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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."


Your Price Is Too High

One of my all time favorite Sales stories:

Many years ago, I was a well-established vendor at a company west of Boston called Technomed. I handled the company’s business forms and computer paper but longed to get into the part of their business that was far more lucrative: Their software manuals.

It was about this time that digital printing was becoming a factor and I was anxious to turn their photocopied material into print-on-demand books.

I was in cahoots with their Technical Writer, Jill. She and I had been working together, running tests to see if we could print directly from their electronic files (for the record, she backed them up to Colorado drives, if that means anything to you). Everything was running smoothly and I convinced Joanne, the Buyer, not to order 15,000 manuals in three-ring binders but rather eight sets of quantities of 50 to 100 instead. We were under deadline, but I assured the client that we could meet there March 31 delivery date.

However, there was one hitch: I could not give Joanne a definitive price since I was unsure of the page count. Jill was still writing up to the last minute, taking full advantage of the shorter production time. Reluctantly, Joanne gave me a purchase order number but added, “I’ve just given you a blank check. Do not take advantage of me.”

Fortunately, the job went smoothly and we produced a beautiful product in what was then state-of-the-art, 300 dpi quality. On the morning of the 31st, I dropped the boxes off personally and they were able to meet their Q1 commitments.

Returning to my office, I worked up a price and faxed it to the client.

The next day, I headed into Boston for a weekly meeting with my mentor, Len Peterson. Midway through our conversation, my cell phone rang. It was Joanne. I was expecting kudos and thanks but what I got instead was, “I just got your price. It’s ridiculous and way too high. I'm not paying it.”

Rut row!

With the air now gone from the room and all moisture gone from my mouth, I quickly regrouped as she continued, “We were paying around seven dollars a book. Your price is closer to 20. You will have to do better than that if you expect to see payment.”

Taking a deep breath to calm myself, I replied, “Joanne, we are not comparing apples for apples. You were printing thousands of manuals, tying up capital and eliminating any possibility to make a change before the inventory was exhausted. I printed a small quantity of high-quality manuals using a different process. Simple economies of scale would tell you that we can’t compare these prices. Yes, you are paying more. However, consider what you have gained in the process.”

I stopped to await further objections on her part. Instead, I heard giggling.


Joanne broke out to a full on belly laugh as I sat stunned in Len’s office. Finally, she stopped laughing long enough to deliver the punchline: “Bill, Happy April Fools’ Day!”

100 percent true story (trust me, I’m in sales).

Joanne would later tell me that I was not the first sales rep that she tricked that day. She jokingly said to the first one, “Your price is too high” and was shocked to hear the guy instantly provided a better one. She decided to keep calling until she came across someone who held his or her ground.

I was victim #4. Three boneheads before me needlessly coughed up profits instead of justifying their price.

If I had to guess, I’d say this occurred close to 20 years ago. I have told that story dozens and dozens of times in my seminars and I remember it happening with crystal-clear playback. It was a great lesson in my young sales career.

And fortunately, a great memory, too!

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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