This is an introduction for a man who doesn’t need one, but it’s certainly merited. Arthur (Art) Post has been in the office technology industry seemingly as long as the space has existed. Road warriors who frequent trade shows as well as manufacturer and association events are quite familiar with Post, who represents central New Jersey for Stratix Systems of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, a $35 million dealer located about 65 miles from Philadelphia.
Post built his visibility through decades of sales experience, dating back to 1980. He readily shares his wisdom through a number of publishing outlets, not the least of which is his Print4Pay Hotel (P4P), an online water cooler/resource center that delves into every subject under the office tech sun, most notably sales. With features including “Better Call Art,” the retrospective “This Week in Copiers,” employment and bid opportunity leads—along with contributed content from noted industry experts—P4P is a terrific outlet for sharing insights among community members. And, as his site notes, it’s “a place to store our knowledge, search our knowledge and to share inspirations, ideas and our passion for the imaging industry.”
Given this month’s State of the Industry report is “Contractual Success: The Art of the Winning Bid,” we didn’t need to look far and wide for the most appropriate Art. He agreed to sit down with us between his multitude of daily sales calls to share perspective on today’s selling environment, the keys to closing out deals and even a glimpse at his biggest takedown during the pandemic era.
How has the selling game treated you in 2022?
Post: It’s really about keeping my head above water, right? So far, I’m on track to get over 100% of the annual quota. So that’s been working out well. However, most of that has been existing business. Many of us, not everyone, are struggling with net-new business.
It seems that the supply chain issue is crippling many salespeople.
Post: I hate to say this, but when you have equipment that can be delayed two to five months, it’s hard to have a good conversation with a net-new client who’s looking to get out of an existing lease or make a change. It’s tough to tell them it could be a two-, three- or four-month wait for their equipment. Even then, there’s a lot that can go wrong in that timeframe. There are times when you just don’t want to fight that battle.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s hard to sell boxes when you can’t obtain boxes.
Post: Correct. Especially A4, which represents a decent percentage of our net-new business, maybe 30-35%. We can’t even get A4s. If somebody talks to me about an A4 device, I say “I’m sorry, I can’t even quote it because I have no timeline from my manufacturer.” And neither do the other manufacturers. I recently posted on P4P Hotel about one manufacturer that isn’t expecting to have A4 machines until sometime in 2023.
That’s just brutal.
Post: When it comes to net-new business, and you’re looking at a decent takedown with maybe a bank or a hospital where there is a tremendous number of A4 devices, how do you quote it when they ask you when the machines might be available? Well, we can’t. Again, it’s just a tough conversation to have. Do you want to fight that battle at this point in time when you can’t even get them?
It becomes an open-ended proposition as to when the gear will become available on a somewhat normalized basis.
Post: We’ve got a smattering of A4 devices, but the one we have isn’t a true A4. It’s a higher-end A4 model, and it’s typically not one that sells very well. I speak to reps all across the country, and we’re all experiencing some of the same issues. There are a couple of manufacturers out there—such as Brother, which mainly concentrates on A4 devices—that are able to place a lot, but not everybody has a Brother dealership.
So let’s think back to pre-pandemic times. In the early stage of engagement, what are some of the telltale signs that you think a deal has room to grow
Post: With so many dealers diversifying to offer a wide range of products, there’s always room to grow. When you’re able to place 10 copiers, regardless of whether they’re A3 or A4, it can lead to additional exposure within that company. That could mean document management, such as DocuWare. It could be managed IT services. And now, a lot of dealers are starting to embrace cloud printing, which is basically eliminating print servers and moving that hardware to the cloud. With fax lines, there’s a good opportunity for many companies to offer digital fax services. In today’s world, there are more opportunities to grow with a client and additional offerings we can present, whereas 10 to 20 years ago, all we sold were copiers.
When you’re looking for the signs of potential additions, is that a product of the walkthrough that you perform, or is that the conversation you’re having with the buyer?
Post: If we’re doing a hardware placement, for me it’s always been better to get the hardware installed, then perform follow-up appointments with the client that go more in depth about how their business operates. Do they have a document management system, and do they struggle with finding documents? If they have multiple print servers, do they know their costs? Print servers typically have a cost of $2,500 to $3,500 a year to maintain, so if you can move their infrastructure to the cloud, there could be a tremendous savings for the client and a tidy profit potential for the rep and the dealership. It’s important for the reps to have a strong business acumen and an understanding of how businesses operate. For us, it’s easier to follow up with the add-ons, because if you get too involved with too many things at the same time, it can slow the process down. Other people may have a different approach, but I like to take it in stages and grow the client in smaller steps after the initial sale.
Based on your 40-plus years of experience, what do you think are the primary reasons you’ve been able to unseat incumbents and pull off net-new wins?
Post: It’s having a knowledge of the industry and the products we carry, along with that good business acumen as to what C-level executives are seeking. I would ask about their initiatives for 2022 and 2023. I’d say, if you had a crystal ball, looking at the next three or four years, what changes are you looking to make in your business?
