Copiers and Printers: The Next Generation, Episode I

Business Man in SpaceOffice spaces, the final frontier. These are the voyages of Sharp multi-function printers and copiers. Their continuing mission: to explore strange new corporations, to seek out new life and new technologies, to boldly go where no printer or copier has gone before.

OK, maybe that was a little over the top, but Sharp continues to introduce innovative new printer and copier technology each year. We want to introduce you to the next generation of Sharp multi-function printers (MFPs). Tom Kappele, regional sales manager with Sharp Electronics Corp., shares his opinions below on new trends and features.

New Features You Can Expect in the Next Year

Sharp has recently released products in a few different categories, and I would expect this trend to continue over the next year. Like many of the manufacturers in our industry, we are introducing products in new market segments and also improving and enhancing existing products to meet customer expectations.

Recent introductions have included:

  • Production Color Models: 65- and 75-page-per-minute models with advanced job management tools and color processing capabilities using a Fiery print server. These models open new doors for Sharp and our dealers allowing us to sell color into high-volume production environments. These are our most advanced color MFPs ever.
  • Advanced Digital Display Products: Sharp’s line of Aquos Board Interactive Displays (60-, 70- and 80-inch models) give our dealers an opportunity to help customers in new markets—conference rooms, training facilities, etc. These products are state-of-the-art, high-definition LCD displays that can replace old technology such as projectors, white boards and flip charts in classrooms, conference rooms and more.
  • Mid-Volume Color MFP Products with New/Enhanced Functionality, including:
    • Standard wireless capability
    • Standard mobile printing
    • Standard Adobe postscript printing
    • Cloud-based document management and document storage capability
    • Standard Pantone color matching
    • Faster processors, more standard memory and larger hard drives for improved job completion
    • Enhanced, customizable user interfaces to simplify end user experience
    • Longer supply yields and reduced total cost of ownership

In the next year I would expect Sharp to release black-and-white models that incorporate some of these same enhancements that our color line-up has seen in the past 6-12 months. Sharp is a leading technology company that is constantly looking to improve existing products, and end users expect us to bring improvements and enhancements to our products.

How These Features Help Boost Productivity

The MFP market has been mature for years, so it’s not seeing growth from year to year in overall unit sales. Our industry is all about improving current technology. Improved productivity using the features mentioned above is part of the overall improvement of technology. These new capabilities are designed to simplify complex printing, copying and scanning jobs and shorten turnaround time.

Document management solutions, as mentioned above, will continue to be a focus for Sharp. All current and future products have the ability, using Sharp’s Open System Architecture (OSA), to integrate with third-party software solutions to easily scan and archive electronic documents, automate workflows to improve document processing within an organization, or track MFP usage and seamlessly bill by department using third-party accounting systems.

Cloud services are quickly becoming attractive for MFPs, just as they are for day-to-day software solutions in the office environment. End users have the option to pay monthly subscription fees for software rather than purchasing and installing it on their own server. I expect that trend to continue, so we’ll see even greater focus from Sharp on additional cloud services over the next year.

Share with us your feedback and the features you would like to see in new Sharp multi-function printers.

In Copiers and Printers: The Next Generation, Episode II, we will look further into the future of copiers and printers with Tom Kappele.

Take Your Printer or Copier for a Test Drive Before Purchasing

Test Drive Printers and CopiersSo many choices, so little time! With a wide variety of choices available in printer and copier equipment, you want to choose the best option for your organization or business. Do you need document scanning abilities for electronic filing or sending? Do you only need to print in black-and-white or does your sales team need high-quality color copying for full-color presentations? Or maybe your biggest concern is ease of use for your employees. Whatever your needs and concerns, a hands-on demonstration can easily answer those questions and help you make a great decision.

Having led several equipment demos during my sales career at Copeco, I know how beneficial they can be. Think of on-site demonstrations like test driving a car: Would you really buy a vehicle without taking it for a spin first? Probably not. First, you want to make sure the car has all of the amenities you are looking for. Next, you want to feel comfortable behind the wheel. Switch out PPM (pages per minute) for RPM (revolutions per minute), and cars and copiers are actually similar—though I suggest keeping your copier in the office and not on the road! Read more

When It Comes to Copier Leasing, Is Your Dealer on Your Side?

Copier and printer leasing in Canton, Akron, Youngstown and OhioThese days, you can lease just about anything in the realm of office machines and equipment, from all-in-one printers to the software that controls them.

Because technology is changing rapidly, you may be thinking about getting a new copy machine or replacing an out-of-date laser printer. And, if you aren’t currently in an equipment lease, you might be weighing the pros and cons of buying and leasing. Of course, both options have their advantages.

