This post is an edited transcript from episode #1 of Frictionless: How B2B Marketers Create Amazing Customer Experiences. Listen to it here!
Office copiers are one of the most hated machines on the planet.
Their unreliability is legendary, drawing the fury of anyone that needs an important document for a deadline.
By extension, copier salespeople are hated almost as much. They face swift and brutal rejection the moment they step through the door. But one guy is completely changing the game of copier sales.
Dale Dupree, aka “The Copier Warrior,” has completely reinvented the customer experience with copier solutions, and in the process created a unique approach to sales and life. We recently spoke to Dale on our podcast, Frictionless, and this is what he had to say:
Patrick: I have to hand it to you, Dale. If there's a more hated machine in the history of mankind than copiers, I have yet to hear of one. Just knowing how frustrating they can be to work with and get service with, I can't even begin to imagine the experience of selling them.
But you have not only figured out a way to completely blow up the whole experience for people, you've actually developed a pretty interesting personal branding and philosophy that's really something special, more than just about selling and buying stuff, but really a different philosophy on life. Can you give us a little history about your journey and the mission behind The Copier Warrior?
Dale: Yeah, absolutely. Real quick, I'm absolutely flattered by all the kindness. You're too good to me, bro. My journey starts back in 1985 when I was born with toner running through my blood, because one year before, my dad opened his copier company. Every once in a while people are like, "There's something coming out of your nose. It's literally toner." So, when I say that, I'm not joking. It's all in me, it's disgusting.
When I became old enough for my dad to even trust me to go make a sale, I realized that it's not so much that sales is hard. It is, but everyone hates the copier salesman.
So, from the very beginning of my career as a sales person, I realized quickly that I've got to figure something out here or I'm not going to last in this industry at all. What I realized is that I had to come into this industry and look at it from a different perspective.
What is the purpose behind why I am even at work in the first place? I took the copier sale out of it completely and just broke down from a psychological and human emotion standpoint what it is that I'm trying to accomplish in my business, and how can I complement the people around me.
I started to build a community around myself and just differentiated everything that I was doing as a copier sales person in the industry, from creating my brand as The Copier Warrior to then scribing that into digital graphics that I presented on 24 by 36 sized paper, all the way to crumbled up letters that I put in little plastic trashcans.
I had every trick in the book down early on in my career, because I wasn't afraid to try anything. What I realized is that people just want to enjoy their lives and work. So how can we live a life that's enjoyable when we hate our job, and we hate the copier guy, and we hate the IT person? For me it was that perspective. I said, "Look, I've got to start coming into businesses and giving people this awakening that they never experienced."
I know that sounds insane. It almost sounds like I'm some kind of philosopher in a copier world, but when we break down the human emotion and psychology of people – not buyers but people – I think it's important to remember these folks that are signing checks and signing contracts, they go home just like we do. Some of them have Netflix and others have Hulu.
The real world separates itself from the business world, for whatever reason. That's why The Copier Warrior exists. I'm here to take that back for us as individuals. I'm here to lead that charge.
Patrick: It sounds like such a healthy attitude. What did that look like from an execution standpoint? Because at the same time, you're not there to waste their time either. You're there to provide a service.
Dale: Yeah, for sure.
Patrick: Was your main goal to just get a laugh out of people, and just let them see that, all right, this guy is a little different. He's got kind of like an “Office Space” sense of humor to him. He's got some neat tricks up his sleeve. Maybe he's somebody I want to talk to?
Dale: So, for me, it was like how can I disrupt all the daily patterns people go through from 8:00 to 5:00? When a copier guy walks in and talks to some person that's been working at the front desk for the last 15 years, they know exactly how to tell you to leave.
I need this person to love me, or at least laugh at me because he or she is the pulse of this organization and can help me earn this business. I had to also have something this individual could take to my C-level person that makes the decision and get a rise out of them.
So, it's kind of this idea of not just preaching all these things, it's doing and then taking them to the next level so that inside of the interactions with your prospect, they can go, "Man, this guy just gets crazier and crazier. He stays so true to form that I don't know what to expect next."