Are you able to determine pretty early in the process if a prospect has a degree of unhappiness with the present vendor?
Post: I would say 60-70% of the time, a client will let you know that they’re unhappy with their existing vendor. There is certain body language or phrases they’ll use that may alert you to their current dissatisfaction. That includes how long they have to wait for service. Or they’re using companies that are having a tough time getting parts. One thing we’ve seen a lot of during COVID is customers having a tough time getting someone on the phone who can help them with their issues. Unfortunately, a lot of dealerships furloughed tech people within their organization and never brought them back, and that can create a bad culture. When those techs got furloughed, some opted to get out of the industry altogether and find a different job. Now the industry has an issue in which it’s difficult to find qualified technicians and people who know the industry.
It’s an important trait to be able to pick up on non-verbal cues. It seems as if there’s a bit of psychology involved in reading people.
Post: It’s also reading between the lines and listening intently to what they’re saying. And if you do have a question because you don’t fully understand what they’re saying, you may need to restate the question. That could open the door to something you weren’t even thinking about, which could lead to another opportunity for you.
Why do salespeople fail to spot opportunities for a larger engagement? Do they not probe deeply enough to identify areas where their dealership can provide a solution? Are they not doing their homework or not asking the right questions?
Post: For one, they don’t get enough training or support from their organization. A second thing is one of my biggest pet peeves: work ethic. They simply lack it. Ours is not a nine-to-five job; if you want to make nine-to-five money, go work for a fast food company. In my writing, I like to focus on the three Ds: desire, determination and dedication. If you’re going to be successful in this business, you need to have the desire to succeed. You need to be dedicated in continuously learning. And you have to have the determination not to fail. That determination to see something from start to finish and not give up, to not give in. And I think that’s missing. It’s a reason a lot of good people fail. I believe you can’t teach desire; the desire to be the best is an innate trait salespeople must have in order to make money and succeed. It probably applies to the top 20% of salespeople; after all, they say 20% of the salespeople make 80% of the sales.
What can you tell us about your most epic takedown in the post-COVID era?
Post: I landed an account with a check manufacturer that previously had 30 HP devices—all they did was print checks on their HPs. Printing checks involves MICR, which is magnetic toner. On the hardware side, we placed six 140-page-per-minute black production digital printing devices, along with two 60-ppm A3 devices, and recently added a 50-ppm color print device. It was all net-new business that probably provided our company about five million clicks a month.
The client showed interest because he was sick and tired of maintaining these 30 HP devices. He was buying remanufactured cartridges and having to fix his own cartridges and machines. The HP machines he used were no longer available. I wasn’t an MICR expert when the call started, but I knew about it, and within three to four months, I learned as much as possible to become an expert. We turned to Ricoh/Rosetta Technologies for the six 140-ppm machines. And we were able to grow the deal because we discovered that the client’s existing software that was being used to bring in the data and create the checks was old XP software. There was no upgrade available. The client couldn’t go back to the provider and say, “XP isn’t working for us, and we need to go to Windows 10.” There wasn’t anything new to support it. We were able to work with PlanetPress, and we built the client’s workflow, which allowed them to eliminate the XP software for all his business. That represented a $100,000 order for the professional services, and counting all the other machines, it came out to about half a million dollars.
It didn’t happen all at once; it was over a two-year span. And it was a prime example of growing a deal by finding more opportunities. It was simply a matter of talking to the client, asking them how they do business, what they like and don’t like, and finding out about their long-range goals and what they’re looking to accomplish. It gave us everything we needed to present additional options for them.
In the process, you had to step outside your comfort zone and learn more about a technology.
Post: I wasn’t all that familiar with MICR. It’s like anything else—you learn it, you figure it out. Luckily, we’re partnered with a couple of really good vendors who have knowledgeable support people who can get you up to speed quickly. Now I would have to say, after the last two years, I’m probably one of the premier MICR experts because my client and I were able to speak to somebody else who sells MICR in a different part of the country. In turn, we were able to help them with their client.
On the whole, it’s been a difficult year for sales and the industry.
Post: I have a small group of dealers who share information, and it’s clear from speaking with them that the industry took a hit this year. Dealers are getting bought out, and people are leaving the industry. Between COVID and the supply chain, I think we’ve lost about 30% of industry professionals. Dealers are getting out, as are sales managers and reps. Salespeople are frustrated because their dealerships will only pay them when the equipment is delivered, and dealers can’t get the equipment. Copier salespeople don’t make a tremendous salary. We make our money on our commissions, along with monthly, quarterly and annual bonuses. To me, we’re paid more like waiters and waitresses, where they rely on that extra tip money for good service and support. If you fail to deliver machines, you can’t make that extra money. As a result, many have left. Which is better for old guys like me, because we’re not going anywhere.
You’re not ready to switch careers?
Post: (Laughs) Because of how things are, I’m sticking around for another five years of selling.
As long as you still love it and you’re making money, right?
Post: I may keep running until I’m 70, knock on wood. I’m going to keep going, because I’ve got so much knowledge, and I can help a lot of people. Basically, what I’m up against is a dwindling number of experts. ♦