Ultimate Deathmatch: Production vs. Sales

(To listen to an audio recording of Bill Farquharson reading his latest blog post, click the embedded player or download the linked mpg3 file.)

What is it about the rivalry that exists between the Production Department and Sales People? As long as I have been in sales, I have been aware of its presence. That doesn’t mean I understand it, however.

I vividly remember the first time I ever walked by a printing press. We were in Watseka, IL, at a UARCO Business Forms plant and I noticed the way the pressman was looking at me as I walked by. He had a “MINE!” look in his eyes in a “Touch it. I dare you!” kind of way.

At first I thought it was simply disdain. But I soon realized it was something more—Superiority. He was looking down his nose at the new sales people parade that was going by him. In retrospect, my “Hey, what does this button do?” joke probably didn’t help.

Years later, I was summoned to Rochester, NY, to visit a printing company whose president was a friend with a problem. He’d cut production back to 30 hours a week and it did not go over well. On a Friday afternoon, he was visited by the entire production team. Tim told me, “I thought they were going to lynch me!”

Instead, they walked him down to the sales department. Not one of the six sales people was there. Gone for the day, and it was 2:30 in the afternoon. Their point was not lost on Tim: If sales were selling, production could be producing and everyone would be making more money.

More than once, I have heard both sales people and production utter words similar to, “Without me, this place would crumble.” Both think they are not only VITAL to the operation, but the MOST IMPORTANT PART of the operation. Naturally, they are both important and neither more than the other…but try telling THEM that!

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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  • http://iprint iprint

    No one was there at 2:30 in the office ‘cuz they were all out pounding the pavement and visiting new prospects!

  • http://MartinNuiver Martin Nuiver

    Dear Bill,

    In my 30 year sales career this has never been a problem for me. I also believe that it is unhealthy for a printing company and can be solved with common sense.

    The role of sales versus the role of production involves mutual respect for the role the other plays but, more than that, the respect for the job done and its importance. The person who fills, seals and stacks the boxes on the pallet has unique ability and skill to do that job well and it is a vital link in sales and company success.

    Through employee education all employees should have an understanding of the elements of each job and the challenges for each. With that knowledge will come mutual respect, reasonable and achievable productivity expectations, and, best of all, people who will surpass those expectations.

    Sales Tip: Thank someone on the production floor each time you walk through and grab a box and put it a pallet once in awhile too.

    Martin Nuiver

  • http://BillFarquharson Bill Farquharson

    Wishful thinking, igprint. In this case, Tim found them all doing, um, extracurricular activities. What I didn’t write was what happened next….

    I created a coaching program which I first called Get Sales NOW! and now call it The Mobile Sales Club. It got Tim’s reps prospecting in a specific manner and created some sales momentum. I added coaching and accountability to keep them moving forward. Finally, I reminded them that they are part of a team and need to be sensitive to the fact that their efforts directly effect the paychecks of others.

    In addition, I talked with the Production team about what it is like to be a sales rep and enjoy the freedom of being able to scoot out early. That’s why we choose Sales, to make our own hours.

    It took two months for the new sales activity to show up in the form of orders but the actions and efforts paid off. I can’t say that Production likes Sales any more than before, but at least there is a better understanding between the two factions.

  • http://Kelly Kelly

    Bill, Working in that type of environment for about 15 years, I did everything in my power to break those barriers. I instiututed production appreciation luncheons when we had a particularly good month, or production really hustled for us. I brought in breakfast, cookies, candy – anything I could think of to tell them I appreciated them. More importantly, though, I TALKED to the pressmen – Asked their opinions, and even sought their help. They have ideas, too. They want to be acknowledged as experts – valued members of the team. Let them shine during tours – compliment them in front of customers – you’ll get far with them if you do!

  • http://Joel Joel

    The fact is, everyone in an organization is involved in sales. it doesn’t matter whether it’s the sales person, pressman or delivery person. Everyone is involved with the customer experience. Customers don’t just purchase a product, they buy into the experience of buying a product. Restaurants figured out a long time ago that they weren’t selling food. Why can’t printers figure it out as well?.

  • http://Craig Craig

    Its quite obvious where to start getting things into a more balanced level between production and sales. Start with doing your job as the pressmen are doing theirs. How many times has a pressman done something like buying a salesman a pizza or doughnuts, or just walking up to you and saying thank you, NEVER! If one of them did, how would you feel? You would feel like buying him two pizza’s the very next time he printed one of your jobs, that way you feel you are the superior one or I have the better job than you. Sounds bad I know, but that’s the truth.


    Say hi when you pass by, (all the time not just when your in a good mood). And also let him handle the customer on signoffs, and before you know it you might be playing golf with a pressman on Sunday.