Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When I don't sell, I'm miserable. When I do sell... I'm miserable.

Anyone who's been in sales for any length of time, knows what it's like to have a dry spell - a slump. You find yourself pressing, begging, cajoling. Selling a piece of business is a lot like getting a girlfriend* or finding another job - if you've already got one, it's easier to get another one. If you don't have one, you come off as desperate. You're miserable.

As disturbing as it seems, sometimes you're (almost) as miserable if you ARE selling. That's because after you sell something, you have to implement it. Sometimes, the implementation all goes smoothly and your world is wonderful.

Sometimes - not.

You've all been there - there are product delays, IT disconnects, billing problems, slipping timelines and your job is to get it all fixed before your customer rethinks her decision and pulls the plug on the whole deal. Probably the only thing worse than not having a sale is having one and then losing it.

Implementations in my business generally take two or three months and when they're going sideways, you spend your days crisis to crisis, having to manage both your team and the customer in order to keep it together. It's two or three months of sleepless misery.

Sometimes it's enough to have you rethink your choice of career.

But that's why they pay us the big bucks, right?


* as far as girlfriends are concerned, apparently this has proved to be an instinctual directive. If a woman sees a man with another woman, evidently she assumes that he's been vetted and found desirable and is therefore more attractive. Go figure.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Advertising Fail

There are many types of advertising fail – confusion about what the product is or does, not knowing or addressing the target audience, offending potential customers, etc, but the topic today addresses a different type: assuming that your audience either doesn’t have a brain or at some point won’t engage it.

The first example is actually kind of funny; it’s for a Toyota dealership in Northern California. Here’s the tagline – “we’re moving around the corner and we’d rather sell them than move them.” Well, that makes sense – wait, these are cars, right? Mattresses, washing machines, dining room sets – sure, but cars? How hard can it be to move cars? Around the corner no less?

Although it isn’t done in jest, it’s just so stupid that it’s funny.

The next one bugs me a bit more, probably because it straight out insults your intelligence. I’m sure you’ve heard this one or one similar – “if we can’t beat their price, we’ll give you the ____”. The particular ad I’m talking about now is for mattresses but I’ve heard a similar ad for cars. “So let me see, I can either beat my competitor’s price by a dollar or I can give away a $500 mattress. Hmm, which one will I choose?”

Now, I get the point that this place will ensure that they have the best price and I guess the normal tack of “we’ll beat any competitor’s price by 5%” probably wasn’t good enough, so they came up with this.

Maybe, I’m too sensitive (maybe?) but hearing this ad makes me think so much less of this store that I’m not at all inclined to shop there and would instead opt for one of their competitors. As mentioned – advertising fail.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Prudential vs. Veterans

The headline of the recent Bloomberg story could just as easily have been: “Credit Card companies profit from Veterans!” because they charge 21% interest to Veterans and their families. Wait, doesn’t everyone pay 21%?


As far as I know, every group insurance policy in the US pays claims via checkbook, rather than as a lump sum check. Not prominently mentioned in the Bloomberg article: it’s easy/allowed/perfectly OK for a beneficiary to take check #1 and withdraw the entire benefit amount and deposit it wherever you please. I did that last year when my mom died.

Incidentally, if one were to do that and deposit the full amount in a typical savings or checking account, you’d get somewhere between one-fifth and one-half of what Prudential is paying. “CitiChaseAmerica ripping off Veterans Families by giving less than half the interest of Prudential!”

Another big deal in the Bloomberg article is the fact that “a secret deal” was made to take advantage of veterans. How many contracts and amendments to contracts are signed by the Federal government every year? Thousands? I’m sure that some of those affect me in some way and even though I check the news and my mail frequently, I seem to be never informed of these signings. Does that mean they’re “secret”? Yeah, to me maybe. I wasn’t there at this particular amendment ceremony but I think the implication that it was signed in some sleazy motel parking lot under the cover of darkness is probably not accurate.

A little background on checkbooks vs. checks: Unsurprisingly, it turns out that beneficiaries, stricken with grief and confusion following the death of a loved one sometimes make bad financial decisions with the large checks they receive from insurers. Even more unsurprisingly, occasionally they are helped into these bad financial decisions by less than benevolent “financial consultants”. Checkbooks were created to take the pressure off from having to figure out what to do with a couple hundred thousand dollars right now. As previously mentioned, if there was no pressure, one check could be written for the full amount.

The general expectation was that six or so months down the road, a check would be written to pay off the mortgage or deposited into the kids college fund, and the account would be closed. The fact that that doesn’t happen all the time is a happy occurrence for insurers.

Now if there is a bone to be picked with Prudential, it’s that they didn’t choose to treat Veterans better than they treat any other policyholder, by crediting their benefits with the full amount of interest earned, and I think it’s safe to say that that’s what they should have done. Obviously, that opens the door to other groups (should they do the same for Police? Fire? Nurses? Teachers?) and would be an administrative headache (no one cares).

One last thing - you can bet that if Prudential and Veteran's Affairs decide to amend the contract to make that change, it will not be done in secret.