New Copier Salespeople: Verticalize Yourself

Ever felt like you’re speaking a different language than your prospects? Welcome to the power of verticalization. To some, this will seem obvious — picking a vertical market and becoming the best at recognizing and applying services to solve industry-specific challenges, using and understanding the common language or jargon, and knowing when to proceed down the selling journey.

Before we start talking tactics, there is a great article over on Workflow. It gathers insights from industry professionals Erica Calise (Sharp), Mark Hart (ACDI), Jim Mooney (Ricoh), and Brent Wesler (PiF Technologies) on the potential and nuances of different vertical sectors like non-profit organizations, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, banking, insurance, financial services, and education. I recommend you check it out and save it to your Evernote.

For the new or seasoned copier salesperson, why verticalize?

First, you deal from a position of strength and experience. Second, you narrow down the universe of learning possibilities. You can’t know all things for all people, but you can become knowledgeable in one industry. Third, you will close more opportunities.

Let’s break it all down.

Step one: Identify the specific niches where your dealership has successfully sold solutions.

This is the simple task of reviewing the dealership’s customer list and looking for common clients. For instance, if you see multiple tow truck companies, your dealership may already be thought of as a tow truck company specialist. Same with HVAC, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, etc. Find a common industry within the dealership’s current client list. A word of caution here: government, education, churches and print shops should NOT be considered a vertical unless you are hired as a specialist in each niche. It isn’t that these areas present little profit, because that’s not true. It is more of an argument for exploring businesses that provide services for revenue. Just like you. 

Once you have this list, choose one or two, and chat with the salesperson who brought the deal in and the service technician who services the account. You do not need to get into the weeds; just spend 15 minutes talking about the sales journey and how the customer is using your solution. Are they happy? Has there been more service than normal? What business problems, if any, have been solved with your solution? 

Take notes and ask the sales representative if you can speak directly to the customer. Better yet, schedule a walk-through and get firsthand information.

The best sales tool here is what some refer to as third-party referrals. Once you have a clear idea of how your relationship has helped others in your prospect’s niche, by simply mentioning these projects, you establish credibility by working with their peers or even competition. This is a very effective approach.

Step two: Focus on the right things. As you know, learning about your territory, the products, services, protocols, procedures and workflow of your selling environment is momentous. Focusing on a specific demographic lets you define a specific set of knowledge. For instance, if you discover multiple architects and construction engineering firms in your customer mix, you can assume wide format plotters are of interest. Further, scanning and color A3 devices might resonate. Depending on your dealership’s deeper expertise, document workflow for onsite jobs, change orders and image capture may also drive share. Here’s the pivot: once you decide on a vertical, you will naturally exclude other opportunities that present less traction. 

Once you have a basic understanding of the specific and general industry requirements, it is time for you to put together standard configurations of hardware and software at three different levels of sophistication with pricing. These are now the lens through which you envision each new opportunity. These are not written in stone but represent a very good starting point while helping you focus. Create a foundation and be flexible and visionary.

Step three (and the whole reason you are in this position): Close more deals. By focusing on, and becoming first a pseudo-expert in, a niche, you are naturally culling out time-consuming selling rabbit holes, aka, waste of time and energy relationships. Creating your niche filters out the chaff while you hone your business acumen, become a trusted advisor and match your answers with prospects’ problems.

Pro tip: A word about artificial intelligence.

Back in the day, compiling information, creating a vertical profile, and designing the approach and product solution involved guesswork and assumptions. Today, with the latest LLMs, hours, if not weeks, can be eliminated developing your vertical marketing plan.

For instance, using the above as an example, I simply prompted this:

“I am a new sales rep at a copier dealership selling copiers and document management software. We have 12 clients in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) area and I want to specialize in this niche. What are five of the most important business issues an AEC firm addresses when trying to increase revenue?”

The LLM responded with five points. Here are three:

  1. Streamlining Project Management: AEC firms prioritize efficient project management to meet deadlines and budgets, often seeking solutions to streamline workflows and collaboration among teams, architects, and engineers.
  2. Enhancing Document Management: Document organization and version control are critical for AEC firms to maintain accuracy and compliance. They seek document management software to centralize, secure, and track project documentation effectively.
  3. Maximizing Collaboration: Collaboration among dispersed teams, clients, and stakeholders is vital. AEC firms look for tools that facilitate real-time communication, file sharing, and feedback exchange to enhance project efficiency and client satisfaction.

My message is simple, in what may have taken weeks to flesh out, you can do in one day. In six months, you could be the expert in your area in multiple verticals.

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 greg@grwalters.com.