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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."


Let Me Give You Some Feedback

I had a professor at the University of Alabama named Dr. John Bickley. Dr. B was a truly extraordinary teacher, one who stays with you for years after you have left his class—not just for the in-class lessons he taught us, but for the lifelong lessons as well. For example...

Dr. B had the habit of rating his customer experiences long before it became in vogue to send out customer satisfaction surveys after each bloody phone call. He was a frequent flier and would regularly drop a note in the mail to United Airlines to tell the company what he thought of his most recent flight. It was nothing special, just a lined index card with a few thoughts jotted down on it.

He never got any response or recognition from United. Not one...that is, until he stopped sending notes. When he left his job at the University of Texas and moved to Tuscaloosa, he no longer flew and thus stopped sending his comments to United. One day, he got a phone call from someone there. They were wondering what happened to him and, once they found out he was fine, thanked him profusely for the comments. They were listening all that time and loved the compliments and suggestions. (Trust me, Dr. B NEVER criticized. He just told you what to do better next time! God, but I miss him!)

This afternoon, I received a text message from my daughter Kate. She runs the Genius Bar for Apple computer and was enjoying a sandwich at Nordstrom’s Cafe. Kate raved on and on about the quality of the meal and the service: “If Apple made sandwiches, this is what it would be like,” she wrote. High praise, indeed, coming from someone who knows a little bit about customer service.

My reply? “Tell them. They need the feedback.” She wrote back, “Already did. I’m your daughter, remember? It made their day!”

“It made their day.” That was easy, huh? Free, too. So, why aren’t we doing it more? Do you like the smile the Starbucks clerk gave you? Tell her. It’s not sexual harassment. It’s a friggin’ compliment. Overhear someone handling a customer complaint with grace? When it’s your turn in line, comment on it. It will mean something. Give praise profusely, honestly and freely.

I believe that our attitude dictates much of our success, both in sales and in life. Paying a compliment not only makes someone else’s day, it makes us stand a little taller as well.

Dr. John Bickley was an extraordinary teacher and gave me lessons that I still employ. I was fortunate to see him a few years ago prior to his death and thank him for everything he did for that 20-year-old Yankee exchange student. My kids tease me, calling me the mayor of our town because I engage everyone in conversation and practice what he taught me. It’s good to know that Kate, Emma and Madeline are passing it on. Now, it’s your turn. Go give some feedback.

Class dismissed.

Bill’s next Sales Challenge starts Sept. 7. Go to for more information or to sign up.


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