You’re hearing a great deal about “disruption” in the copier niche — but it’s actually turbulence, not disruption. A cursory look back through our history reveals that manufacturers digesting competitors and dealers coagulating together is the normal state of affairs. Whether Ricoh/Lanier, Ikon, Ricoh/Ikon, Canon/Océ, Global, Xerox/Global, HP/Samsung, Staples/DEX, Flex, Pulse, POA, Gorden Flesch, Marco or dozens more, acquisitions and mergers occur what seems almost daily. The rate has accelerated but the process has been the same. Like galactic space, the expansion and contraction is eternal.
Today, every dealer is looking for a way to deal with a declining industry by offering new services, or through merger or acquisition, and when it comes to attracting outside funding or merger candidates, the window is closing.
And that’s OK; it is the way of things.
Here are some ideas for a newbie to copier sales:
“Ignorance is bliss”
I’m not recommending you shove your head in the sand and ignore the reality that is the copier industry circa 2019 — we are ALL experiencing external pressures on our everyday lives. Focusing on what we can influence, like cold calls and presentations, has always been the best approach. Go about your routines and keep an ear to the ground. Establish a network of contacts inside and outside the industry and always be improving your personal business acumen. If you are working for a family-owned dealership but are not in the family, keep your options open.
“Business as usual”
Staff reductions and reduced real-estate footprints are frequent. Smaller dealers are being gobbled up by bigger organizations every day. Still, the standard press release after a merger or acquisition relates something along the lines of, “We look forward to offering our clients exceptional service during this transition,” which is a true statement. But looking back in time, it’s easy to find examples of mergers and acquisitions initially removing redundant functions, then ultimately reducing costs through staff write-downs; it is a consistent formula.
Concentrate on your 30-day cycle — that’s the best thing to do. Keep the sales coming in, and maintain your personal standing. But don’t stop there. Build out your LinkedIn presence and be more than just a lurker.
Contribute on social media without being a sycophant, and crystalize your personal brand, not your current employer.
“Will I have a job 12 months from now?”
In copier sales there is a magical milestone: to see if you can make it through the first 12 months of your copier sales career. So make it through. Sell stuff while learning your business processes and client digital transformation experiences. Work with your manager and make him or her look good. Play the game, do not complain and don’t contribute to any negativity. It is so easy to speak with criticism regarding commission plans, delivery schedules, toner delivery, billing issues, etc. Don’t do it — keep your fault-findings to yourself.
Odds are, if you commit to the plan and put effort into obtaining your numbers, hitting your activity numbers and not becoming a “negative Nelly” you will make it through your first year.
“At the end of the day”
The industry is contracting, so ultimately, no position is safe from reduction. For many reasons, the sales staff is the safest place to be. Xerox, for example, reduced many mid-level functions, yet unleashed sales individuals as remote workers. This is great. Your dealership may be gobbled up by a larger organization who services your territory and your position deemed a “reduced-in-force” candidate, but your acquired sales skills allow you to enter into other industries as a selling professional — taking what you’ve learned to a better employer.
“Enjoy the day”
Nobody knows exactly what the industry will look like a year from now, let alone five or 10 years down the road. But copiers will not be sold the same way as they are today. Businesses will not procure equipment or forge service relationships as they do today — this is guaranteed. Being part of this historic shift is a privilege and one to be enjoyed. You get to meet all sorts of interesting people and walk through many, diverse business environments. Enjoy the day so you can look back on the turbulent 2020s with a smile and in good cheer!