When I was a print sales rep, I had a client named Joanne Mills. Joanne was a Buyer for a software company in Northboro, Massachusetts. This had to be the spring of 1992 or so. It was a good account, one that would soon yield the first significant digital print job of my sales career.
At the time, Joanne’s company was producing wire-o bound software manuals, purchasing them in quantities of 15,000. Yes, boys and girls, once upon a time companies actually shipped hard copy documentation (along with a physical DVD in a package, no less). Ah, those were the days.
Enter Bill the print sales rep…
My key contact at this account was their Technical Writer. Tired of providing hundreds of pages of text to be copied, she was interested in a new solution.
Enter Bill the digital print sales rep…
Convincing Joanne to produce the software manuals in small quantities (on-demand, as it were), we went from an order size of 15,000 to an order size of 100. Great, but…
A huge per-manual price increase was about to hit them.
The job was set to ship at the end of March. Trouble was, we didn’t have a final page count and wouldn’t until the last minute. I needed a PO in order for the job to get in the building and Joanne gave me one, albeit with this friendly warning: “Don’t take advantage of the situation.”
So, the job prints and ships on the last day of March. It looks beautiful! Before I shut down for the day, I worked up my pricing and send it along to Joanne. Finis!
The next day I was in a meeting and by cell phone rang. I recognize the number immediately: it was Joanne probably calling to compliment me on a job well done. Instead, here’s a transcript of the conversation…
Joanne: “I just saw the price and it’s outrageous. We were paying three dollars a book and now you’re asking us to pay $12 a book. I’m here to tell you, that’s not going to happen.”
My internal monologue: <>
Me: “Yes, there was a significant difference in price and your Technical Writer was fully aware of this. In exchange for the higher price, she gets greater flexibility, the chance to make changes just as quickly as changes are made to the software, and that means no more additional pages need to be shipped out. And in addition to that…
As I drew a breath, I heard Joanne giggling. Completely taken aback and shocked, I stopped talking and tried to process why she was laughing. Mercifully, she jumped in…
Joanne: “April Fools, Bill!”
Joanne went on to say that a sales rep called her first thing to give her a price on a project and just as a joke she said, “That’s outrageous. We will pay it!” The sales rep responded by immediately offering a discount. She was stunned. It was supposed to be a joke! When she got off the phone with him, she decided to keep calling salespeople with a similar “joke” until she got one who held his ground.
That would be me.
It’s a lesson that I have never forgotten: By the time you give your price, it’s game over. At this point, you’ve got two choices: Justify your price or lower it. If you can’t do the former, it’s 100% guaranteed that you will be doing the latter.