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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."


What Dogs Can Teach Us About Sales

Note: Last week’s blog detailed a curious selling situation and asked for your help in advising a print sales on how to handle it. I promised you the rest of the story and here it is. SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t done so, go read it and then come back. Okay. Here’s what happened: The sales rep told the client he was unwilling to leave the mock up and insisted on meeting with the boss instead. The key contact was irate, seeing it as a challenge to her integrity and threw him out of the office. Right decision? Wrong decision? That’s a debatable matter. It is unfortunate that it worked out this way nonetheless.

I was always more of a cat person, having grown up in a feline household. Hanging out at my best friend’s house recently has given me an appreciation for the selling skills that dogs possess. I have come to believe there is much we can learn from the furry four-legged types:

1. Persistency pays off—Bear is an eight-year-old Siberian Husky. Believe me, if he were human, those blue eyes would melt every Buyer (not to mention every woman) within a 500 mile radius. Although he is not supposed to beg at the dinner table, Bear sits patiently staring down his prey. Time and again he is emphatically told, “No!” He treats this word as if he does not understand the English language (but then, why would he? He is Siberian! Perhaps if we said, “Nyet?”). He sits and waits, his eyes speaking for him. Eventually, his persistency pays off and he is rewarded with a tasty morsel.

2. Differentiate yourself—Bear’s new companion is Buddha, a four-month-old Husky (See picture below). Buddha could howl like Bear, but he doesn’t want to be a me-too dog. So, he has developed his own voice and his own style (chewing expensive furniture, for example). As a result, Buddha gets just as much, if not more, attention as his big brother.
[+] click to enlarge

3. When something goes wrong, don't make a fuss—
Inevitably, and the life of every dog, there’s going to be trouble. Things go missing, sofas get ruined (see the aforementioned furniture-as-a-chew-toy comment), or they wander out of their “sales territory.” Man is perhaps the only species that relives the past again and again. Dogs are magnificently uninterested in the past. If a mistake is made, they learn from it and move on. But then, if someone whacked me on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, I’d quickly change my ways, too!

4. Don’t worry about the competition. Worry about the customer—My friend also has a cat. It’s some fluffy, expensive breed whose mere existence is a constant irritant to The Boys. Still, Boo-Boo competes for attention. For a while, they chased It around (not sure of the cat's gender and I ain’t looking to find out) but when they realized that to be a waste of time, they used that energy to please the hands that feed them. Smart move.

Dogs have a natural advantage over salespeople. For the most part, they are cute and create an instant desire to love them or, at bare minimum, scratch behind their ear. We humans have to work much harder for that kind of attention. Still, we can learn a lot through observation.

Sit, Ubu, sit.

Bill Farquharson is a Vice President at NAPL. His training programs can drive the sales of print reps and selling owners. Check out his Sales Resources page and contact him at (781) 934-7036 or

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