Buzz Session Squidly Fails

This week a buzz session made big news.

There hasn’t been a salesroom I’ve been around that turns their nose up at such rah-rah motivational breaks.

But when they go the way of this particular Manchester insurance reclaim (PPI) sales call centre, even the Wolf of Wall Street is made to look like a mere puppy dog.

Two teams vie against each other for top sales numbers over the week. By Friday those in the ascendency get to choose a booby prize for their falling short colleagues.

As the Daily Mail gleefully reported;

The smartly dressed sales agents [were] lying on the floor covering their suits with a large bin liner, leaving only their faces revealed.

Then, as a forfeit, an entire squid was dropped onto their faces beak first.

Yes. A squid. Beak first. And if you squirmed, the creature was pressed onto your face to stick.

It’s fair to say that, regardless of any consenting participation, this is readily taken as the kind of corporate hazing, workplace bullying and managerial malpractice that give call centres and selling a sewar-swilling bad name.

The day of blogging this, the web’s top search result for buzz session read like this;

short, focused, cross-functional team sessions designed to get people involved, voices heard, and ideas captured for feeding great content into the strategic planning process

So much for the generic slant. Salesteams know them as gee-ups

After a six-month undercover exposé inside a life insurance boiler room, academic Jamie Woodcock is withering. I précis;

Intense supervision coupled with bullying styles of management brings the expectation that at the beginning of a shift workers will go through a buzz session. To motivate selling. This often involves singing children’s songs. In many ways a humiliating experience for people. If you were to just read the script you’d never sell. So there’s a real challenge to mobilise emotions and invoke challenging situations with customers to sell. Sub-standard work, low paid and very difficult.

Monitored by the minute, 300-400 calls a shift, prospects’ pavlovian aggression, oppressive supervisors, 50% staff churn.

If your sales dna includes mantras like, “remember, every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes’ ”, sees meaningless “values” plastered around the walls, combined with the kinds of activities you feel fun yet a reality check unveils a demeaning core, then change the culture – or your job – at once.

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