People love that, but let me tell you this, Patrick, when I had my awakening. It was about two and a half years ago when my dad died of cancer, my best friend, my hero, the man that gave me my start in this industry. His funeral was packed. There was over a thousand people who came to wish my father off.
Dale: It was overwhelming, but here's the craziest part. A gentleman came up -- he said, “Look, you don't know me. I know you, but that's only because your father was my copier vendor. We didn't meet at church or through school, or through my kids. Your dad just sold me copiers. That's it, for the last 30 years. Your Dad was someone that impacted me and made my life better. He was always looking out for me. He was always calling even if he didn't have anything to sell me or I didn't have anything to buy.”
I realized in that interaction that there's a bigger purpose behind everything we do in life. I know again, I'm like the philosopher of sales right now, but when I experienced that interaction with that gentleman and then another couple dozen people behind him gave me the same story, I realized that beyond anything I'm accomplishing from a humor perspective or of the interruption of a typical eight to five at the office, I'm impacting people.
I have the power to impact people's lives if I actually give a rip, and so moving forward after that and for the last three years, I've just gone to another level where I look at even the people that I have been doing business with now for about 10 plus years, and I'm interacting with them even differently than I had before. More intentionally, wanting to just understand them even deeper than what they've allowed me into so far, which is pretty deep in most cases, but I'm all in on the relationship side of selling.
Patrick: That's incredible, man. First, I'm very sorry to hear about your father's passing. I do remember you mentioning it in some of the content that you write and you're so transparent about all this stuff. It's really admirable and it seems like at that point it became less about just finding a way to enjoy your work. You really sort of transformed into somebody who was really dedicated to working and living with a sense of purpose.
Dale: Yeah, I can agree with that statement. I feel that way at least. I'm striving to live that life everyday.
Patrick: Tell me a little bit about your customers. Tell me about their pain points and how you've really applied the psychology and creativity to really addressing them beyond just like the laugh out of them.
Dale: When we probe for pain, we talk about how service sucks and toner doesn't show up for a couple of days after you order it. When I create a marketing piece that dives into that a little bit deeper, it makes total fun of it to an extreme degree, like the most extreme meme you've ever seen.
That's when it starts to resonate a little bit more with people where they say, "This dude gets it. He understands that it's a problem, but he's also willing to go a little bit further inside of the issue itself.
Again, everybody hates the copier, so I take it to an extreme degree and I've created the printed materials to do that, like videos, all kinds of interrupt marketing pieces. I had a campaign once where I just took bricks to offices and I had an instruction manual on how to throw the brick at the copier when it was just driving you crazy.
Then, when you get tired of throwing the brick at the copier, you can call me and I'll come in to replace it. Little things like that that got people just fired up to call me back, you know? I'm just trying to find the right people to come join my family.
When it comes to the pain, you can walk in and tell somebody all day long, "Hey, I know you're having these problems. Can I set an appointment with you to talk about fixing them?" But when some random guy shows up and he doesn't even talk about the copier, he just leaves a bunch of stuff for like five or six people who he's named to the receptionist, all of a sudden the receptionist is like, "Jesus, this man has gone out of his way to understand my business. He's got all these things. This is awesome."
Patrick: Do a lot of these people come back and hunt you down on your website or do they track you down on LinkedIn?
Dale: Social media is a powerful tool. People don't like to call. They just don't. It just makes it easier for them to just get into your circle quickly and because I post so much content and I'm so active on social, they just roll right into a cycle. It's not difficult for me to make that work, and 90% of them head straight to my social channels.
Patrick: I think you really make an important point that a lot of this isn't just about crazy ideas. It comes with a lot of hard work. You're probably the most prolific content creator I know on LinkedIn.
Dale: I love content so it's easy for me to write, and actually it's funny, because I try to release them all around 6:00 AM, but I actually write them closer to about 5:00 AM, 4:45. I do it right when I wake up, like one of the first things I do. I gather my thoughts, I do a quick devotional, and I go right in to how I'm feeling about the day, about sales, about a topic, and I just lay it out there.
Patrick: What about after the sale? How do you keep that relationship strong?
Dale: That's a great question, dude, and I think this is relevant to all sales industries that have some kind of buying cycle with them. Maybe they've been with their vendor for 15 years even, but if you asked them, "Hey, when was the last time you saw your sales rep?" First off, they'll either tell you, "Well, I've seen about five total sales reps over the course of this last term," or they'll say, "I see my sales rep every time it's time for me to upgrade."
