Promises, promises . . . marketing’s bane (and opportunity)

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John Fekner, Broken Promises/Falsas Promesas, Charlotte Street, South Bronx, NY, 1980
promises
John Fekner, Broken Promises/Falsas Promesas, Charlotte Street, South Bronx, NY, 1980

I’m writing this post on a sunny summer Sunday, just after almost tearing my thinning hair out in frustration. One of our company’s truly effective sales representatives, doing his work in good faith, had managed to promise three extras to three clients for two of our publications. Individually, these promises would not have caused too many problems — but in total, they created a mess for production and publishing economics.

As I struggled to mitigate the losses, he wrote:

I do not understand anything about the actual printing process, plate changes, # of pages per section, layout/production efficiencies etc.

Perhaps it would be a good idea if we sit down together someday soon and you can explain all of this to me – So I understand better.

Of course, we’ll have this conversation, and in fact, I’ll bring everyone in for a discussion of what and why you can do somethings some time, but not at others. In fact, the salesperson’s “gives” individually or with a contingency-flexibility, would not have been costly and indeed they add value to the clients.

We’ll deliver on the promises, even though our margins will be trimmed to the bone. I never want a situation where we promise and don’t deliver. I just wish we had promised less and then surprised the clients with more value and extra delivery.

Sales, marketing, margins, product/service knowledge, all need to be integrated for an effective business. For example, if your salespeople are offered bonuses based on gross sales volume, but these bonuses are not conditioned by requiring stringent adherence to pricing grids, you could end up with the sales representative giving away the store. (Some organizations set their bonuses based on margin/profitability — this has other problems, including the tendency to oversell or mislead/misdirect clients to higher-priced/margin options than they really should purchase, resulting in short-term gains, but ultimately long-range disillusionment.)

There are never easy answers to these questions. Clearly, knowledgeable salespeople and seller-doers should understand their margins and business models/rules, and in the ideal world, craft offers/proposals that meet clients needs and leave room for surprising pleasant extra bonuses.

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