10 Tips and Tricks for Printing Industry Sales Reps Who Are Now Selling From Their Homes
Two weeks after graduating college in 1982, I went to work selling business forms from a one-bedroom apartment in Worcester, Massachusetts. I had a bed, a kitchen table with two chairs, a small TV, and a couch. Without any other space available, my desk sat in the middle of the living room and from there — with no cell phone, fax machine, or internet — I went to work.
During the past 40 years, except for an 18-month time period, I have known and lived the life of the at-home salesman. My kids grew up thinking everyone’s dad works from home and were shocked when they learned otherwise. For me, COVID changed almost nothing regarding my work life. The only difference is that my desk moved from a spare bedroom to the basement when we bought a new house across town two years ago.
40 years of the best possible commuting situation has taught me a few things. And now that the rest of you have discovered what many of us have known all along — mobile selling is not only feasible, it’s better — I thought I would share some tips and tricks. Here are 10:
1. Set an alarm to start your day — The great misnomer about working from home is that we are up at the crack of noon, put in a couple of hours, and then grab our clubs for quick nine before cocktails and a massage. In reality, you are likely to still be in your pajamas at noon not because you just woke up, but rather that you grabbed a coffee and went right to your desk.
Everyone I know who has just started working from home says they are far more productive, work harder, and longer hours. To combat this, pick a time when you want to start your day and make that time reasonable, like 7:30 or 8 a.m. Then, set an alarm on your cell phone and vow not to start work until then. Eat a good breakfast, stretch, go for a walk, read the paper, etc. This is your chance to live a healthier lifestyle.
2. Take hourly breaks — With no meetings to attend and far fewer interruptions, time will slip by and you will find you’ve spent hours sitting at your desk. Force yourself to get up and walk around. The Apple Watch reminds me at 50 minutes passed every hour to move. I listen to it.
There’s nothing worse than lying in bed at night mentally exhausted but not physically tired because you simply didn’t go anywhere. I’ll grab my guitar and put in five or 10 minutes of practice. I also shoot for daily exercise, walking even if it’s raining. I see these breaks as an investment, not a distraction. I do better work when I keep the juices flowing.
3. Mix in some personal tasks — This one is hard for me, but I have found it to be incredibly helpful. Harnessed with my father’s work ethic and only-work-during-working-hours thinking, I would find even the most productive workday could result in frustration since I would then be faced with enough personal tasks to fill up the entire weekend. When I started blending the two, the satisfaction of checking off both business and personal tasks resulted in a palatable improvement all around.
4. Work harder in the winter months — Compare January with July. New England winters are long, cold, and dark. Summer, while the polar opposite, is short. If it’s 75° on a Tuesday in July and the golf course calls my name, my ability to say, “Be right there, my darling,” is possible because I worked extra hard and extra long six months earlier.
5. Set some ground rules with your family — An office at home means nothing to a teenager. In fact, they are shocked when we speak to them about walking right into our office or we don’t answer the phone when they call us from a different part of the house!
The deal we make with our kids is that we will be completely present to them if they keep interruptions to a minimum (we define “minimum” as “Really? This couldn’t wait?”). As for background chaos, COVID reset expectations to the point where even wearing pants is a, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” situation.
6. Get mobile — When the kids are at school, I try to take advantage of the fact that while I work from home, where I work from can be in the living room, outside on the deck, or even from the couch here in the basement. Taking a call, reading, or thinking through an issue can be done from anywhere and in any room.
In 2013, I rode my motorcycle from Boston to San Francisco. My helmet is equipped with bluetooth. Rest areas have benches. If I can accomplish that, you can certainly walk into another part of the house and handle the task at hand.
7. Purchase a good set of wireless noise canceling headphones — Apple's in-ear AirPod Pros are excellent for taking the edge off with ambient noise while allowing for hands-free work. They are a must for selling from home. The next step up is to add the obnoxiously expensive AirPod Max or Bose over-ear, noise-killing, world-eliminating option. I’m not going to tell you going that additional expense is a must, but every once in a while when I need complete isolation, they are worth every penny. And speaking of isolation …
8. Get out — When you go from a busy office environment to working from a spare bedroom in an empty house, the difference is so radical, it’s hard for many to adjust. Try to find a meet-up buddy. Whether it’s for a quick cup of coffee or hitting a bucket of balls together down at the driving range, you achieve the dual benefit of human connection and recess.
9. Work when the work is there and don’t force it when it’s not — I wish I had a clever term for this or something I could trademark and share while sitting opposite Oprah as she interviews me, but there is a strong connection between emotion, energy level, and task. For example, don’t force yourself to be creative, but if you are feeling it, choose a task from your list that requires creativity.
10. Pick a time to quit work and stick to it — This will be not only your most difficult tip to follow, but the most important. While I admit there are certain times when you need to put in extra hours, this should be the extreme exception. Working more dilutes the quality of your work. Conversely, working less, you will sell more.
My 1,200 words are up so, sadly, I can’t back up that last statement. It’s mid-afternoon. My guitar is lonely and I bet Allison can be convinced to go for a walk. That break/walking meeting will recharge me for a final project or two before quitting time.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.