Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And Then There Was The Interview...

And then there was the interview…

What is funny is that we all look at things through our own filters. That is also one of the big reasons that people fail at their goals, relationships, and careers. I can remember the first time that I went with my sales manager to qualify a company for a copier. We came back and looked at a simple desktop and the total monthly cost was like $200.00 per month. I said, “Zack, you have to be kidding no one is going to pay $200.00 a month for a copier!” Little did I know that almost 5 years later I would be asking for that an hour.

We process everything from our own perspective and not from another’s. When you think from the other person’s view many times things look quite differently. I had a great example of this the other day. I started off working for IKON as a GAR (Graphic Arts Rep) Selling to no one but large commercial printers. This was a special corporate initiative to put together a team of selling professionals to move large amounts of the Canon imagePRESS and the imagerunner 7110, 7125, 7138 and 7150. With very large quotas they gave us our lists and sent us out into the brave beyond. Little did they know in a few short months we would be purchased by Ricoh and the “heavy iron” from Canon would soon disappear.

Left with the now Kodak product and Konica Minolta product relabeled as IKON gear we went out into the world to find out that people were a bit spooky to buy from us. As everyone let the doom and gloom get to them they found themselves not looking forward to what could happen but what they thought would happen. They allowed their “filters” to get in the way of their possible success and forced a self fulfilling prophecy of doubt and unbelief. The doubt and unbelief led to many deals being lost and with it their self confidence.

Now deep into the merger I have nowhere to turn to but to move forward with our Ricoh gear and make the best of it. I have looked at the alternatives and they are not good.

* Xerox Corporation over the last 12 months

As you can see Xerox is not the place to run to.

* Canon Corporation over the last 12 months

And Canon isn’t the place to run to.

Well there are no GREAT places to go. I decided that it was better to sell Ricoh for IKON than take my chances riding a new horse. Xerox hasn’t changed much in their production gear in about 10 years. Still living in the decade of fuser oil and pushing old technology with updated firmware is not an attractive future. Canon on the other hand has upgraded their technology but lacks the organizational breadth. They also can not move quickly in the field, they do not empower their on the ground people to be able to make business decisions for them, and I cannot even imaging working for an undercapitalized dealer ever again.

One of the things that sets IKON aside is the support for the gear. With a very broad range of products that go way beyond the equipment we have the people in place to design, implement and support long term the solutions that companies need to solve their issues and accomplish their business objectives. Since I sell the "big iron" I would fall victim to failure without this type of indepth support and ability to make quick business decisions in the field. Now with the financial strength of a successful manufacturer that is committed to research and development of new and innovative production products along with the IKON service and support I have a winning team to play on.

With what probably is a stronger portfolio that we have ever had we walk around defeated like a tiger with no roar. Like commercial print is dead or something. I had a sales manager "get stuck" with the “print for pay” rep that would take over half of my old territory. Now an overlay to support more people and help justify my existence I am now working feverishly to handle down the street accounts, major accounts and print for pay and national franchise accounts.

“Michael, this is going to be an impossible position to fill.” He said. “Find me someone that isn’t scared to do cold calls and we will be fine”, I said. Almost a month later I ask him, “Hey where is my guy?” “Well I have 2 I’m looking at but you will have to talk to them.” As he shies away from wanting to half to sell the program to them, he asks if I will talk to them. When there are plenty of positions open why would anyone want that position? Well that is all in the way you position it I was thinking. “Do you think that you have a sellable program?” “Not only is it sellable, but it is a profitable one as well,” I added. “Well then you are going to need to talk to them” he said. I told him, “Fine bring them on.” I mentioned. Now what you have to know is that I am passionate about printing, and I love the silly process of putting marks on paper. So these guys were toast!

I sat down in the driver’s seat (manager’s chair) and he brought them in and introduced them to me. I explained the corporate initiative and how I became the GAR. I talked about the program and its goals. I talked about the transition and how we needed better coverage and penetration into these accounts. I talked about the struggle of all new business development and the excitement of large equipment deals. I talked about the complexity and negotiations needed to secure these high volume accounts. I went over how they would have to be the best of the best or find another position.

After the interview and presentation, I had 2 willing volunteers. The sales manager was amazed, but I was not. Who would not want to work with the pirate? Who would not want to follow someone that is hell bent to succeed and believes in the cause? I too have drunk the Kool-Aid and am ready to move on. I have no more time to look back and wish for different circumstances.

All I know is that I have Kodak and Ricoh products to sell and a lot of people buying stuff all the time and it needs to be my stuff. Eventually everyone will get on board or float away drifting into failure. I am sure that eventually we will see a new generation that never knew IKON selling Canon or never knew IKON selling Konica Minolta. Canon and Konica Minolta is going away but what is left is enough to be wildly successful. So here I stand looking in the mirror. What will I do?

Will I filter everything with my own thoughts and fears, or will I look at things from my customer’s perspective? Will I look at the backing that I have to make things right and the infrastructure that makes me unbeatable? We must wake up each day and look forward to the battle. If not it is time to choose a different war.

With Sword drawn I run to the fight,

Pirate Mike

*Charts came from MSN Money...

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