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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."


First Order Screw Ups

There is not much in the life of a sales rep more frustrating that an order that goes bad. We work so hard for the appointment and then the presentation and then the quoting and finally the order only to get that dreaded phone call from the client, “The job just arrived. I need to see you immediately.”

After the problem is solved, the next step is the reprint. Oh, wait! There’s actually something that goes in between those two events: The Blame Game. Similar to hearing about someone’s divorce, it’s a rare occasion when a sales rep’s first words on the subject have to do with what he or she could have done to prevent this from happening. Naturally, the specs were perfect and the special instructions were crystal clear. All Production had to do was press the magic button, for crying out loud, toss the finished items in a box, and ship it to the customer.

So easy, even a caveman could do it.

Especially disappointing is when the first order you do for a customer goes awry. While there is never a good time for this to happen, this one hurts most of all. You’ve made a number of promises regarding your quality and plant and staff and now this. Ugh!

Although you are not running the press and you are not in bindery or finishing and you probably had nothing to do with the artwork, I still think there is a certain amount of responsibility you have as the salesperson to make certain that this job goes 100 percent perfectly. I typically do not recommend that someone mother their order, but every rule has an exception and this is it.

First, make certain that your specs are accurate and that you have communicated everything that you need to communicate. If there are any questions, check with the customer. In fact, it might be a good idea to confirm everything with the client.

Second, inform Production that this is a new customer and ask the job to be flagged as such. You might even go so far as to speak to the Production Manager personally and ask for his or her involvement.

Third, make certain that your eyes are on this job before it ships. Often times, simple errors go out the door unnoticed; errors that could easily have been avoided.

Mistakes happen and sometimes there is nothing you could do about them. But given how hard you have worked and how much you have at stake, you must get involved with the process and ensure that first order screw ups are rare.

Bill Farquharson is a Vice President at NAPL. His training programs can drive the sales of printed reps and selling owners. Contact him at (781) 934-7036 or

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