When you buy a printer outright, it’s yours. No monthly payments. No financing hassles. However, the purchase of a high-dollar, all-in-one printer can certainly put a dent in your available business capital. That’s one of the top reasons most of my customers choose to lease copiers and printers. Other advantages include:

  • Structured payments to match your business cash flow, cycles or budget.
  • Longer leases with fixed payments on the equipment – sometimes up to 60 months or more.
  • Tax deductions, as lease payments are an operating expense.
  • Access to equipment upgrades that will keep you productive and competitive.
  • Improved balance sheet ratios because lease obligations are’t capitalized.
  • Options for purchase or lease renewal at the end of your term.

You’re probably already familiar with all these positives. Virtually every company that specializes in printer and copier sales and service will be happy to discuss this list with you. However, beyond that basic decision between buying and leasing, there’s a deeper question I encourage people to ask.

How do you know if your dealer is on your side?

A Good Copier Dealer Should Be a Customer Advocate

In the 14 years I’ve been handling copier and printer leases, I’ve come to recognize the importance of being a customer’s advocate and chief negotiator. That responsibility starts on day one when I or someone on my team reviews leasing vendor options for a local business in Canton, Akron, Youngstown or elsewhere in Ohio. It continues right up through the final payment and all those important (but often forgotten) end-of-lease obligations.

It’s important to recognize that you, the customer, don’t have much leverage with or access to the leasing company a dealer chooses. For the most part, you are dependent on the dealer throughout the entire process.

Questions to Ask Before Signing a Copier Lease

So, even though you may know the ins and outs of office equipment leasing, how well do you know the copier/printer dealer that you’re working with? Before you sign on the proverbial dotted line, I encourage you to ask your dealer’s leasing manager these questions because, at some point, it will save you time, money and stress.

  1. How long have you worked with the leasing companies you use?
  2. How well do your leasing companies understand the office equipment industry?
  3. I need special terms with my lease. To what level can you negotiate with the leasing company?
  4. What type of equipment upgrades do you normally offer and when?
  5. How will you handle this lease for my business if someone else is in charge of our copier leasing at the end of the term?
  6. How far in advance will you notify my business when the lease is nearing its end?
  7. What kind of options will I have at the end of my lease?

Before you enter into a leasing agreement with a printer and copier supplier, make sure that company is an expert not only in the equipment it sells, but also in the leasing services it offers. Breaking a lease is a big decision, so it’s better to be satisfied right from the start.

 

Six Tips to Get the Most from Your Sales Prospecting Database

Update your marketing database regularlyA couple months ago, I shared five steps to conquering sales call reluctance, including the need to have a purposeful goal each morning (i.e. the number of calls you need to make in order to generate the sales you want.) A key component to success with this goal – and cold calling or sales prospecting in general – is an accurate, updated sales and marketing database.

A database of prospective customers is only as good as what the sales person enters into it. If you’re just starting out in a sales position or in a new sales territory, hopefully your predecessor left you with a good, clean call database that can help you generate sales leads right away. If you’ve been in sales for a while, you know people change jobs frequently. It’s important to keep track of those changes as much as possible.

Copeco purchased a sales database dedicated to our industry; from there, we expand that list in-house. Chances are there’s a database tailored to your industry, too. Hopefully, your employer already has one. If not, you may need to do some Internet searching to see what’s available. You can also tap Reference USA, a public database that many libraries offer as a free service.

Here are six tips I’ve found helpful in building my sales call database and getting the most out of it:

Update your database daily.

If you’ve found new contact names, titles, phone numbers, etc., make sure you add that information to the database immediately. Otherwise, you run the risk of misplacing the information or forgetting about it. Plus, you don’t want to waste time leaving voicemail messages for the wrong person or asking to speak to individuals who no longer work for a particular company.

You can also have your IT department run a quarterly database cleaning that checks for accounts with no activity during a certain period of time. I also recommend synchronizing the database with accounts receivable and payable. That helps you maintain customer relationships and follow up with people in a timely fashion.

Set a dedicated appointment call day.

I like Mondays because that’s when people are most ready to get something done. The rest of the week, I make survey calls and “dig” for information. Who’s the buyer or decision maker? What kind of equipment does the office use? When is the lease up? Then, it’s back to point #1:  update your database daily.

Target your database searches by industry or number of employees within a specific market.

For example, I might look for all real estate companies or medical offices or schools by zip code. Or, I may look for companies with more than 50 employees by zip code. That will be the group I survey and then approach on appointment call day.

