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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Jul 17, 2019

Don’t Take Bad Advice From The Buyer


Clients worry about their bottom line, cash flow, brand reputation and their own career.  They often move around between countries and companies.  We are still here though.  When the client requests something that ultimately impacts our brand in a negative way, we are the one who has to face the subsequent and consequent ramifications.  The lure of the fee payment is powerful but sometimes we should walk away from the money.  We are in haste to get the dough, to make the target, but we reap the whirlwind down the track and then repent at leisure.


My client was new to us and this was the first solution we had delivered for them.  In the prior discussions about their needs, we had identified what was required for developing their sales team.  The client had quite a split between the newbies recently hired and more experienced salespeople. Naturally, I proposed we split the groups out, because they had quite divergent requirements.  The slow pace suitable for training a new person in sales, will drive a more experienced hand nuts.  If it is pitched too high, then the new person is lost, can’t keep up, feels frustrated and won’t be happy.


Now, the client understood this “split them up” logic completely but still insisted we lump them all in together.  The money to be spent was therefore for only one group rather than two, so a substantial saving on expenditures of course.  The most expensive training in the world though, is the training that doesn’t work or work well enough.  There is the opportunity cost of everyone’s time, which will be lost when calculating the entire cost factor. It might make cash control sense to lump all into the one class, but the results will be bad I warned, but to no avail.  


This was weakness on my part.  I should have pulled up stumps and walked at that point and not agreed to go with the combined class.  I was trying to give the client what he wanted, even if it was the wrong thing. The cost of one class of newbies and the cost of one class of experienced people is actually the same cost.  We should have chosen one or the other, rather than combining the two together.


Sure enough the post training surveys results came back emblazoned with red.  We take the numerical scores and then create colour coded graphs, to make the score results easier to read and understand.  Getting lots of dark blue is excellent, lighter blue means pretty good, yellow means neutral and the worst result throws up red.  We never get red.  Well, until this occasion. Sure enough, there was lots of red, as the more experienced people expressed their frustration with having to be held back by the slower pace of the newer crowd.  They may be tremendous role models in the sales role plays, but they don’t see any particular value to themselves in helping the new people.  Their industry is a dog eat dog, bloodthirsty scramble for fees. Despite all the high blown rhetoric about teamwork and brand, it is basically every man for himself.


When I presented the graphs dripping in gore, the client wasn’t the least bit phased.  He said this is what he expected.  He was prepared to wear the poor results because this was his design, his creation, his train wreck.  Now for me, these results were unacceptable.  Yes, we got paid our pittance, we got the cash.  But, our brand was being trashed by the miscued design. In fact I couldn’t stand it.  This was not us, we never get these results and yet here they were.


So I offered and he accepted that we run, it all again for the senior people only this time.  And here is the snapper - at my cost not his.  Me paying made it an easy decision for him to commit his people to do it again.  Why did I offer to repeat the same training for free?  Obviously I was worried about the damage to the brand, to have so many people have a negative impression of out training. Did it work?

In the short term yes, but actually no.  No, if you judge it over the long term.  The next survey was all blue, so the senior people got a lot out of the training.  Now the President with whom I was dealing, shortly thereafter pulled up sticks and has added back to the UK.  That red graph explosion was six years ago.  We had a couple of  attempts to do some training with them, talking with his immediate successor. However, as in many similar cases, the new guy wanted to do things his own way, so no possibility of more business with them.


One of my team had a meeting with them again and there was a complete new hierarchy over there.  A lot of people had moved on, and so most of the people were new.  However, what do we hear from these new people.  The corporate memory, despite all of the time which had passed, was “Oh your training got a very bad score”, so we don’t want to use you.  The bit about their President designed it that way and caused the graphs to drip red, had conveniently been forgotten.  The free second round to make up for the first catastrophe was lost in the sands of time.  The stain remained after the blood had been mopped off the floor.


In retrospect, this was my fault.  I should have refused the assignment, in the construct they demanded.  I knew it was going to be bad. It was, and after the fact, I tried to restore the life flicker of the brand but this was everything the wrong way around.  I should have protected the brand in the first place, rather than trying to play nurse in the intensive care ward, where the brand was on life support. 


This is fresh in my mind for two reasons.  One reason is my staff member reported to me that we linger long in the hall of shame over at that client’s shop.  The other is because I just had a high stakes meeting with a huge multinational client, presenting our response to their RFP.  In the course of the discussion, I realised that what they want us to do, is not really in our sweet spot.  So this time around I am going to be a bit smarter and limit what we will do, based on what is best for the client and best for our brand.  If they decide to go with another vendor, so be it. We live to fight another day, our brand intact!