Author Archives: Bill Farquharson

About Bill Farquharson

Epicomm Vice President Bill Farquharson previously served as President of Aspire For, a sales training and consulting firm in Duxbury, MA, and is a 30+ year sales veteran in the print and form industries. He has trained thousands of print sales representative, sales managers, and “selling owners” with a highly successful, no-nonsense “old school” approach. His unique training programs—The Sales Challenge, The Mobile Sales Club, and Tuesday eWorkshops—have become an industry standard for driving new business. Bill has trained and coached sales people from Xerox, Fuji Xerox, HP Indigo, Heidelberg, EFI, Konica-Minolta, and others. An active columnist and blogger for Printing Impressions magazine, PIWorld.com, he also shares two weekly electronic eblasts each week with thousands worldwide: Monday Video Sales Tip and Friday Short Attention Span Webinars. Bill received a B.A. degree in Marketing from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and worked in sales at UARCO Business Forms, Advanced Form Systems, and Print Tec Network, prior to founding his own firm. At home, Bill is kept busy with the expanding activities of his three daughters and “watching his hair turn grayer as a result.”

How I got a buyer fired…

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My client, a furniture store “chain,” had a long history of wrapping their arms around their clients and sticking with them for years. They weren’t about price. They were about relationships, expertise, and trust. It was even in their company slogan.

Their sales reps were not compensated on a commission basis so you had the feeling that they were there to ensure that you made the right decision for you and not for their paycheck. Their TV ads were folksy and family-oriented, even the ones that sought new employees. Everything about them was relationship-based and everyone there had that same mentality.

Everyone, that is, except for Michelle.

Michelle was the new Print Buyer. I was the long-established, incumbent print provider. I knew the brothers who took over the family’s furniture business long before it caught Warren Buffett’s eye and was bought for a quarter billion dollars. My sales calls weren’t exactly like Norm walking into Cheers, but they were close. I knew everyone there.

Michelle rapidly changed all of that, focusing more on price than relationship. Service and new ideas were secondary. Price was the new king.

First, I lost the business cards. Then the letterhead. Next, the computer invoices. The crown jewel was the presentation folders they’d tuck the invoices into. Twice a year that order generated enough profit to buy a german sports car (used, but at least it had leather seats). The next reorder was two months away and already I could predict what was coming. Death was eminent and it arrived with the words, “I got a better price. Sorry.”

How does a company sell with one philosophy and buy with another?

The letter I wrote to the company President stopped short of being accusatory, but I was certain that if he held it up to the light they could read “Hypocrites!” between the lines. They preached value and loyalty but bought on price. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right. I even included samples showing the lower quality and inviting them to check in with other long-time vendors. My argument was simple: Price or Relationship: Which are you?

Other vendors were called and their long-standing relationships were also being ignored for want of a better price. The President and his brother first reassigned Michelle and eventually fired her.

All of this occurred long ago. There was no website to peruse where I could have checked on their Selling Philosophy. Today, you have the opportunity to research a company prior to picking up the phone. It’s right there in the website and couldn’t be clearer: A company that sells on price buys on price. A company that sells on relationship should buy on that same foundation.

Should. Not always. But should.

Naturally, it doesn’t always happen. But at least you can know what you are getting yourself into. If the website reads, “We are the cheapest flooring provider in all of the Midwest!” you should also hear them say, “Vendors beware. We buy on price!” If a company claims to be relationship-based with their customers and practices something else, point it out. Gently. You might be able to change the outcome of your interactions.

The boys became millionaires many times over. Michelle went to work for a movie theater chain. I went on to fame and fortune at NAPL.

You’ve gotta love happy endings!

 

The Time Management Centerboard

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Sailing itself, while detail oriented, is a simple concept. So is Time Management. There is preparation and planning and there’s execution. What occurred to me as I was splashing through Duxbury (MA) Bay in a Marshall 15 is that my sailboat moves when the wind pushes it, but the direction is determined mostly by the tiller and the centerboard. The whole experience is a great metaphor for time management. Let me ‘splain, Lucy….

In order to effectively manage your time (sail your boat), you need to be prepared. You must rig your craft and chart a course by determining what the day will bring. Next, you must prioritize your activities by thinking about what is most important as you sail from one point to the next, skillfully turning your craft using your tiller to control the direction you day will take.

All the while, your organization (or lack thereof) is acting like a centerboard. It prevents you from being blown all over the ocean and becoming scattered and lost. And to make matters worse, the vibrations of the day’s events can act to push that centerboard up and reduce your effectiveness. Even the best laid plans need constant monitoring in order to keep that centerboard moving your boat in its desired direction.

