Coziness in the workplace
When times are good, getting too cozy in a situation can put a company on the road to failure.
Here’s a story a professor at my college told me once about an old farmer who owned a very old, very tired horse. One day a neighbor went by and saw the old animal, a bird was sitting on its back pecking it. With each peck the horse jolted and winced. “How long have you had this horse?” he asked. The farmer replied 28 years. “28 years! If your horse has worked for that long, you should think about taking better care of it and stopping that bird from pestering it.” The farmer smiled, “That horse is an old friend, but that bird is the only thing that keeps it moving. If the bird didn’t peck, he’d stop moving completely and just lie down and die.”
Over the years our sales strategy and methods have been through many changes, sometimes these have been innovative, sometimes these have been because of setbacks and failures. When I first started ISFnet, I decided not to let our salespeople contact and make appointments with new customers directly. Instead, we used partners and advisors to introduce customers to us, an approach which seemed at the time the most efficient way to build up the business. The system was very successful, projects flooded in. This, on the one hand, was great, business was thriving. On the other hand, the situation was too cozy and this started causing problems.
One day, one of our partners contacted us. They wanted to know why we hadn’t been following up on all the customers they had been introducing. I investigated and found that because of the volume of work coming in the salespeople had started to pick and choose customers and projects, following up on some referrals but neglecting others. Our partner was, naturally, very unhappy about the situation and said they were stopping all referrals.
The hardest part of sales is making that initial contact and developing a desire in the customer for your services, but we didn’t have to do this. We were getting work handed to us on a plate and no one will do their job properly if most of the work is already done for them. It’s too cozy, there isn’t enough of a challenge to motivate and inspire employees. Like the old horse, why move if you don’t have to.
Since then, our all sales people put in the work calling new customers every day and we have quotas for the number of appointments made. The job has become tougher but the sales division is now much tighter as a team and they are always on their toes. It has also increased our sales people’s commitment to their customers, since they are the ones who have made the effort, gone out and won the projects.