Sunday, December 20, 2009
Selling Copiers "Death of the Demo"
I started in the industry in the early eighties, matter a fact it was 1981. Whoa, the eighties the nineties and what do we call the last ten years, the Zero's? Fact is I'll be starting my fourth decade in the copier business in 2010.
Yup, the business has changed over the years. In the eighties and in my twenties, the job was actually fun, and along with being single the job had some great advantages. Pretty much as long as you did your numbers you were free to come and go as you please. But, then again the eighties was one of the hey days in the copier business, plain paper copiers were now the norm, you had two or three different models, along with the fact that you actually did a demonstration for a customer. What was so great about doing the demos you might ask? Heck, I could load up machine in the AM, and I would cold call for demonstrations!!! That's right, knock, knock and knock some more, eventually you found an interested party and one in three demos’ you left the machine at the customers office and brought back a check!! Fracking A, you were the king! To be the King you were always honing your demonstration skills and your closing techniques, nothing was better than bring the customer along with you for a sizzling demonstration.
As we moved into the nineties, times got a little more complex. Instead of having two or three models, we now had fax machines and about 6 or 7 different models of copiers and we had the introduction of sorters, staplers, duplex units, and auto document feeders. The systems got heavier and larger, the demonstrations of the eighties was coming to a close largely in part that you had bigger, heavier and faster units with more options. The good part, the clients needed the options, the document feeders, duplexers and sorters allowed businesses to be more productive and demonstrations still sizzled when clients got to see these units perform!! But the same held true for the nineties, cold calling was still the best bet for finding new clients; however phone soliciting still took a back seat until the mid nineties.
The mid nineties saw more telemarketing and less on-site demonstrations, seems we were now prospecting for appointments to show brochures that featured speeds and feeds. Digital machines made their entrance, these digital machines made a marked improvement in quality, reliability and productivity similar to the systems of the early nineties. But, somewhere in the late nineties we lost the on-site in office demonstrations. Copier companies needed their own fleet of trucks and delivery people for the larger units, this came as an added expense to dealers and thus the age of putting a copier on a gurney to demonstrate died.
But, along with the death of the demonstration, came the loss of demonstration skills and the profits. Copier salespeople were no longer allowed to present their knowledge, showmanship or closing skills. No longer were you in the customer’s office with the decision makers with a system that they could try, touch or feel. Dealer owners curtailed salespeople on the demos because of the expense to ship a machine, and have it set up to feed, collate, staple and print! Thus, salespeople were sent in the field with glossy brochures to sell their wares, and to tell you the truth all these beautiful brochures from every manufacturer touted we can do everything they can do! So, what was a customer to think, heck I can't see the machine work, I can't feel it nor can I touch it. There were no emotional strings to pull, no sense of I need it or want in now. Believe me, someone out there will say "bring to your office", we did that, however getting someone out of the office was a lot harder than bring the system to their office!
Hence the beginning of the end for demo's and the start of the commoditizing of the copier industry. I can count on two hands how many demonstrations I've had at the office in the past year and I can use one hand to count how many demonstrations at the customer location in the last 3 years. I'm still a big believer of the on-site demonstration and believe dealers that allow salespeople to perform demos on-site will sell more.
Times change, industries change, it seems we're more focused on teaching prospecting skills than knowing how the systems work, and why they work like they do. Most reps today would not be able to set up chapters, slip sheets, front or back covers from either the copy or print driver!
My rant for the year!!