Search for customers who may be interested in buying your product in the near future.

That’s a critical reason why I strive to gather lease information about printers and copiers when I’m making survey calls. Knowing that type of information gives me time to cultivate a relationship with a prospective customer before equipment is needed.

Add new names to your prospect pipeline through networking and referrals.

When you attend events, business after-hours, chamber lunches, etc., be sure to add that information to your database. Once again, point #1: update your database daily.

In addition, ask your satisfied customers for referrals. They can often be your best source of new sales leads.

Connect with as many customers and prospects as possible on sites like LinkedIn.

That way, when contacts change positions or companies, you’re in the know and can update your sales database right away.

As a sales person, your marketing database is your ticket to new sales. It pays to clean up your sales call list regularly and maintain it wisely. Get started today!

Five Steps to Conquering Sales Call Reluctance

I’ve been selling office equipment and related technology since 1993, and over the years, I’ve talked with many sales people in many different industries. One thing we all have in common is the occasional attack of what’s now termed “call reluctance.” I still think of it as simply fear of rejection.

Since becoming a sales manager for Copeco in 2007 (and even before), I’ve helped several sales employees recognize and deal with call reluctance. It’s a normal part of sales and often occurs when you’re in a slump or if you’re new to an industry. However, it must be handled quickly and effectively, or the fear of cold calling will only increase.

Here are some telltale signs of call reluctance:

  • Spending more time on research than on calls. Often, if you’re nervous about making calls, you will do lots of “prepping” for calls instead of making them.
  • Doing extra paperwork or dropping off business cards. These efforts rarely lead to good leads but instead help you avoid real cold calls.  
  • The numbers don’t add up. Today, a sales force is usually tracked by a computerized system of some kind, and it’s easy to pinpoint low call volumes.

Sales really is a numbers game. You must make a large number of calls to generate a fair amount of appointments or referrals. Then, only a certain percentage of the appointments actually become sales. Bottom line: sales people need to make calls.

Based on my experience, I offer the following five steps to conquering call reluctance:

  1. Do one-on-one and group role playing with sales team members. This gives you an opportunity to rehearse your approach, improve product knowledge and learn how to listen and speak effectively in a non-threatening environment.
  2. Use scripts with a successful track record. Having something tangible to start with – something already written down – usually decreases fear. Customize the script for the market you’re targeting.
  3. Offer potential customers a benefit you believe in. You’ve got to believe in what you’re selling and give customers a reason to see you.
  4. Start off with “warm” calls. Get some feedback and affirmation from someone you’ve done business with recently. Then, move on to your list of cold calls.
  5. Have a purposeful goal when you start each morning. This gets back to the number of calls you need to make in order to generate the sales you want. Then, don’t get sidetracked by prepping or paperwork. Just do it.

If you’re interested in learning more about overcoming call reluctance, I recommend the book, The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance by Dudley and Goodson.

Supporting Business Networking is Strategic Marketing Approach

Copeco Work-it-out Wednesday guests Jim Recupero, John Petit and Amy McSherry

Those of you in marketing know that taking out a few ads usually isn’t enough to get your company’s message heard above all the “noise” in today’s media. There’s a continual need to establish and strengthen real connections between real people. You know – business networking.

At Copeco, we’re in the business of supporting other Ohio businesses through total office equipment solutions and service, and we look for marketing strategies that build both brand recognition and business relationships. Work-it-out Wednesdays – a partnership between Copeco, radio station WONE-FM 97.5, the Greater Akron Chamber and the Legends Sports Pub & Grille – has been a perfect fit.

A series of informal, after-work get-togethers in Green, Ohio, Work-it-out Wednesdays have featured free food, exceptional prize drawings and valuable business networking. For our sponsorship, WONE and the Akron Chamber have promoted our name in tandem with the networking event, during which we’ve offered demonstrations of our equipment.

Work-it-out Wednesdays have helped Copeco achieve a number of core objectives:

  • Strengthening our brand in one of Copeco’s newer markets.
  • Connecting with other businesses and building new relationships.
  • Helping other businesses grow – in this case, through networking.
  • Partnering with other organizations that care about business development.
  • Investing in our community by promoting economic progress.

We’ll be holding our final Work-it-out Wednesday on November 17. If you do business in Stark and/or Summit Counties, stop by and see what a great opportunity this venue offers. I look forward to meeting you there!

WONE's Christi Nichols at Copeco Work-it-out Wednesdays Event

Joe Stastny, Kurt Karhoff, Natalia Rique and Tina Thelin enjoy networking time!

Copeco's display for Work-it-out Wednesday at Legend's in Green