The digital age has given your prospects unprecedented access to information, transforming them from recipients to active participants in the sales process. Decision makers no longer rely on salespeople like you for product information; they’re conducting their own assessments, reading reviews, comparing devices, and engaging with online communities to understand their business challenges and find solutions.
They can know their problems before your needs analysis. What’s worse, they know how to solve those problems without you.
The new age customer: more knowledgeable than ever
In this new landscape, your value proposition is as obsolete as one of Indiana Jones’ relics. More than ever, selling copiers today is not just about rattling off speeds and feeds and prices; it’s about answering questions and solving complex business problems for customers who are more informed and discerning than ever before.
What does this mean for copier sales reps? It means it’s time to shift your perspective again.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re making a living selling five devices a month to down-the-street businesses, have at it. I think that segment is resilient, recovering, and thriving, and may continue to purchase copiers forever.
But then again, maybe not. I’m suggesting you take a look at how YOU make decisions in an effort to empathize with your prospect — you are more knowledgeable today about every single major purchase. I understand buying a refrigerator is part of the B2C realm, but there is a resemblance to B2B engagements. Through a couple of searches, you can know more about refrigerators than any appliance clerk on the planet.
Your prospects are doing the same for copiers, document management, and managed services.
This theme is so ubiquitous it hardly seems worth mentioning. But I will, again and again and again, “Your prospect may know about your product than you.”
The role of artificial intelligence in copier sales
Beyond the hype, by the way, I don’t think there’s hyperbole around artificial intelligence — AI is real and just starting to edge into business models. All business models. AI will be impacting your prospects’ world and therefore yours.
Like it or not, believe it or not, artificial intelligence will be pivotal to you and your customers’ success, and much sooner than most in the copier industry expect.
Imagine if you will: You’ve installed an AI-driven DCA that’s able to analyze your prospects’ usage data in real time, and provide actionable information – not just a spreadsheet of data and formulas.
The DCA provides insight based on myriad data points. It’s like having a team of subject matter experts on-site, 24/7, who know your customers as well as you do and are ready to give you recommendations at the drop of a hat.
On a more tactical level, today’s copier reps utilize AI-based tools to write better emails, proposals, and content at scale and in less time. Soon, applications (APIs) will hit the market interfacing CRMs with service history and inventory/pricing. You will be able to tell a system to whip up a proposal based on data collected by you and/or your DCA/probe. The document will be clear, concise, and easily understood by your prospects.
AI doesn’t stop at customer insights. It will help you sharpen your competitive edge by spotting market trends — something your sales manager should be very excited about. At a glance, he or she will be able to analyze market data, identify emerging patterns, and predict where the copier industry and your prospects’ industries are heading.
AI isn’t here to steal anyone’s sales job; it’s here to supercharge selling and to elevate your sales game, making you more efficient, more proactive, and ultimately, more successful.
But what are you going to do now, get more sales training?
The need for a new sales training paradigm
When it comes to sales training, we are sorely behind the times. We’re not alone, but in mid-2023, telling a rep to leave voice mail, or dial 100 times, or attend the latest OEM rollout is a waste of time. Sure, those techniques might get you one or two deals, but the wave is coming and a fancy voicemail or 200 snappy LinkedIn messages will not a sustainable model make.
I’ve seen contemporary training courses continue to regurgitate strategies from pre-Covid sales training – with its focus on cold calls, blanket emails, and rote product descriptions. This approach is a relic, a vestige of a time that’s in the rearview mirror. To be sure, it isn’t the fault of the many excellent teachers in our niche, the onus rests upon the shoulders of ownership and sales management. Our dealers, OEMs, and software people are demanding old-school techniques and tactics be taught to our new entrants. They want you to sell speeds, specifications, and the company history and as long as seats get filled, consultants are all too happy to accept payment and prolong the misery. You can’t blame them.
But we need a new sales training paradigm, one that’s rooted in today’s reality and designed for tomorrow’s challenges.
This new paradigm must instill a deep understanding of today’s customer – we’ve been saying this for decades – customers who are more informed, more discerning, and more empowered than ever before.
The new issue is AI. With its capacity to analyze massive amounts of customer data and derive actionable insights, AI plays a crucial role in this new paradigm. Modern sales training should, incorporate AI literacy, enabling reps to leverage the new tool to its full potential.
Let’s consider a real-world scenario. Envision a sales rep who, instead of pushing a copier, listens to a prospect’s pain points about their current office equipment. The rep, equipped with AI-driven insights, then offers a personalized solution — a system that not only addresses the prospect’s pain points but also enhances their overall office workflow. This isn’t just a sales pitch; it’s an authentic interaction that puts the customer’s needs at the forefront.
It’s about shifting the focus from transactional selling to experiential selling, from pushing products to solving problems, from meeting quotas to meeting needs. It’s not just about selling copiers; it’s about selling a vision of a smoother, more efficient, and more enjoyable office experience.
When you can paint a picture of a world where your prospects never have to worry about their printer, you’re selling more than a copier—you’re selling peace of mind. And this is the crux of experiential selling: injecting your prospect into a future with you, creating an experience, not just a pathway to a close.
I believe, when ownership and management recognize they are losing business to e-commerce, chatbots and other “non-human” channels, they will demand better of the sales training establishment.
Until then, it is up to you, the new copier-selling professional, to seek out new sales and new innovation strategies, to boldly go where no sales manager has gone before.
Three things you can do now:
- Learn ChatGPT – use the free version every single day.
- Keep learning about general business – ask ChatGPT to explain how [fill in the blank] companies work.
- Question your sales trainers. Raise your hand and ask how AI helps sell more copiers.
The future of copier sales isn’t a distant dream — it’s our present reality. We’re in an era where customers are informed, AI is a game-changer, and updated sales training is a must.
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 email@example.com.