A Memorable Sales Anniversary
Note: The timing of this blog was meant for last week.
It Was 20 Years Ago Today...
...Or at least I think it was. Anyway, given that my blog comes out on a Tuesday and today is March 31, I want to share a story of what happened (more or less) 20 years ago today.
The company was called Technomed. It was one of the first digital printing jobs I had ever done and it was a biggie. The client had been ordering software manuals in three ring binders. Thousands of them. They would print up cartons and cartons of printed material, stick it into the binders, and shove them on shelves, eventually to be included with their software when it shipped.
Along comes a sales rep named Bill Farquharson who saw the opportunity to replace what they were doing with the better solution: digital print.
I worked with the Technical Writer, Jill Kuchinos (I am using real names so that you know that this is a true story), who was rewriting the manuals at the same time that I successfully convinced the company that this new method was better. Jill and her team were scrambling to finish up the revisions in time to meet the end of Q1 deadline (March 31).
I was a fairly new vendor to this company and had a decent, but not solid, relationship with the Buyer, Joanne Mills. As the deadline approached, I was given a PO so that I could fill the order but because we didn’t have a final page count, I could not give Joanne a final price.
"That’s okay," she said, "but just don’t take advantage of the situation!"
Jill did her job and gave me sufficient time to run the order on the Docutech, wire-o bind, and hand deliver the quantity needed at the end of the day on March 30.
On March 31, I submitted my pricing to Joanne. I will never forget what happened next...
The following morning, I was in Boston meeting with my mentor, Len Peterson, when the phone rang (to give you some idea of how long ago it was, I think I was using a bag phone at the time!).
It was Joanne. She was ripping mad.
"I just saw your pricing," she said. "Is this a joke? We were paying a little over five dollars a book and your price is nearly three times as much. I won’t pay it!"
Rut row. Despite the fact that I had given her an idea of the price difference and had sold her on the benefits, she was balking post mortem.
I can still remember the out of body experience that I had at that moment as a flood of emotion and options came over me. Trying not to sound like I was panicking (and trying even harder not to actually panic), I decided to calmly trace my steps with Joanne and explain to her the difference between ordering 15,000 pieces printed offset and 100 pieces printed digitally, weaving in the value that I was bringing along the way.
My explanation went on for what seemed like an eternity, although I think no more than 60 seconds actually passed, when I heard giggling on the line.
Joanne then bust out laughing and said to me, "Bill, relax. Happy April Fools' Day!"
She went on to tell me that the first conversation she had that morning was with the sales rep who was quoting a job and, just for fun, she told the guy that his price was too high and, to her complete amazement, he dropped the price immediately. So, she decided to call around to a few other salespeople and, in her words, "Kept going until I found someone who stood by his or her price."
I was the fourth sales rep that she called. Two others before me, plus the original salesperson, all offered up cheaper pricing just because they were challenged.
Even as I write out this blog, I can still feel all of the emotions from that day: fear, inner hysteria, fear, panic, fear, and fear. It was quite a lesson.
So, happy anniversary (I think) to Joanne, Jill, and an April Fools' Day that I’ll never forget.
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Bill Farquharson is a Vice President at Epicomm (formerly 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 email@example.com