Quick Hit versus Toe-in-the-Door

I was faced with a tricky dilemma the other day. Across the table from me was a chap running a successful injection moulding plant. His machinery-filled busy factory floor helping to produce just over $1m a month of product.

He was conscious of an 80/20 imbalance. He was certain that the rump of his lines that only provided a fraction of sales could be at least doubled, and all at a virtually zero cost increase. How could he do this?

This issue is right up my alley. Over the years I’ve spent significant time improving just these very kinds of wholesale situations.

The problem I had here though, was that very quickly it became abundantly clear to me, that what the business owner sought was someone to take the entire sales headache off his hands. In short, he wanted an interim sales manager. Someone who full-time, and for a considerable length of time at that, could commit themselves to make his ambitions happen.

I had a quickfire choice to make at this point. Do I propose a short piece of work to kick-start a process, hoping for incremental awards during progress, or do I front-up that this is a big project for someone with more time on their hands than I have?

I chose the former route, effectively qualifying out. I was duly reminded that ‘buyers’ hate possible vendors doing this. They want solutions. You say you have one, but not for them, and frustration takes over. It’s such a one-way street (and in the wrong direction) for us, isn’t it?

Regardless, the owner (a production guru with neither desire nor inclination to manage sales people) was clearly frustrated with his current state of affairs. So I suggested a three-step process that people would normally follow to achieve the kind of result he was looking for.

Unfortunately, rather than help, this may have merely compounded his misery, as I felt it dawn on him the sheer scale of work involved in resolving his sales issue. This made me sad, but on later reflection, nowhere nearly as sad as I would have felt after doing a week’s work that would have provided an initial uplift, only for sales to drop back down to previous levels once the intervention was long forgotten, and all the associated negativity my work may have then unjustly garnered.

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