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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH

The STORY:

“That will never work,” said Ernie, the senior sales manager, with emphasis. He turned to face Melinda, a newly hired manager; she was standing alongside the salad bar. “Before you were with the company, we made the huge commitment to produce a company-to-customer newsletter. Yeah, I remember, “ his voice fading out for a moment, “how everyone volunteered to do their part. After the first issue, it just fell apart.”

Melinda knew that she shouldn’t, but the real crumbled bacon bits were just too good to pass up. I promise, she said to herself, that it will be no-fat the rest of the week. Then she scooped three huge spoonfuls on top of her salad. “So why did it fall apart? We did one in the company I came from. It was amazing how it generated business.”

“That was part of the problem,” said Ernie over his shoulder as they walked back to their table. “Granted, the one issue was two months late coming out and everyone had great expectations, like Dickens, you know. We didn’t get one bit of business from all the aggravation of getting everyone to write their topic, laying it out, getting it printed. It was one problem after another. I could tell you horror stories about our president demanding his picture on page one. No one in their right mind, at least in this company, would ever want to have anything to do with a newsletter, an awful sinkhole of time and money.”

Melinda sat down and stared at the salad brimming with crumbled bacon bits. Her mouth watered, reminding her of how wonderful bacon tasted.

“What’s the matter?” asked Ernie, “you’re staring at that salad like it’s a lost love or something.”

“I can’t eat this,” said Melinda, wanting to take back each word as it came out.

“No problem, slide it right over here. I love bacon.”

“So, there’s no point in trying to get a newsletter going?” she asked, sliding the plate over.

“Well, you could try,” responded Ernie, taking a spoonful of the bacon bits and eating them. “These are cooked just right . . . but we did that, once. Didn’t work. Didn’t produce. Move on. My attitude, the company’s attitude.”

“Do you think anyone would mind if I did one just for the clients my salespeople have?”

Ernie stared at Melinda for a second before speaking. “Look, Melinda, before you go mentioning a newsletter around here, you should know that some people came close to redoing their resumes because of that disaster.”

“So what else has been done once around here?” asked Melinda, wishing she had kept the bacon bits.

The RESULT:

Melinda was learning what didn’t work.

DISCUSSION:

New, this is not saying that you should do a newsletter or reconsider doing one if a previous one failed. The idea of a newsletter is just an example of what happens all too often in every business that has sales managers and salespeople.

Something was done in the past that did not work. As a result, ever doing that same thing again is seen as a waste of time. The list of things that “do not work” is added to over the years and handed down from sales manager to sales manager. The handing down to the newest sales manager usually happens pretty early in the new manager’s tenure.

This is unfortunate, in part, because new sales managers are usually hired or promoted to bring in new ideas. In the story, Melinda related that the newsletter in her previous company was quite successful. She probably had a pretty good idea of how to go about doing a successful one. Too bad for her.

Ernie, completely ignoring the fact that a newsletter worked somewhere else, proceeded to educate her on what did not work in this company. Now don’t pick on Ernie; he was also educated the same way when he started.

The destructive pattern of doing something once, not having it work, and then forever banning that something from being tried again by educating new personnel, can be broken.

APPROACH:

You have to honestly review what happened in the past that condemned something to be handed down as “we’ll never do that again.”

What were the clearly agreed upon and reachable goals? Perhaps you might ask, “Were there any?” Many things fail simply because no one had the foggiest idea what the point was.

Who was supposed to follow through? Volunteering is nice, but if a salesperson has to choose between spending time with a prospect or doing his volunteer work, the volunteer work will never get done.

This one will sound so obvious that it’s also the reason it is so overlooked. What one person was in charge? In the story, it seemed everyone and no one was in charge. Success knows a thousand fathers, failure none.

THOUGHT:

If babies treated learning to walk the way some companies treat “we did that once” situations, all of us would still be crawling around on our bellies.

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