Death Of A Sales(man)Person

deathofasalesmanThe imminent demise of the sales person has been predicted for some time. And, as Mark Twain once wrote: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

U.S. companies spend almost $1T on sales people every year. That is about 3x the spend on consumer advertising; 20x the spend for online media; and probably 100x the spend on social media.

While it’s true that the size of the sales force in some industries has shrunk, the overall number has stayed about the same. The profession of sales, practiced appropriately, is here to stay. It’s about helping the right customer buy right.

While some of that process can be done effectively online, much can’t. And while online may be more efficient, it’s often not effective. I find buying from beyond easy, but shopping with them is hard.

If sales people are here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future), what appropriate investments are you making to assure your people truly can help the right customers buy right … in today’s environment?

Car dealers seem stuck in the 1950s. Some retail stores likewise. Many B2B sales people simply collect business cards to appear busy. Marketers create elaborate lead-scoring systems to prove the value of the leads provided and thus the worth of those marketers.

Helping the right customers buy is the job of your revenue production system. Do you have properly trained and focused people in your system to produce the revenue you need, want, and demand?


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Promises You Can’t Keep … Why Make Them?

LaQuintalogoThis is a theme I am writing about over the last couple of months, because it keeps coming up … and I can’t see what the point is of making promises you can’t deliver upon. This post is about La Quinta Inns (and Suites). I have been aware of this chain since my days in Texas 30 years ago. My perception has always been a budget chain, a step above Motel 6.

Over the last year or more I have seen and paid attention to the La Quinta advertising campaign. It communicates well, in my opinion, that if you are a business person on the road (especially in sales), La Quinta is the right place for you because they have great rooms, comfortable beds, very high speed Internet, etc. As such, I decided to move them into my consideration group, putting them (in my mind) on par with Hampton Inns.

Normally I stay in Courtyards or Hilton Garden Inns when I travel on business, and if they are not available, then Hampton Inns. Recently, I had the occasion to select a La Quinta (twice) as none of the three other choices were located where I needed to be, and a La Quinta was in each case. Having moved them to my consideration list, I was pleased to have the opportunity to try them … unfortunately.

The first property was not even remotely up to the standard implied by their advertising and the second property, while better, was not really at that standard either, especially the bed and the alleged “ultra fast high-speed Internet” (more like a 9600 baud line). Both met my original perception that they are a step up from Motel 6. To be fair the fact that none of the three brands I normally select were available suggests that these locations were not high traffic business areas, but a brand promise is a brand promise … except when it isn’t.

Neither of these hotels remotely resembled the promise in the ad. I understand that La Quinta is a franchise and some of these properties may have older franchise agreements that do not require them to meet the current brand promise. But, the website does not reflect this, so I expect them to meet the promise. Since they don’t, I’m unlikely to stay again at a La Quinta.

Long ago I stopped staying at Holiday Inns for the same reason. Random quality. I appreciate that La Quinta is trying to grow, but if too many of their properties don’t meet the brand promise, only two things will happen as a result of this campaign:

  1. Many new prospective customers will try, and be disappointed
  2. Their advertising agency will make a lot of money

Don’t make promises you can’t deliver, and for sure, don’t make them loudly.



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A Truly Novel Promotion From An Unlikely Source

caleborthoshirtThe other day my grandson came over wearing an edgy t-shirt from his orthodontist. Two things got my attention: (1) he was wearing what was essentially an ad for his orthodontist and (2) it was a pretty awesome shirt.

I have seen a lot of promotions over the years, but I cannot remember ever seeing one for an orthodontist that was not a traditional ad or billboard. A t-shirt … and an edgy one at that. Pretty out there.

I asked my son, what was the deal with the shirt; as in why would my grandson even wear it? The answer was bribery, I mean rewards from the dentist. Apparently the dentist has scavenger hunts and other fun stuff that if you provide a picture of his patient wearing his shirt, the child gets “points” towards prizes the child will like. Further, if the child wears the shirt to the orthodontist, he/she gets more points.

Love these novel, and effective promotional campaigns. Come on, if I told you I could get a kid to wear a t-shirt from and promoting the dentist (orthodontist) would you believe me?

And to be fair, he has worn other promotional items over the years. Here’s my favorite:



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Brick and Mortar Suicide … Continues

Last year I wrote about the continued self-inflicted demise of brick and mortar stores. The pace is accelerating because of the suicidal management of the brick and mortar stores and the continued innovation of the on-line stores, most especially

I am a regular shopper at our regional hardware retailer, Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH), now owned by Lowes. I’m probably in their local store 3 or 4 times a month. And it’s getting harder to shop with them, and they are not alone; just an example.

oshendcapTheir inventory has gaping holes. This end-cap picture is not atypical. Four recent examples for me have cost them several hundred dollars in sales.

  1. I have needed 12″ fluorescent bulbs in “cool white” for over a year. They have a peg for them, but have not had stock. I lived with the “warm white” they had, but I finally went online and Amazon delivered them the next day with no delivery fee. I also ordered another size I need because who needs to see if OSH has them anymore.
  2. We decided to replace our house #s. Found some nice ones at OSH. However they were missing one of the #s we needed. I waited a week or more, went back, still out of the same #. Went to Lowes for another reason and looked for #s there. Nice display but the set we liked was not in stock. Went online and got them from Amazon, the next day (along with my bulbs).
  3. We needed several new plumbing fixtures as we are redoing a bathroom. OSH had a nice selection. We picked the one we liked, but no inventory in stock. Tried again the next week. Still nothing. Tried once more, gave up and bought them on Amazon. You might ask if I asked someone if they had them in stock or could get them. Fair question, but (a) why should I have to, and (b) finding someone to ask is a hunt. And…
  4. Whenever I check out at OSH they always ask me if I found everything ok. I always say yes. This last weekend I said “mostly.” No response other than to ring up my purchase.

