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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."


The Top Five Sales Hiring Mistakes

Note from Bill: I have asked my friend Tom Bastian to stand in for me this week. He had read the Print Confession ghost blog from May 3 and wanted to add his 2¢ worth. Thanks, Tom. The floor is all yours...

I read the “How to Find Your Next Print Sales Job” Print Confessions blog with great interest. In it, a recruiter gives specific suggestions for landing a print job. Bill asked me to expand on those thoughts and come up with the Top Five Sales Hiring Mistakes.

5) Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Over the years, I’ve had many of the proverbial “pretty people” interview with me. Don’t misunderstand me; there is nothing wrong with attractive people. But hiring managers sometimes get caught up thinking “this person would be great representing our company.” Yes, I do believe in dressing for success, but make sure you don’t hire an empty suit.

4) Falling for the “book of business” scheme.

Too many printers are looking for the immediate shot in the arm for their businesses. In these times, this is very understandable. Be careful, though. Ask to see the candidates W-2s for the previous three years. See if there is a trend up or down in earnings and ask questions about what it means. Who are the sales rep’s customers? Are they still buying print? How much of the business is in one or two accounts. Will these accounts follow them?

3) Hiring only sales reps with a “book of business.”

Beyond falling for sales candidates who claim to have a book, many printing companies overlook “diamonds in the rough.” I understand it can be cost prohibitive, but printers should have a training program in place for those candidates with the sales DNA and just need help getting starting. These types with be your best reps in the long run. In most cases, they feel a loyalty to those who give them the opportunity, so make sure you help them succeed!

2) As a hiring manager, make sure you set clear short- and long-term objectives for new reps.

Set up monthly or quarterly meetings to monitor their progress. If they were hired with the understanding that they have a book of business (thus, a higher salary or draw), hold them accountable. This should all be in writing.

Ask questions in a helpful, not interrogating manner. In most cases, rookies become discouraged. Keep them positive and upbeat and offer your help when needed. If you are not seeing results, don’t keep them around…it’s too costly! I suggest that three to six months is a good trial period.

1) Do your homework!

A recruiter can “blow blue skies” at you, but you are making the investment. Check references and with other people who may know this candidate. Read between the lines of the resume and examine any gaps in time. Has the candidate written a business plan.

Also, administer a personality test (there are many good ones online.) You want this person to fit in with your company’s culture. The more homework you do, the better the chance you’ll make a great, long-term investment in your sales rep.

Tom Bastian is an executive recruiter in the graphic arts industry. He can be reached at (214) 504-8460 or


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