“All staff are being furnished with one of these, so that they can, at least, see their goal …”
Interesting conversation with a client in the relationship sales arena. The service line he is responsible for is a major add-on for his employer, whereby if a customer buys a large capital item from his company, my client can piggy-back in on the deal and offer financing at preferential rates. The only problem is, my client’s success is dependent upon the Sales guys bringing him in on the conversation … Things aren’t going as well as they might, so my client called a meeting with his boss’ boss to review.

Client: I’m not hitting my numbers. [Subtext – his package is heavily loaded toward bonus, so his take-home pay is down significantly as a result]
Boss’ Boss: You and a lot of other people. It’s very tricky out there at the moment.

You’ve been reading my activity reports, and seeing the results I have been generating. Is there anything you can think of that I could be doing better?
BB: Honestly, no. You are building the relationships internally and externally, your activity level is very strong and I don’t see how you could be doing any more and I don’t see any misdirected effort there …

So what can I do? We’re a mile off target and I still don’t see a concerted effort by the Sales guys to bring me in on the conversation. I’m frequently hearing about deals for the first time after they’ve been signed and sealed.
BB: Yes, this is a new direction for them … [Plus of course, my client doesn’t have the authority to order them to include him. Neither, interestingly, does his boss’ boss.]

How about if we instigated an approach whereby every proposal document that goes out of here had a section in it about the structured finance we offer?
BB: Sounds like a good idea, let me take that up the line.

Thanks. But there’s nothing else you can think of that can help move this along more speedily?
BB: Not really, no.

Adjusting this year’s targets to take stock of the poor market conditions has been taken off the table by corporate. The suspicion among the Sales and Biz Dev guys in the company is that this suits corporate, as it means that payroll costs for the region will be way down. But, naturally, they and my client are finding it incredibly frustrating to chase after a mythical, completely unachievable number. He is putting in long hours and really burning it at both ends to try and get some movement, but the biggest obstacle remains the internal culture.

A couple of thoughts:

  • The Sales team are not being rewarded for any activity except straight sales, so they see no reason to bring my client into the conversation with a customer. Reward them for doing it, or punish them for not, but they’ve got to take notice of this …
  • I was appalled to hear my client’s suggestion of including structured finance in every proposal document – I was appalled because they’re not already doing that.
  • I was doubly appalled that the boss’ boss was not appalled at the lack of cohesion in the team and that he would have to take such an obvious solution “up the line” rather than simply enacting it on the spot.
  • I was amused but not particularly surprised that the boss’ boss had nothing constructive to offer in the meeting – this is why Scott Adams is so successful.

The organisation concerned will get away with behaving like this, for a while. If they come back with more unachievable targets for next year that don’t take into consideration the very slow uptake and resultingly droopy run-rate, I would expect that they are going to abruptly run out of toner in their laser printers as all the Sales and Biz Dev staff print off CVs, such will be the rush for the door.

My real question then, is this. Why doesn’t the organisation care about that?