I tell people, especially in my presentations, is that, "When you sign up with The Copier Warrior, you get Dale. If you need to call me at 8:00 at night because you're having a problem, the only reason that I wouldn't pick up is because I'm with my family or I'm asleep. Over the course of my career, I can't tell you how many times after hours or on the weekend I've showed up at a customer's office to help them, because I put my money where my mouth is. I think there's a lack of integrity in the sales world. It's very prevalent, and it's time for people to start thinking bigger than just the transaction.
Once people have entered into my family, I text them throughout the year at least two times. I do it very intentionally whether it's birthdays, holidays, and I always write very specific notes to individual people during that timeframe as well. And I always pick a couple of customers each year and randomly cater food for the whole office, or show up randomly with a bunch of balloons and some crazy stuff with me and just tell people, “Hey, I just wanted to come by and say hey, and I hope that you guys have an amazing week.”
Many people that you're building these relationships with at these businesses probably won't be there in two or three years. And so if you're not in there creating a legend, it's hard for you to show back up one day and ask for Cheryl, and they say, “She doesn't work here. She hasn't worked here in two years. Who are you?” Only a copier guy, I mean, you look like an idiot, but you're also more of an idiot if you can't say, “Oh, cool, how about Eric, or David, or Dan, or Stacy?” I know everybody.
Patrick: I'm imagining somebody listening to this who's in a completely different industry. Let's say they're selling software as a service, and they can't go door-to-door. They're sitting here thinking, “I don't do door-to-door sales. It's hard for me to get face-to-face with people, and I'm also trying to do a scalable solution. We could have hundreds or thousands of customers.” What would your advice be to somebody who's like that?
Dale: have a little marketing piece called the crumpled letter. It's a pre-burnt letter, pre-torn letter. I've got a ton of them. And I've created this as a way to be able to do mass marketing; not have to tailor every single piece to the individual that I'm talking to, but still make them feel as if they're getting that very unique, very personal touch. And because there's intentionality behind everything that I've done with the pieces themselves, they strike certain cords, they hit different emotions.
So, for me, it can be simple. Those letters cost me less than five cents total for everything. That's an easy investment to make in order to have better quality conversations, and to show people that I am the light at the end of the tunnel for them.
People focus too much on, “Well, I can't do what Dale does because I'm not creative like him,” or “I don't get to go door-to-door. I have to sit behind this desk all day.” Well, guess what guys? There's this thing called YouTube, and you can just put a bunch of videos of you introducing yourself to people on it and send them a link. It's that easy.
Dale: You can mass produce very intentional videos at that, that are, like, “Hey, Tom, what's up man?” So you can still get in front of somebody through technology without having to walk in the front door. The front door works for me because I've been doing it for so long, and I have studied the psychology of the buyer, of the receptionist, of the guy in the back smoking a cigarette when you walk around to the warehouse. I know what most of them are thinking before they even shake my hand or say hello because I've just been doing it for so long.
I'm more powerful in person because not only does the marketing piece cause this undeniable curiosity, but I can back it up right then and there. I don't go into a role when I go to work, dude. I'm The Copier Warrior 24/7.
Let me tell you right now that just getting it done gives you just that much more of a chance of setting an appointment, because you're not just cold dialing them and then nurturing them, and then six months later calling them again. They get it. They've figured you out already. So it's time to start changing the game. It's time to start saying “I can,” or “I will.”
Patrick: Even if you aren't bursting with creativity, just the effort of trying to do things differently can make a huge difference to people. This is great. So how can people learn a little bit more about you?
Dale: Just to go over to copywarior.com, and you can get to my YouTube page, you can check out my LinkedIn. Everything is pretty much backslash Copier Warrior (/copierwarrior) so Facebook, Twitter; you can find me on all these mediums. I do post different content.
Patrick: I can't thank you enough, Dale. This is marketing gold. Thank you so much for chatting with me today.
Dale: Absolutely. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate you.
We have a culture problem in the workplace today, and it's causing us to miss great opportunities.