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Sunday, November 26, 2017

The #LastCopierSold

Everything dies, baby that's a fact, but just because something doesn't last forever, doesn't mean it wasn't perfect.  Proclaimed back in 2011, the fading of managed print services continues.  Don't believe me?  

Ask your customers/prospects and you'll hear the truth. Whispers from the Abyss:

  • "We've really cut back on the number of printers and copiers we use."
  • "We don't print as much."
  • "We once had a copier on every floor and printers at each desk.  We don't anymore."
I could go on - hell, if you're in the field and honest, YOU can add to the above list.

So here it is - what follows is a list of industry influencers and players with reflections and status according to DOTC.

The year is 2017; just about 10 years after managed print services arrived on the scene. Much has changed.

The Last Battlestar - The Industry

The final battle has been played out - in the blink of an eye, we're looking at a new world, fresh opportunities, starting from scratch.

The 'fading X' is shuffling business into the channel, Lexmark assimilated, Ricoh jettisoning crew members while HP becomes half the company she once was.

The dealer channel continues to shutter and meld - like mother blue, the number of dealers is half what they use to be.

"There Must Be Some Kind of Way Out of Here"

Gods - we had plenty.

In the old days, our industry supported a plethora of expensive educators matriculating the ways of the copier sale.  Burying the buy-out, backloading usage, and avoiding escalation/auto-renewal discussion. We counted empty boxes as inventory and slid copiers into warehouses next door.

Oh yeah, that happened.

Visionaries have come and gone leaving the old guard frustrated, tired, and full of disbelief - how could so many ignore so much?

But we go on.

A new generation of office equipment professionals keeps entering the fray.  Fresh graduates from around the world are easily recruited with medium size salaries, double-digit commission rates, and cars.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, some of these new recruits don't realize they'll be selling copiers until the third day of company orientation; so thick is our marketing babel.

Be that is it may - the new generation is one of Hope.

Our industry is going through the final stage of evolution, shedding old ideas and superstitions.  This 'last jump' is going to be a doozie - it will be sudden, catastrophic, and unclear.  The ship is old, she's made her last jump ending a million light-years away.

The best part? You are Galactica, we are Galactica. It matters not that the industry dives into the Sun. You make the difference, you carry on when the OEMs and dealers collide.  You move forward as volumes drop.

You can start over.

The Last Star Fighter - Xerox
Old fashioned and artificial, the X is just that - fading.  She tried to spread beyond the frontier, but surrendered to her fate: a copier company does not an information technology (IT) company, make.

Tough lesson.

Global Imaging, a Xerox company, continues to collect logos.

It will not make a difference.  The GunStar is fighting her last battle without the benefit of "Death blossom".  Expect a smaller footprint from X.

The Last Enterprise - HP
The Enterprise never dies.

So it is with HP(Mother Blue).

Her metamorphosis is timeless, eternal.  Of course, each new skin is just that - shinny on the outside, same uniforms on the inside.

Lens flare, red shirts, chain of command, and the Prime Directive - HP personified.

The assimilation of Samsung enhances and intensifies Starfleet's resolve and sets the table for an HP decade.  New devices, utilizing ink instead of toner, serviced directly with Instant-Ink and MPS vans is the model of the future.  The printer calls for service, and supplies and even orders its replacement.

No copier salespeople. No Dealers. No third-party toner.

The Last Jedi - Copier Salespeople
Talk about timeless, the copier salesperson ruled the galaxy, supporting countless families for decades.

But the Jedi were emasculated, scattered, and forgotten - relegated to legend and myth.

Today's Jedi are taught the ways of the past - 30-day cycles, revenue-based compensation, separate A4 and A3, burying equipment into the service agreement, flipping the MIF,  and paper will always be relevant.

There is Hope, but it isn't in the print Galaxy.  Sales skills are both learned and transferable - today you're selling copiers to churches, and next month you could be selling HVAC systems.

Today, you're presenting managed print services, next month you're talking about cost reduction through Energy Control Services.

The Last Samurai - Dealers
The road to MpS nirvana, which ended up being nothing more than perdition, is littered with burned-out managed print services salespeople, specialists, managers, and directors.

Even today, the adulterated definition permeates: how can you claim a managed print services focus yet refer to MpS as "the little machines" and separate A3 from A4?   Get off your dinosaur.

Both the bane and savior of the industry, the "independent", indirect channel has been shrinking for decades.  IKON collected the best of the best in the '90s only to be swallowed by Ricoh.

In 2007, Xerox, through Global, started buying up local dealers - they haven't stopped here in 2017.

The dealer-on-dealer consumption rate seems to increase with each month.  But the day will come, soon, when we have two or three major dealers across the country - all things must end - just like Tower Records and Incacomp.

The Last Gunslinger - MpS Salespeople
Once, when the world of Wizards and Glass was young, there were many Gunslingers.  Idealistic and full of hope, these Visionaries honed magical skills - dispatching MpS agreements from the heart.

Profitable and vast, Mid-World was wide open - printers ran amok.

The Gunslingers rode in assessing and installing - reducing prints, clicks, images, cost, devices, and headache.

The time was glorious.

Today, MpS reps are a dime a dozen - a cross between copier and toner salesperson, the typical salesperson is just that: a typical salesperson.  No Acumen, Depth, or Vision, today's drones...drone on about their MpS program, customer retention rate, and company growth.  They bloviate about "30% cost reduction", "automatic toner-fulfillment", "60-month contracts" and "Service SLAs", fooled into believing these points are relevant.

Gone are the discussions about business problems, how managed print services is a program that connects IT and office automation; how MpS are business process optimization.

It's too easy to sell on price and normal to pitch 'cost savings' over convenience - the posers are always red-handed.

Roland is the Last and Ka is a wheel - everything ends at the beginning.

The Last Word
The copier niche has a few good years left as consolidation, and less need for print and HP to converge.  I've said it before and will continue to preach:  There is no better place to acquire sales skills so learn all you can.  The industry is full of bullshit - there is no such thing as top-down loyalty so don't expect any - believe in yourself, not your current employer.  Learn all you can - not just product knowledge but observe how your manager behaves, and what motivates your regional/district manager.  Regard every step ownership makes; with employees, customers, and your partners.

It is difficult to look into the fire, while you are in the flames, but the most valuable lessons are learned through indirect observation, not specific teachings. "You learn more from a three-minute record than you ever learn in school."  Soak everything in, but with a grain of salt.

Remember, all the motivation and talk about how leadership is there to "help you be successful" is manipulation.  

The talk track shifts to motivation as soon as you see it as an attempt to manipulate you into being a "company person".  Which isn't terrible, the machine requires cogs.

But you're in sales, you can do anything.

In the end, this doesn't mean your journey is over - the Journey never, ever ends - The Last MpS is another stone in the river of life.


Enjoy the ride.

"Everything dies baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on fix your hair up pretty And meet me tonight in Atlantic City"

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