The average copier lasts five years for most businesses and if you invested in a quality brand-name product, you might even enjoy eight years of stellar performance. During my seven years in the field working as a copier rep, I often met with customers that wanted a new copier as soon as the machine had a hiccup. In an effort to save you money as well as headaches, here are my tips on how to buy a copier. First, you need to do the following before your first appointment with a copier rep:
- Make sure you actually need a new machine instead of a mere repair job. Schedule a service call and ask the technician to provide you with a written estimate on what it would cost to fix the copier. Hopefully, you've established a good rapport with your technician in the years he has serviced your account. Ask him point blank what he would do if he were you - fix the machine or buy a new one. Technicians are a great source for unbiased information precisely because they are not salespeople and often understand the new product line better than the sales force that are actually selling the product.
- Once you have confirmed that you are in the market for a new system, do your homework BEFORE you call a copier rep to set an initial appointment. You need to know the industry lingo. In today's market, a customer does not buy a copier - they buy a multifunctional copy system that copies, prints, and scans. You need to decide if you only require black and white imaging or color imaging, as well. Conduct an internal assessment to determine your company's requirements in each of these areas. Do not overlook the possibility of adding color imaging to your new system. Costs have fallen dramatically on color imaging and studies show that written communication with two or three colors on the page is much more effective. You might find that you can expect many more capabilities for far less money than you spent on your last round of copier acquisition.
- If you leased your last copier, call the leasing company and request a buyout letter. Ask specifically for the following information to be provided to you verbally and in written form: a) lease expiration date, b) buyout to own amount, c) buyout to return figure, and d) directions regarding potential return of machine. Be advised that the copier company you bought the system from might be entirely different from the leasing company that provided you with the financing for the purchase. Don't be surprised if the leasing company takes their sweet time in providing you with this information. This is why it is a good idea to prepare ahead of time and have the information available before you meet with the copier rep.
- Promise yourself that you will get at least three proposals from different vendors before you make a decision regarding your new acquisition. I promise that it is well worth your time to meet with three copier reps because you will stimulate a price war between the companies and this is how you get the best value for your money. Besides, as you well know, it is a wise business practice to always take a look at the competition.
- Find out which companies sell copiers directly in your market. A copier manufacturer distributes their products by selling through their own sales team or by selling the product to a dealer and then the dealer markets to the business consumer. Admittedly, I'm biased in favor of buying directly from the manufacturer because my experience was in selling directly to the customer. I can't tell you how often ABC Copy System Inc. was selling Company X's product and then three years later they were no longer selling Company X, but, were now selling Company T. This structure does not create a cohesive service team with years of experience on one product line.
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