Value Selling in Copiers9 Mar, 2004 By: Michael Berman imageSource
Value Selling in Copiers
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I started my career as a sales rep, I bought into the mantra that the more sales
calls you make, the more closes you will get. When I became a manager, I
embodied it. I can’t remember exactly what caused me to become a cynic, but by
the time I reached senior sales management levels, I felt the need to challenge
this conventional wisdom. Over a six-year period in the mid-to-late ‘90s, while
working for three separate companies in three entirely different industries, I
tracked nearly 700 sales professionals ranging from entry-level telesales to
Vice Presidents of National Accounts and their numbers of calls made and closes.
The end result? There was no statistical correlation between the number of sales
calls made and the number of closes. In fact, those making the most calls
reported the fewest closes. ![endif]>![if>
I’m a partner in a professional services firm, and neither of my two other
partners have ever worked in sales. We’re a relatively small, decidedly
cost-conscious practice. Rather than hiring a receptionist, we keep the front
door locked and grant access to our office through a security buzzer. I
chronically frustrate my partners by always letting people in without screening.
As one of my partners so eloquently stated, “Mike, the next time you let one of
those damn copier salesmen in, you’ll have to talk to them!” Everywhere there
are ambitious, credentialed copier industry district sales managers encouraging
their sales teams to “knock on as many doors as possible today” and at some
point, I will further frustrate my business partners by allowing another one of
them into our office. This article will explain why this is a pointless exercise
for all involved.
all the industries and office solicitors, why did my partner single out the
copier salesman? The unfortunate answer is we’ve all heard the same pitch so
many times over the years we don’t need to hear it any more—we can recite it
ourselves! Looking at it from another perspective, how quickly do copier sales
professionals recognize when they are being tuned out by a buying influence? The
real shame of it is that the copier industry continues to hire some of the
brightest, most energetic and talented salespeople. They also happen to be some
of the best trained. These well-schooled and capable professionals are doing
work that matters—to them, their employers and the market they serve.
Quality not Quantity
While my mid ‘90s research told me the “toss spaghetti on the wall and see what
sticks” method of selling was highly inefficient, I also learned what worked.
The sales professionals who took the time to carefully research their prospects
to develop relevant, valid business reasoning for their prospects not only
closed more business, they experienced faster and more consistent sales cycles.
Indeed, the driver for success was the quality of the appointment rather than
the quantity. Copier sales professionals maximize their value and relevance by
investing in efforts where there is a reasonable chance of payback. The value
salesperson recognizes that quality over quantity is the key to rapid,
significant and sustainable high-margin growth.
Everyone wins with this sales model. The sales professional has greater
self-fulfillment due to higher and faster close rates, which leads to reduced
turnover for the employer (among other benefits), and by improving these
efficiencies, the buyer is able to purchase copiers at a lower price due to
a value selling model, industry sales professionals are no longer trained to
“sell to pain” because they now recognize that pain is a lagging indicator, and
sales—the engine for growth—can only be properly conducted by selling to leading
indicators. Accordingly, the well-researched sales professional has such
intimate understanding of the prospect’s situation they are able to offer
solutions for problems the buying influence doesn’t know they have, and are able
to do the same for anticipated problems. Indeed, selling becomes a discipline of
driving a car by looking ahead rather than through a rearview mirror.
Although there’s room for debate on this, from my perspective, the sector that
set off the great technology explosion of the last generation was in fact, the
copier industry. The explosion was ignited by salespeople who were able to
demonstrate a brighter, more productive future through office automation. The
market needed to be educated and converted then, but in 2004 the market “gets
it.” So, today the industry should return to its roots where sales professionals
evangelize the future, and stop trivializing the present. Simply, industry sales
professionals shouldn’t waste their time, their target audience’s time or their
Because this industry has been leading the business world to a more productive
future longer and better than anyone else, copier salespeople have the greatest
platform, stature and credibility to leverage than any other group I know of.
However, they can’t keep undermining their own power position by being the
ubiquitous presence with so little to say that one of my business partners
considers copier salespeople office building nuisance number one. In the value
selling model, my business partner not only makes time for copier sales
professionals, he seeks them out because he knows time spent with them is time