To make the most of your selling day, you’ll need to properly rig your boat and chart an efficient course. Any sailor will tell you that it’s the prep you do while sitting at the dock that makes for a good sail. Without effective time management, you are likely to end up on a deserted island with Gilligan, The Professor, Marianne, Ginger, Thurston Howell III and Lovey. That is that last thing any Skipper wants. After all, it was only supposed to be a three hour tour. A three hour tour.

11 Reasons Why Selling Owners Won’t Sell

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The Selling Owner (workimus maximus sellimus minumus) is a breed in and of itself. Generally appearing at dawn and disappearing late at night, this is an active beast and one that wears many hats: Customer Service, Accounting, Delivery, Press/Bindery Stand In, and often, Janitor.

The one hat that gathers dust is that of Sales.

Very often, the Selling Owner lets that one sit undisturbed until it is absolutely, positively necessary. It certainly wasn’t in the job description way back when. Clients would come in, hand over a job, and chat it up in a Mayberry RFD kind of way. Good times. Today, sadly, it’s sell or die for the Selling Owner and yet too many sit frozen staring at the quiet phone, wondering when Opie is going to come in and order some copies of Aunt Bea’s new book: Things I Found in My Hairdo One Day.

Why won’t the Selling Owner sell? There are probably more reasons than these, but here are the top 11 that I hear in my conversations, both verbal and electronic:

  • Don’t want to
  • Don’t see the need
  • No time (perception and reality)
  • Don’t know who to call on
  • Don’t know what to say
  • Too many distractions—everyone and everything else comes first
  • Lack of commitment
  • No accountability
  • Procrastination (“I’ll do it first thing” becomes “I’ll do it before lunch” becomes “I’ll do it before I leave” becomes “I’ll do it first thing” and the cycle repeats)
  • “I’m not a sales guy” or “I’m not the type”

But, I must say, the number one reason why Selling Owners won’t sell is Fear.

Calling on the Unknown Customer is terrifying and it keeps them frozen. Necessity being the mother on Intervention, their shrinking profits might be the one thing that gets them out there, but hopefully they won’t wait that long.

Picture yourself as a child standing on the edge of a pool. You look at the water and think, “I’ll bet it’s cold.” You stand there for a while trying to talk yourself in to jumping before your Accountant or Spouse comes along and pushes you. Either way, once you finally do leave the safety of the edge, you find it’s not as bad as you thought. The water actually feels good and you remember how much fun you had the last time you were surrounded by water. You move your arms and legs and not only stay afloat, but actually do some laps, correctly asking yourself “I was afraid of this?

Are you on the edge? Is Fear holding you back? Well, I have a suggestion: Take the plunge and come on in. The water’s fine!

The “Print is Dead” Objection

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If you Google the question, “What percentage of email is SPAM?” the answers range from a minimum of 88% to a high water mark of 94%. That is incredible when you think about it.

I don’t have a grasp on the number of emails that I receive, but I know that when I come in to the office in the morning, there are typically 30 emails waiting for me and only 4 or 5 avoid my filter.

A few hours later, before lunch, I head to my mail box. Increasingly, it’s spectacularly unencumbered by mail. Gone are the solicitations and colored postcards. Only an occasional paper bill and a check, the local weekly newspaper, and a handwritten letter from my mom and dad remain.

While I was gone, eleven more emails came in, only one of which is personal. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. And now I am ready for work. Annoyed, but ready for work.

It’s funny to think about what has happened. Our clients have decided to stop mailing. A common objection is now, “Print is dead. We are putting everything on the web.” In theory, that works. I mean, if you don’t print and you don’t mail, you’ll save a bundle.

But….

How are people going to find out about your website? Through Facebook? Seriously? Are customers delusional enough to think that their company is so fascinating that customers are waiting on their every Tweet?

Oh, I see. They are planning to use broadcast email. Perfect! Constant Contact is a wonderful company. I use it myself, in fact. But the definition of SPAM is unrequested email communication and those companies have, at best, an 88% chance that the customer is going to see the email.

Meanwhile, across town, the mailbox is empty. What little that does arrives is unique and different and gets scrutinized and reviewed. Hmmmmmm…..

In the rush to save money and cut costs, companies are instead cutting ties and lifelines with prospects and customers. Print is an integral part of any social media campaign. Mailings drive traffic to websites. Variable data connects the specifics gathered in the “Contact Us” process and delivers information that is relevant.

Print is dead? Not to those who seek to differentiate. Not to those who want to find an underutilized and spacious medium, one that is uncluttered and familiar. Before all of the lemmings jump off of the cliff, let’s remind our customers where print fits. Just don’t put the message in an email.