Argentine Gustavo Hermida tells Ricoh Family how he became top salesman for Ricoh Corporation in New York.
RF: What inspired your move to the U.S.?
Mr. Hermida: I came to America like thousands of other people do, in search of opportunity. I’ve always been fascinated with this country, with its people, culture, and that Yankee practicality.
RF: Could you, perhaps, tell us something of your background in Argentina?
Mr. Hermida: I was born in Lobos, a small town in the countryside. My father was a barber and my mother a dressmaker. We move to Buenos Aires by the time I was 13. While I was in high school, I started a small business with a friend, providing disc jockey services at weddings, birthdays, and social events. By the time I was 18, we had a sizable business with over 25 people working for us part-time. This job helped me to support myself all through high school and college.
RF: What problems did you have to overcome in moving to the U.S.?
Mr. Hermida: I faced the problems that many immigrants face when they move to a strange new country. I arrived in the U.S. in 1979, and at that time I spoke almost no English. On top of that, I had left all my family and friends back in Argentina. Fortunately, I had a relative living here who helped me during my first years. In 1980 I met my wife Maxine, whom I married in 1982. She has been a very big part of my life, always supporting me and encouraging me to succeed.
RF: To what would you attribute your success?
Mr. Hermida: I think my background played a large part. I had a good education and was exposed to the business world at an early age. I was brought up in an environment that encouraged me to succeed and excel. I have always had big dreams, and I think that is a big plus. A salesman has to have a dream; it is basic to the work.
When you have a product you believe in, and you explain that belief sincerely to your customers, the battle is half over. I have always taken a careful interest in my customers’ needs and shown how our product can meet them. I think that to sell Ricoh products one has to stress that there is more to the product than its appearance and features. A Ricoh copier is made with quality. And Ricoh takes quality very seriously as shown by the two Deming awards we have won.
RF: How yould you describe the sales area in which you are working?
Mr. Hermida: My territory is in Manhattan and the competition is extremely tough. Each account in my territory is visited by an average of seven salespeople a day, sometimes asking the very same questions. There are 23 different copier brands represented in Manhattan by over 1,000 sales reps. The level of competition makes life very difficult. As a branch of Ricoh Corporation, we have less pricing flexibility than a small privately owned dealership. Sometimes dealers will sell the product at a very low profit margin making it very hard for us to compete.
RF: How do you deal with this problem?
Mr. Hermida: Prospecting in New York is not so easy. Many companies have trained their receptionists to steer away salespeople. Unless sales reps are well trained in their questioning techniques, they may leave the office with the wrong information, or none at all. I have always believed that a sales rep must always remember the basics: Prospecting, qualifying, demonstrating and closing. Although every customer is different, those four steps should always be there. Once you find an interested prospect, you must ask all the questions necessary to make a proper recommendation. In the demonstration, you should remember all the customer’s important needs and explain how the Ricoh copier will meet those needs. It is also important to ask for feedback during the demonstration to clarify any misunderstandings. If a sales rep covers the first three phases of the sales cycle properly, closing should be straightforward. I have always adapted my selling style to this cycle.
RF: What advice would you give to sales people in other areas?
Mr. Hermida: Cover your territory extensively so that you have around 25 closeable prospects at all times. Cover each and every step of the sales cycle thoroughly – an unanswered question may be the only thing your competition needs to make its sale. Be positive and sincere. Ricoh gives you the big advantage of a very strong product; just explain that to your customer and success will be yours.
RF: What does the future hold for you and the company?
Mr. Hermida: Ricoh is unquestionably a leader in the industry. Our reputation for quality manufacturing is a tremendous advantage. I hope to see Ricoh’s marketing group develop a common philosophy that addresses the needs of a changing marketplace. Introducing products that meet those needs effectively and reliably is a challenge we cannot pass up. I think Ricoh’s best years are to come.
Ricoh has provided me the opportunity I was searching for when I came to the U.S. I feel a part of the family and I am grateful to Ricoh for having welcomed me aboard. In the future, I hope to repay this trust by further contributing to the progress of the company.