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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."


Print Buyer Office Hours: An Idea Revisited

Dear Print Buyers (no, make that Dear Purchasing Agents of all kinds):

My name is Bill Farquharson. As a sales trainer, I constantly hear how difficult it is to get your attention. My clients leave voice-mail messages trying to gain an appointment with you. As a blogger, I constantly hear from you about how annoying it is to get 50-60 voice mails a day from sales people like my clients.

What if I could solve this problem for you both? What if I had a solution that would empty your inbox and strip away those repetitive requests? What if this solution gave the sales reps a voice and the chance to dance before their desired partners? Would you give it a try?

Good. Here’s my idea: Let them in.

That’s right. You heard me.

Take the appointment.

Hear me out...

How much time do you spend each month wading through unwanted emails and voice-mail messages asking for a appointment? Give me a number. OK, I can’t hear your answer, so I’m going to come up with a ridiculously low one of my own and say, two hours.

Again, I am going to assume that you spend a minimum of two hours each month on tasks related to deleting messages from unknown sales people. It’s probably more like two hours a week, but I’ll start here just to make my point.

Let’s repurpose those two hours a month.

What if you set up office hours similar to what professors do in college? Every month you set aside two hours to meet with new sales people and hear their pitches. Make each appointment 10 minutes long and you can “process” 12 reps a month. In 10 minute intervals, a sales rep gets to introduce him/herself and present his/her sales pitch.

Now, a 10 minute appointment isn’t much, but it sure eliminates the small talk and cuts to the chase. It slices the fat off of the bone and forces the rep to state his/her case using an economy of words. You can even prep the rep by establishing rules, like:
  • “You get 10 minutes. Use it wisely”
  • “Again, you get 10 minutes. Not 11. I’m well, thank you. Yes, the weather sure is crazy. Know that coming in and get to your point.”
  • “Be prepared to tell me what your products or services will do to help my company.”
  • “Do your homework before you arrive. The more talking I do, the less time you have to present to me.”

If you like what you hear, you can set up another appointment. If not, you can thank the rep for his/her time and that’s that. And you’ll never hear from that rep again. Ever.

Think of the upside of this idea:
  • Twelve less people a month vying for your attention.
  • You hear 12 new ideas and 12 new ways to help your company.
  • You can direct those emails and voice mails to the online appointment system where they sign up for their 10 minutes of fame
  • If you don’t listen to new ideas, how do you know you currently have the best solution? You don’t know what you don’t know. You know?

Want to double the effectiveness of this idea? Have an assistant or another set of valued ears welcome an additional 12 reps and act as a pre-screener. After all, Carrie Underwood didn’t get to sing to Randy and Simon without first belting out a tune to a couple of key grips first.

This is not the first time I have proposed this idea, my dear purchasing agents, nor will it be my last. Because I hear from both sides and I am passionate about this solution, I will continue to put it out there in the hopes that someone tries it and reports back in to me or my friend and fellow blogger Margie Dana that, “Yes, it worked!” Then the word will spread throughout the land and this problem will solved and there will be much rejoicing.

Until then, I will continue to nag.

Bill has resources range from free (archived “Sales Tips” and “Short Attention Span Webinars”) to economical (“The Sales Challenge” and the new “Tuesday eWorkshops”). Go to for more information or contact Bill at 781-934-7036 or

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