Meanwhile, Amazon is shortening delivery and can get some things to you same day or next day rather than 2-days. I still think Amazon is hard to shop, but easy to buy, leaving a possible advantage for brick and mortar, but they are too busy focusing on the wrong things.

Meanwhile we can be assured the brick and mortar stores will continue to bemoan their fate: self-inflicted as it is.



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Wouldn’t It Be Easier To Just Change The Name?

leancuisineApparently diets are dead and mentioning them in the food industry is forbidden. At least according to an article in Advertising Age. As a result of this fact, Lean Cuisine has struggled. Or perhaps the product is not very good. (I have no idea, I haven’t eaten anything from them in years.)

Anyway, according to the Lean Cuisine brand manager, Chris Flora, Nestle is going to make a massive pivot with the 34-year-old brand. Really? They recognize that people most closely associate them with diets, but since diets are dead they want people to know they are truly shifting away from diet. Except of course the name.

That name also causes another problem according to the article: “But in one respect Lean Cuisine cannot stray too far from its diet roots. Because it uses the word “lean” in its name, the brand must adhere to certain standards, according to government regulations. For instance, meals must contain less than 10 grams of fat, according to rules cited by a Lean Cuisine spokeswoman.”

So the plan is to launch a huge repositioning campaign even though the name connotes diet. It has 34 years with that position, and a legal need to adhere to certain “lean” standards. It never ceases to amaze me that people believe completely changing an established brand’s position is easier and/or less expensive than launching a new brand?

Maybe they’re worried about losing shelf space if they change the name? That could be true; but one thing I know about retailers: if the product doesn’t sell, they will put something else on the shelf. So how does keeping a losing brand in a losing position help prevent that compared to launching a new brand?

As I noted in the title: would it just be easier (and more effective) to change the name?


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Why Promote What You Don’t Want To Sell?

sparkevIn a return to the “why are they promoting what they can’t (or won’t) deliver” department, let’s look at the Chevy Spark EV. This vehicle is apparently a “dog.” Sales were dismal and showed no signs of improving. But then paying $25,000 for a micro-sized car that can only go 80 miles on a charge might be a disconnect for many consumers. Thus the tepid market acceptance?

In an effort to get more vehicles on the road, GM apparently decided to target Oregon and California, two ‘green focused’ states, with an unbelievable deal. They would lease you the car for about $140/month on a super low mileage program for 39 months. Wow, I thought, perfect for my son who drives 30 miles per day round trip for work.

Got him hyped up on the idea. Checked the Chevy website and requested quotes from three local dealers. No response after a week. At the intense urging of my son, we went to the local dealer. (Buying a car is a pain, and why it has to be that way is beyond me. But then maybe that’s why businesses exists solely to allow people to buy cars without going to a dealer. Costco, for example, does a big business in this field.)

Anyway, we went to the dealer and stood around for 5 minutes waiting to have someone talk to us. (I’m sure I could have approached someone, but I was also observing.) We told the sales person that we were interested in a Spark EV. His eyes lit up until we told him we wanted the lease deal. He said, “sorry, we don’t have any 2015 Spark EVs, and the back order list is so long we aren’t even taking any more deposits.” He said he would take our name and call if anything changed. As we left my son noticed what appeared to be 2015 Spark EVs on the lot.

We called a dealer further away in a smaller town to see what he could do. He was excited to sell us a Spark EV until we told him we wanted the lease deal. Suddenly the last 2015 Spark EV had been sold the day before, and he was unsure if he would get another one.

So I called the Chevy corporate customer service line. Wonderful people who said they would help. They checked inventory and told me both dealers had Spark EVs in stock. I told her they claimed not to and that they could not get me one in time for the lease deal (which expired the end of that month). The customer service person, back-pedaled nicely and told me they could not force their dealers to honor the national deal. I asked if the deal was not profitable for dealers. She repeated the line about not forcing dealers to honor the deal.

So Chevy, on their website, is pushing a deal their dealers (at least in California) want nothing to do with. To be fair we could only check with about six dealers since we could not go further away than about 70 miles or how would we get the car driven home?

I asked myself why this might be (that the dealers wanting nothing to do with this deal). Two answers came to mind:

  1. There is no profit in the deal. Unlikely, as even GM is probably not that stupid … anymore.
  2. When the car comes off lease, the dealer “owns” it again. And with that many cars coming off lease at the same time, there is likely to be a glut of undesirable Spark EVs for sale. Thus the dealer will take a bath on the resale.

This whole thing is just annoying. Not dissimilar to my Sirius radio story. However, this one is the gift that keeps on giving. Since Chevy is using the same “predictive” algorithms that many others use to target me with online ads, I keep seeing ads on my social media and other pages for the dealer that would not sell us a car, and for the Spark EV. Continually reminding me why buying a new car is a pain.

Do we think they will ever get a clue?


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A Billion Here, A Billion There, Pretty Soon It’s Real Money … Or Not

nokialogoYesterday Microsoft announced it was shutting down and writing off its $7.4B investment in Nokia. They just bought them last year. What strategy change was necessary, and unforeseeable just 12 months ago (give or take), that caused this $7.4B investment to go from a good idea to worthless?

Nothing I’m seeing in the press is suggesting this is anything other than brilliant by the CEO (who was CEO when the acquisition was made). Really, a $7.4B mistake is no big deal anymore? No heads are rolling? No Board members resigning in shame?

One can argue that it was never a good idea; or that it was not a good fit for Microsoft; or it was mis-executed. In every event, where’s the accountability?

But then bonuses will be paid and things will just move along, because, apparently no accountability is required.


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