by Greg Walters | 3/28/16
“What do you want out of life, kid?” I remember the first time somebody asked me that question. I hesitated, a 20-something kid, trying to figure my answer and this guy’s angle. In the end, I stammered out an incoherent response; he was recruiting for A.L. Williams.
His answer to me was the best, “I’ll tell you what you want out of life in one word: More.”
More work, love, sex, money, cars, kids, toys. More time.
More. Makes sense, in a 1980s kind of way, doesn’t it?
Let me ask you this: What do you want out of the imaging niche? More sales, more contracts, device, software, services sales, MPS, or managed services? More clicks?
Or just More?
Unlike the sustainable and always-growing pool of life insurance prospects, manifest destiny in copiers, printers and toner has met its terminus. There is no More. There are no new clicks. We’re converting existing and declining clicks from one contract to another. The pie is shrinking.
In the old days, if we wanted to earn more, we simply contacted more people — cold calls meant walking up and down the corporate parks, calling on businesses cold. We would collect business cards as proof of our endeavors. For bigger commissions, we would increase the number of cold calls per day. It WAS a game of numbers, every “no” brought us closer to a yes; our first “lead list” was the Yellow Pages. Some argue the same is true today.
So what can you do? Fear not, the imaging niche is one of the best places in the world to learn about any facet of business imaginable, and for most, still provides a good living. It just takes a bit of thinking, self-confidence and communication.
Think for yourself
Think. Our industry is chock full of educational programs, sessions, and online sources. Dive into every possible area you can get your hands on. Digest and bring that information into your everyday selling world. The key is to think about how what you do affects your prospects’ lives. For instance, what does “more productive printing” or an “optimized and managed fleet of output devices” mean to your customers? Think about how your day is impacted when you copy or print. Do you save time printing that 12-slide presentation in color? Does PIN/push print improve your workflow?
There is a great deal of propaganda and dogma peddled as education so you’ll need to observe the fluff with a suspicious mind. No matter how important a particular feature is to the manufacturers, it’s the result that matters to your client. Neutralize the issue of price, speeds and feeds with one simple statement: “Mr. Prospect, no matter what you’ve been told, all copiers/MPS contracts are the same. Same engines, same supplies, same service. Now, let’s talk about solving problems … .” Try it. It might work.
Independent. You are your brand, not your dealership or OEM. In a strange way, as crowded as it is in the social media world, it is easier than ever to establish yourself as a knowledgeable, customer-centric selling professional.
You can represent yourself as YOU. Sure, your business card tells the story of your employer but that doesn’t mean you need to feel like you work “for” somebody — innovative professionals work “with,” not “for.” Consider that for a second.
There are a million reasons to be insecure; your sales manager hasn’t sold anything in over 10 years and is showing you how to sell, or the primary OEM just released 14 new models and you’re expected to burn hours learning SKUs, options, models, pricing and why their box is the best box. It’s easy to get lost — easier to find yourself. Find that one account you enjoyed working with and expand on the experience with the written word. Most importantly, be the person you want to, not the person everyone thinks you should be.
Beyond elevator pitches and value propositions, why is it you do what you do? This is tricky, selling isn’t telling – but a story sells. So when your parents ask, “What do you do over there, sell copiers?” be ready with stories about how your customers save money and time with your solutions. Heck, if you can sell your mom and dad your career choice (toner, copiers, printers) you can sell just about anything.
The best place to tell you story is online. Start a blog or contribute on the latest social media platform. Make it your story, not the OEM du jour. Having been out in the online world since before America Online, I can tell you anyone can.
These three aspects, Think, Be, Tell, will translate into into sustainable sales and commissions. Keep these in mind, stay focused on you, not the propaganda and marketing slicks. If somebody asks you, “What do you want out of life?” you’ll have it all figured out.
Greg Walters is an entrepreneur and founder of the notorious destination site TheDeathOfTheCopier, where he comments on all things imaging, the rise of managed services and the advance of business technology. A prolific writer and frequent speaker, Greg shares his passionate, unique – and often provocative – view of technology and people, addressing the impact of digital on 21st century business. His 2014 book, Death Of The Copier, offers a controversial summary of the early days of Managed Print Services and the not-so-distant future of the hard copy industry. Reach out to Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.