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.

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."
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  • Jon

    I love it! In 1982 when I first started in sales MANY companies had office hours and it gave both parties the opportunity to learn something new and help their companies grow.

  • margiedana

    Hi, Bill – it is a very good idea and one I’ve written about, too. So i’m on your side (not always the case, am i right!? :). If organized and scheduled correctly/tightly, just like those professors you alluded to, i believe a lot can be communicated and learned. Buyers will get good at interviewing. Reps will get good at cutting to the chase. Thanks for posting this!

  • Gina Danner

    The challenge with this idea is the assumption that people/ companies buy as they did in 1982. They don’t. They do more research before they will talk to anyone. They search the internet for compelling ideas and become educated early on. One statistic indicates that buyers are 60% down their buying cycle before they engage anyone to sell them anything. They search out the people that are experts.

    Sales people and print providers need to do a better job of educating and providing compelling sales and marketing messages. The messaging needs to compel the buyer to get engaged.

  • Jim Stiles

    Your article caught my eye. Having been invited to a 10 min meeting before I would like to add my 2 cents from the supplier’s point of view. Many companies have grown with the times and today offer a wide variety of solutions to their clients. This has changed the selling process from a “speech about services” to a more constructive conversation discussing what the client’s real needs are. We as a supplier have found we can better target our offerings to those needs. Uncovering those needs in 10 minutes would be difficult and may cause the vendor to inadvertently leave out the one service that could truly help the client. May I suggest a slightly longer meeting with a few less vendors? The buyer has a wealth of information made available to them from the internet and perhaps they could use that information to target in on a few vendors who offer services that may appeal to solving their current issues and problems. I would be afraid that the buyer could be missing out by not completely understanding exactly how a vendor can help in a short 10 min meeting.

  • Thomas Urban

    Hey, Bill You Had me~ at Make the appointment!

  • Mary Ann Fong

    I like the idea, and believe it or not, practice it. I give potential suppliers 1/2 hour, and I’m thinking now that I will reduce that time.

    What I find really interesting, though, is how the salesperson follows up. What I need demonstrated in a follow up call is that he/she learned something about my business or needs. All too frequently, all I get are "Do you have anything to quote?" calls and emails.