I’m quite a fan of Gerry Robinson. I thoroughly enjoyed his attempts at improving a tiny corner of the manifestly unfit for purpose NHS. Possibly because it confirmed my existing prejudices from personal suffering through their ineptitude, and I blogged on his trials here and here.
So I was pleased to trip over his latest foray into telly, starting with an interview with the head of global retail colossus, Tesco. Unfortunately, it was half-an-hour of disappointment. I’m not sure it would even count as decent advertising for the chain. It certainly wouldn’t count as giving accurate insight into what makes their boss, Terry Leahy, tick.
After joining them as a graduate, his stellar career appears to have been shaped by becoming part of the first ever marketing team at HQ. Just at a time when the then chief, a person who’s later attempts at cricket administration were in sharp contrast to the success of his former firm, Ian McLaurin, saw the value in meticulous examination of individual line data of buying patterns.
So the first lesson for the would-be successful salesperson is forensic analysis of buying data. This intrigued me. Mainly because I’ve been involved with several, and by that I mean at least one hundred, companies that had seen the value of such pursuit. And yet all but a handful miserably fail. The blame lies everywhere. But a part of it can often be laid at the salesrep’s door. And where this is the case, shamefully, they simply can’t be bothered to do the work.
One teasing quote you did pick up was from John Sainsbury, founder of a competitor UK behemoth. “Retail Is Detail”. And with that in mind, when Tesco first attacked the notoriously treacherous US market, they lived with American families to assess their buying habits and mocked up a store. They made out it was for a Hollywood film set and got people to shop around it to garner feedback. They preferred to listen to their customers, rather than find holes in competitive offerings.
The final insight was in the closing remarks. The subject humbly acknowledged that businesses could never be numero uno forever, it was therefore the job of management to prolong the good times to the max. As such he reflected, “you should always have a mountain to climb, I’m more comfortable climbing the mountain than sitting on top of it”.