Things went a little quiet in the cash register business after decimalisation and I was restless to get some formal sales and marketing training. In those days Lever Bros (who had robbed me of a win on the horses!), Pedigree Petfoods (I quite like pets but didn’t want to spend my life serving them their mush) and Rank Xerox were the only companies to have a large field salesforce and be renowned for great training (IBM joined the list later). Successfully working with them immensely improved your CV. I applied for and got a job with Rank Xerox. One huge benefit of the move was that I received a company car, a white Ford Escort, and Jane took over the Morris.
Xerox training was also a commercially-sold package PSS – Professional Selling Skills – that was sold to other external organisations. (It is still offered as an on-line course from €2,790). All the newbies were assembled at the Great Portland Street London training facility. They were an interesting bunch, many of them had joined from the ‘CP’ business, selling carbon paper – or rather earning high commissions for convincing receptionists, secretaries or office managers to sign up for more carbon paper than their employers could use in a lifetime.
This turned out to be good grounding as Xerox copiers and duplicators were rented, and the trick was getting a start-up product (usually the Xerox 660) into a company. Once it was installed most users would then routinely take at least one more copy than they needed, just in case. Then there were usually club and society members on staff who would bring in their choral society or dramatic society materials to copy on the firm’s copier, and usage expanded exponentially.
I came out top on the August-1971 course and won an ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’ – a pewter mug that still sits on my desk today as a pen/pencil and, later, a reading-glasses holder.
We were awarded small territories and received a monthly print-out of all the equipment active on our patch, showing rental rates and the monthly number of copies used. We could track usage and watch as an organisation that had never before had a copier grew its volumes. We had bigger faster machines for higher rentals, priced to achieve a lower cost/copy. Once the next copier’s threshold was reached we could sell-up, knowing that its speed and convenience would blossom into their using even more copies.
If a unit’s usage was static we offered various system ideas – one popular one was an acetate overlay that could copy a customer account card (not many were computerised back then), and the overlay turned it into a month-end statement. Another volume builder was Impakt stationery.
|ASIDE: I was a tad surprised that Impakt stationery appears to have disappeared. I could find very little about it on the net today or even examples of their work. The closest I could find was the Christmas example below. They were preprinted sheets with highly colourful cartoonlike images or impactful colourful text into which could be copied a sales mailer, motivational message…|
My favourite was the one I used to combat those customers who refused an appointment. It had two medieval armies drawn up facing off, clearly ready to enjoin battle. Set back from one line was one leader and his lieutenant and just behind them was a salesman with a machine-gun on a tripod. The leader is saying ‘Can’t he see that I’m busy?’
Xerox used Impakt stationery internally too. Every week they would mail a ‘POW sheet’ to our homes showing every salesperson in the branch office. It was mailed to your home assuming you would be on the road before the post arrived and your wife could look at it and become an unsalaried motivator.
The week at Great Portland Street was a very focused training exercise with many varied sessions on PSS and invariably we had overnight group tasks. Often these led to role plays the next day. I recall one where we had to act out a sales call to illustrate the techniques we had been taught. We had a receptionist whom we called Miss Lead, because she would provide false information that the sales call would reveal and overcome. The individual playing the receptionist ad-libbed the opening remark, ‘Hello Handsome!’ and five of us sat trying to come up with a riposte, when in an actual situation we each would have instinctively fired something back. We ended up changing the comment to relieve us from seeking a solution.
I mentioned that Sweda cash registers were heavy and demanded physical effort on dems. The Xerox 660 was worse; it required two sales people to carry it in, using a stretcher. I always considered this as sending out something of the wrong message, as if it was infirm.
We organised dem blitzes where the whole branch descended on a patch and in twos we set out to achieve and effect demos. One of the 660’s inherent problems was that it took eight minutes to warm up from cold. We resorted to taking out the toner cartridge and placing it on the dashboard with the heating turned up to maximum, whatever the weather. At the demo it would then start up just a little more quickly, as we cooled down.
The copiers were of course black on white, but one trick we learned at Great Portland Street was to load the paper tray with a pink sheet five sheets down. Carefully counting our dem usage, we would whip out a page of the FT to make the fifth copy and out would come a pink sheet as its copy of the newspaper. Some clients never quite worked that one out.