Even legendary technology can use a little help to take its rightful place in history.
I began my sales career at Xerox in a collaborative environment driven by a pervasive selling culture and a truly energized client focus. It was a great place to be and an even better place to start. And Xerox was a real pioneer in the concept of team selling, calling on all its team members, regardless of function, to think creatively and drive innovation with a constant focus on winning business and serving clients. The legacy for this theme, which we were all schooled in, was history’s finest example of teaming-inspired innovation as the catalyst to a product’s success.
It was a groundbreaking event back in 1959, many years before I arrived, when the Xerox 914 Copier debuted on live television. This singular product was predicted by many to potentially be the genesis of a revolutionary new industry, holding the keys to very future of office printing. But with all the 914’s trailblazing technology and engineering innovation that produced clear copies on plain paper at the touch of a button, significant obstacles stood in the way. For even with the efforts of Xerox’s highly capable sales force, prospects found the idea of paying $30,000 for a 700 lb. machine covering over 20 square feet, in a word, troubling. As a result, sales were very slow in coming causing many to doubt the rosy predictions. But it was Xerox’s organizational focus on teaming that turned things around. For that cross-line collaboration process gave birth to a radical idea. To address the thorny $30,000 price barrier, the creativity of Xerox teaming developed a concept that simply blew away the price objection. The highly innovative strategic decision was made to stop selling 914s altogether. Stop selling them and start leasing them. In this dynamic and risky pricing strategy shift, the die was cast for product success of unheard-of proportions. Years later, Fortune would look back and anoint the 914 “the most successful American product in history measured by ROI”. For the hordes of new customers who signed up for the 914’s inexpensive monthly lease cost of $95, which included 2,000 free copies, sent Xerox revenues to astronomic heights. But the real driver to growth of the brilliant new pricing scheme was the 4 cents per copy charge above that monthly 2,000 copy allowance. You see, Xerox understood the needs and pains of their prospects. And they made an investment in that understanding. An investment and a bet. A bet on human nature. A bet that people would run fast from the frustration and mess of working with carbons and coated paper to the cleanliness and ease of copying onto plain bond paper. All at the touch of a button. And they were right. Oh, were they right. For 914 customers quickly blew past their monthly 2,000 copy allowances and merrily kept on copying and copying and copying. In fact, the average 914 customer copied more than ten times those monthly allowances! And each one of those additional clean, clear 914 copies produced on that lovely plain paper generated that 4-cent charge.
And in a short two years after that game-changing leasing idea was born, Xerox’s corporate revenues tripled. Thanks to team idea generation , Xerox customers somehow found room in their offices for 10,000 of those 700 lb. machines! David Owen, author of Copies in Seconds, shared, “It was a product no one knew they needed until they had it”. Well, Xerox knew. And the collaborative Xerox teaming culture made it happen.
Joe Wilson, Xerox’s famous VP of Sales referred to the bold pricing change as “the best decision we ever made”. And Xerox’s revenue growth continued at a compound annual rate of over 40% for the next twelve years, breaking the $1 billion barrier in 1968!
Isn’t it amazing that there’s so much we can take away from that strategic decision made 58 years ago? And what’s the take-away, the message that lives on for selling teams and business organizations everywhere? To sell, to serve and to always deliver value. But to never forget to engage your entire business model and team in generating ideas and crafting solutions. Winning is everybody’s business. Make it a team strategy!
What have you done that engaged your entire business model in a sale? Leave a comment and let us know.
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