Monday, May 28, 2012

The Underbelly of Managed Print Services & Copier Sales: Last Week'sLanier Rep is Today's Edgeline Rep - Oh, really?

If you've been in this industry for any period of time over 3 years, you either know or have heard of what I call a "Roaming Gnome" - there may even be one a couple of cubes over.

That sales rep who travels form dealer to dealer, employer to employer in search of the perfect sales position. Bringing with him years of experience, a Rolodex chock full of purchasing agents and expiration dates. A pocket full of promises and a wheelbarrow full of "Bravo Sierra".

It's legend - copier reps jump from Ricoh to Ikon to Konica Minolta to Toshiba. Or get out of Toshiba/Ikon/Xerox only to return in a few years.

Old, cromagnum sales interviews start with, "how big of a sales book can you bring with you from "fill in the blank/your current employer"?

Before you go off all half-cocked, accusing me of not understanding, I know this occurs in every industry, especially with sales people. It is not illegal and it is not uncommon.

As a matter of fact, selling expertise and business acumen can only flourish under the light of many different Sun's. And those who grow over time are professionals.

Switching companies isn't normally be a bad thing. I am not criticizing the practice, only the occasional method.

The hacks I refer to as "Travelling Copier Gnome" carry not only baggage but character flaws.

They inflict more harm then good, perpetuating the shady side of selling.

In today's economically challenging MPS universe, many MPS and copier reps are looking for jobs; a quick search reveals IKON hiring MPS specialists like crazy all over the country. A floating deckchair in a turbulent sea?

As with most good articles on this tome, writing from personal experience supplants therapy and, I have found, generates plenty of "the same thing happened to me..." emails.

So, I feel the experience of one of my colleague's may have some relevance.

An MPS Practice I know of has gone through major metamorphosis - to date, its third. This recent iteration characterized as a "bloodbath" resulting in major personnel changes.

People were let go and people left.

It's no secret that I bash the bad in our industry. It's a target rich environment - there is plenty to bash.

However, I hold a special place, a bulls eye, for the "typical copier sales person".

That churn and burn, rip and replace, 60 month lease recommending, sour-grapes, decision challenging, slick, schlocky, box-moving, toner delivering, non-customer-centric, closed minded, square peg in a round hole, never going to change, FUD using, gear slinging, never attracting always selling, jolly, hard-closing, Traveling Gnome types.

Case in point, recently, one of the sales reps, at my colleague's MPS practice, decided to move to greener pastures.

Nothing wrong with that, right?. We've all done it.

As matter of fact, picking up and leaving is a decisive act any one of us can execute. Changing employers is like turning the page, ending another chapter in the book of your life. No biggie.

And when done correctly, there is honor in this; an opportunity to either show some class or reveal to the world your true, sliminess.

Character is what you do when nobody is looking most often exposed under pressure - think about the last time you experienced a death in the family or any other high-stress event. Who remained calm and focused, and who "cracked".

Or how about the last time something went wrong with a customer - who ran around with their hair on fire and who acted like they had been there before?


Your character is exposed not only in bad times, but also in good. Can anyone remember the last time a running back scored a touchdown and simply handed the ball to the ref?

Act like you've been there before.

Back to my colleague.

He found himself in quite a pickle - all the client files were missing.

And by client files, he means, assessments, SOWs, proposals, spreadsheets, orders, quotes, contact records, notes, databases, laptop.

That's correct, inspection showed very few signed original agreements - nothing left behind, uh,oh.

Again, little surprise, nothing too far out of line, seen it before, been there, got the coffee mug.

But then, they received their first notice of service cancellation.

A quick look into E*Automate revealed this defector-client had been "stocking up" on supplies over the past 3 weeks -capitalizing on confusion and the vacuum - it was obvious the customer had been coached.

And then, this ex-sales ne'er-do-well, started reaching out to "his" old clients who are now part of my colleague's current base. Huh.

Again, sad and unprofessional and not at all surprising.

You see, when we sell with passion and believe in the product, service and company, we can become blinded, falsely believing the client relationship is with us - it's our Ego talking - not reality.

The client relationship, no matter how personal the sales professional makes it, is between the client and company; not the selling professional.

We forget that sometimes, don't we? We fall into the trap of thinking "we" are the only reason clients work with our company.

How foolish, how naive and how very old fashioned - quaint, almost.

So, who is at fault here?

The destructive Sales-schmo, The Roaming Gnome? For sure.

"Greener Pastures and New Beginnings" mean just that; a New Beginning can only happen after an Ending a "period" not a comma. Get over it, move on, begin fresh. Show some class.

The new employer, absolutely.

What kind of loser organization still hires Sales people under these beliefs? Can this really be? Are we still in the 70's? Has Selling devolved? PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN! Did I miss THAT memo? Show some class.

Any client who follows him? These imbeciles are just as unscrupulous.

I mean really, it's just business, I know, but this is pretty lame.

The Lesson, if there is one?

We in the selling profession take a beating from our prospects, customers, sales managers, and family for engaging in something we love to do; meet new people, take on new challenges and create something out of nothing.

It's a shame when some of us lie to clients, trap customers into deals, push our agenda and do harm. The bigger shame is these instances hurt all of us is sales.

This sort of thing may never change, unless we start calling out the evil-do'ers, exposing this ilk for the sham artists and hypocrites they are.