the leasing company always quotes the buy-out price, never do they quote the remaining stream of payments! Most leasing companies do not make the cut with this one.
  4. Payments: There are a few leasing companies that will actually tell the customer what number payment is being made on the monthly statement. Most never do this and are anticipating the the customer will get caught in a roll over and then make more payments after the lease has expired!
  5. Poor Billing Practice: Invoices sent late giving the customer only a few days to make the payment, taking too long to remove insurance charges, billing the wrong tax amount and not corrected mistakes in a timely manner.
  6. Fair Market Value: When a system sells for $20,000 and the leasing company quotes $6,000 to own the equipment to either the vendor or the customer. Lets go! The equipment is 5 years old and should only be worth a few thousand if that.

If the leasing companies would charge a "fair" rate for their services, drop long term roll overs, notify customers of their end of lease options, drop re-stocking fees and offer deep discounts to dealers to buy the equipment at the end of the term. This would allow dealers to maintain a fleet of used machines, have a better relationship with the customer and the leasing company and would stop the waste of having tens of thousands of used copiers stacked in warehouses all over the world.