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 user 2005-07-20 at 10:21:00 am Views: 92
  • #12234

    Sales lessons learned at ‘Xerox Boot Camp’ set the stage for future success
    I was just a kid — only 22 years old. Basically, I could not get a job and was rejected by dozens of companies while I was looking for my first “real” job outside of college.

    Because I was out of job prospects, I started to listen to the guy across the hall from me in the apartment I was living in. My friend Nick said, “Hey, why don’t you come work for Xerox?”

    Now, I am thinking to myself, “Do I really want to sell copiers?” The answer was real simple — NO!

    But now I was running out of money, so I thought, “Hey, I could sell copiers for a little while,” save up a few bucks and then go after my dream job, which at that stage of my life was selling medical supplies. So I interviewed at Xerox. After seven interviews, I got hired.

    Now, let me tell you about the training, and then you will see how this changed my life and set me up to accomplish almost anything as I got older.

    Part one

    Our training began at the branch level with intensive degrees of product knowledge. Basically, this was just memorization and then putting the specifications to the actual machines.

    In other words, after you memorized what the copier and duplicators can do, you then had to demonstrate these products to the customers. Not just any demonstrations, but Broadway show, award-winning demonstrations that your boss and a product training specialist carefully monitored.

    After you began dreaming about your demonstrations overnight and you woke up thinking you just gave 15 of them, you were now ready for part two.

    This is the area that changed my life, and I owe everything to Xerox. I really mean that — it is not just some off-the-cuff statement.

    Part two

    Now comes the real test: Can I hold on and stick with it?

    Let me start by explaining my first day at the Xerox Training Center in Leesburg, Va. I arrive on Sunday, sometime in mid-September 1976. I am only 22 years old, and I drove my 1972 Ford Pinto to this three-week training not knowing what to expect. This is the place that Xerox trains its employees.

    Monday morning, we begin our first day, which is a classroom setting, and I was asked to come up front to the head of the classroom where there was a desk, and the instructor pretended to be a decision-maker in a company. I put my “pitch book” on his desk and began talking.

    He said: “Becker, go back to your seat. The role-play is over!”

    I said, “What did I do?”

    He barked back: “I will tell you at the end of the day.”

    Well, now I am really mad and thinking to myself: “That’s it. Today is my final day at Xerox, and at the end of the day, I will tell this bozo instructor to stick it, and I am outta here.”

    As the day wore on, I became less mad as I watched everyone else get chastised, so all together we felt 3 inches tall because we all were in the same predicament.

    When the day came to a close, I went up to my instructor and said: “What did I do wrong? I really have no idea.”

    He said: “Don’t you ever put something on someone’s desk without asking. It is not YOUR desk!”

    To this day, I will never put something on someone’s desk without asking. He was right, and it is still working today.

    Bottom line: Xerox training, all 21 days of it, with more than 12 hours a day, taught us how to be pros at selling.

    They taught us to listen, only sell through questions to find out what the customer wants, not just what we want to sell them.

    They taught us the true meaning of features and benefits and how and WHY to cold call through knocking on doors and using the phone.

    They taught us the fundamentals of selling, which have never changed and never will change!

    But most important, those three weeks taught me discipline and a strong work ethic, which I continue to hold even as I write this article on a cold Thanksgiving morning more than 30 years after my “Xerox Boot Camp.”