It’s Time for an Intervention —Farquharson/Tedesco
Good morning and thanks for coming by on such short notice. We've been speaking to a great number of printing salespeople and selling owners and, well, quite frankly they are not happy about a few things. We felt it best if we addressed them directly with you. Oh, we're sorry to keep you all waiting in the lobby for so long. It wasn't done because we were busy or because we forgot about you. We kept you waiting simply because we could. Sure, it was juvenile payback, but we enjoyed it. Anyway, come on in to the conference room and sit down. We need to talk.
As we mentioned, we hear a lot of gripes and complaints regarding the way business gets done with print buyers everywhere. Lately, the volume and frequency of comments have gotten to the point where we really needed to step in and do something. Consider us to be the collective voice of the collective oppressed. The reason why we've asked you in is to talk about a few things that are on their minds. We've itemized the issues so that they can be more easily discussed and digested. Let's tackle them one at a time:
• To start on a positive note, thank you! It has been a genuine pleasure to do business with you over the years. In the past, you've demonstrated loyalty, you were accessible, and any issues we had were worked out fairly and to the satisfaction of both parties. We enjoyed lunch, played golf and went to ball games together. Our business relationship trickled over to a personal one. Yup, it's been great. That said...What happened? Why are we now treated like a guest at your Dinner for Schmucks and a commodity to be dispensed with at a whim?
• We'd like to make a simple request: Pick up the dang phone! Getting through to you—especially when we prospect—is like being the right caller on a radio show giveaway. It shouldn't be easier to get Springsteen tickets than to land just one appointment with a print buyer! Okay, we realize you get lots of calls, and we concede on the point that you can't talk to everyone.
As such, we are willing to offer up an idea for a compromise: You are free to delete our first three phone calls. After that, you must pick up. This way, you can maintain the giddy feeling that comes from having power and dominion over us, and we still get rewarded for diligence. That's a win-win, my friend. A second idea would be to have open hours once a month and grant us an audience.
• Another thought would be to set aside time each month giving sales reps you are currently not buying from the chance to come and discuss their products and services. You might think you have it all figured out, but what if there is a better print solution out there? You don't know what you don't know, and you won't know until you look around, you know?
• Next, we ask that when awarding a job, you consider more than just price. Why doesn't creativity matter any more? What about those times when we come up with the best print solution and you bid out our ideas anyway? That does little to encourage innovation on our part, not to mention the damage it does to our relationship. A good vendor is as important as a good customer. We are trained professionals who bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. What we ask in return is a fair shake at earning an order.
Don't Sell on Price Alone
To share an industry secret, lean in and listen hard because our voice is lowering. Here it is: There is always a lower price out there. Always. Always! You can chase that nickel down the road forever or you can make it a part of the decision. Which leads us to another point...
• Why do you talk out of both sides of your mouth? Your company isn't the lowest price in your industry. You don't sell on price alone, so why do you buy that way? Your salespeople build relationships and sell solutions. It says so right on your Website. How is it that you speak one philosophy and follow another? Hey, if you claim to be the lowest cost vendor then we certainly see how you'd buy that way, too. But, we ask that you walk the walk.
• That brings us to loyalty. Delivery times used to be measured in weeks, then days. Now, when we ask when you want it shipped, you respond, "What time is it now?" Yet, we comply. We rush orders. We drive them through snowstorms so that you will meet your deadline and ship your product on time.
It used to be that we knew you had our back when the bean counters came to ask why you didn't go with the lowest price. Now, you are naming us the "Vendor of the Year" and then throwing us out because you can get the job done 3 percent cheaper somewhere else. What gives?
It is clear that we are no longer in Kansas, and that the economy has brought about a lot of change. The old rules no longer apply. We get that. But, we respectfully request that you move the phaser setting from "kill" to "stun." That way our relationship can be a little less adversarial, more friendly and together we can weather these hard times.
For our part, we've changed. Honest! We saw the need to morph from being simply salespeople to business growth specialists—and we did. You can count on us to understand your business and its direction. We're no longer brought in merely at the quote stage of the job. Now, you can rely on us to come prepared with creative solutions.
Times are tough, but lighten up, and have lunch with us. Let's talk about new ideas. Let's challenge what is and discuss what's possible. You can talk about the fascinating world of buying print, and we'll pretend to listen intently. Then, we'll discuss the innovations in printing and you can count the number of times we use the phrase, "marketing services." Come on, it'll be fun.
So, again, thanks for coming. We had a good thing going once upon a time, and there is no reason why we can't return to that happy place: We call, you answer. We come, we meet. You speak, we learn. We advise, you ponder. We sell, you buy. Just like it used to be. Just like it can be again. And all you need to do is pick up that dang phone!!! PI
—Bill Farquharson, T.J. Tedesco
About the Authors
Bill Farquharson is the president of Aspire For (www.AspireFor.com). His Sales Challenge can help drive your sales momentum. Contact him at (781) 934-7036 or e-mail email@example.com. T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales, a 15-year-old marketing and PR services company. He is author of "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry" and five other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com 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 BillFarquharson.com.