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Bill Farquharson

The Sales Challenge

By Bill Farquharson

About Bill

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."


A Tale of Two Price Objections

At the end of last year, I was faced with two subscription renewal decisions—The Wall Street Journal and Sirius Radio. Previously in both cases I have successfully played the game I call, “Holy crap are you people stupid or what?”

Here’s how the game is played:

1) My subscription comes to an end.

2) I call customer service to cancel.

3) If they don’t immediately drop the price, I cancel.

4) Often on the spot, but at the latest within two weeks, I receive a phone call, email or letter with miraculous news: They want me back and are willing to drop the price in return for my renewal.

This latest experience, however, was quite different...

On Wednesday, Dec. 26, I called The Journal. In the past, it’s amazing how quickly the cost has gone from a $99 introductory rate to a $212 regular rate and then back to a special rate that they just happened to find, all by saying “I quit.” In our world, that would be like the customer saying, “Your price is too high.”

So, I told the annoying recording that I wanted to cancel, and was immediately routed to someone specially chosen for their kindness and ability to express empathy while quietly urging the customer to reconsider.

Or so I thought.

My WSJ customer service rep’s name was Michael. I told him I wish to cancel my subscription. He said all the usual things (“Sorry to see you go. You’ve been a loyal customer. Blah, blah, blah.”) and I thought I knew what was coming next, “Would you stay if I could give you a better price?”

Instead, Michael told me, “Our new CEO has done away with playing games. Now, everyone pays the same rate: $25.99 a month. You are currently paying less than $18 a month. The only way to keep that price is to hold onto your subscription and I’m not sure that I can even hold that price for you past your renewal date.” (Those were his exact words).

Michael then added, “The Wall Street Journal is the number one newspaper in the country and the only one whose subscription is growing. (All true. I looked it up!) You, yourself, told me how much you enjoy reading it on a daily basis. (Yup. I’d said that. Dang it!) The newsstand price is $2. You are currently paying $.64. If you quit and come back later, you’ll do so at a rate of $1. Again, that’s if I can hold your current price. Let me talk to my Supervisor.”

And away he went.

Suddenly, rather than looking forward to a steep discount, I found myself fighting to maintain the crappy price that a minute ago I loathed paying! How on earth did this happen?

When Michael returned with the “good news” that I was grandfathered in to the old rate, I gratefully renewed. Whew! That was a close one.

Having lost the first game to The Journal and it clever, “Our product is worth every penny!” pricing strategy, I turned my attention to Sirius Radio.

Fortunately, my experience with them went as expected: I quit. They cut their renewal price in half to $94.20. I stayed.

For the record, The Wall Street Journal kept me on the phone for nearly 20 minutes, including hold-time of just under 60 seconds. Sirius Radio reverted to the fetal position, caved on price, and had me off the phone in 12 minutes, nine of which were spent on hold (this, after the system had predicted I’d only have to wait four minutes).

Is The Wall Street Journal worth 64¢ a day to me? Hell, yes! Will it be worth one dollar a day when my subscription expires? Probably, but don’t tell them that.

And what about Sirius Radio? Is it worth the price that I would’ve paid had the company not dropped its drawers? Hell, yes! Fortunately for me, it still believes in playing the game as titled: “Holy crap are you people stupid or what?”

Kudos to The Journal. You called my bluff and beat me. You recognize that you have an outstanding product and stand by it.

As for Sirius Radio, don’t be so quick to give in. You’ve established a pattern now, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. I’ll talk to you again same time next year!

It’s a good thing printers don’t play that game, huh?

Bill can be reached at 781-934-7036 or Visit his website for more information on his various sales training programs.

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