“What am I supposed to do — quit my job?” asked Gil, a friend and fellow parent of a wrestler. Actually, to be more specific (and it is quite pertinent to this story), Gil has three sons in the wrestling program to my one. (Parker will be added to the mix next year, bringing me up to two).
The reason Gil was wondering if he should quit his job is that we were being asked to sell five tickets for each child we had in the program for a fundraising “Mega 50/50.” As it became painfully clear to us, the word “Mega” was not used lightly, as each ticket was to be sold for $100. Yes, $100. That means while I was being asked to sell $500 worth of this stuff, Gil was being asked to move $1,500 worth of tickets.
I cannot remember exactly how many wisecracks we heard about this program, but here were a few:
- “How much can singlets (the uniforms worn by wrestlers) possibly cost?”
- “Can I just pay for my singlets and opt out of this whole thing?”
- “Who the heck can I get to buy one of these?”
- “I know the guys down at work won’t buy these because I know how much they make!”
Ah, but don’t worry, the masterminds of this fundraiser assured us, “You can get people to go in for half or even a quarter of a ticket.” Now that sounds like fun to manage.
Despite receiving this pep talk as we were cast out into the cold world of sales, they had lost their sales force right out of the gate. As we live in a fairly well off community, there was absolutely no charity angle here — “Please help our children afford some singlets” wasn’t going to fly. In fact, the only reason anyone would buy one of these tickets is if they had a gambler’s heart — getting thrill out of just having the chance for some big winnings. I, for one, happen to know very few of these sorts, and I’m just too embarrassed to reach out to family and friends with such a lavish request.
If you’re running a business, losing your sales force is a big problem. First off, I don’t remember ever seeing ideas for fund raising floated around. In fact, I’d like to have seen the rationale for why we even needed a fund raiser — what were the pure costs of just buying this stuff? And if this Mega idea had been floated, I can assure you, my comment would have been that we lower our sights to line up with reality.
It’s the sales folks who know best just how much the market is willing to pay for things, so their voices should not be ignored. And it’s the sales folks who know just what the market wants to buy, because they are the ones hearing the feedback. Why do we leave them out of the product-development process?
Unfortunately, in most organizations there is a dangerous gulf between those who create and those who sell. Those who create often also price, making things even worse. And it’s the commission-incentivized sales folks who are supposed to take what are often high-priced and poorly conceived offerings and still move mountains — or sell ice to Eskimos, or whatever.
On a deep level, I knew this was wrong, and so I’ve always included Nancy in all product development, pricing and marketing discussions. We don’t separate the person who directs the sell from the person sent out to make the sale. And I think that’s been a very valuable thing.
I wish our wrestling team had done as much. And I wish they had consulted their sales staff (parents) along the way — we might have been very helpful in constructing a plan we could execute. As it is, I made my assessment of how this would turn out ten second after hearing the mission.
“Every parent will buy one ticket and give the rest back,” I predicted. Unfortunately for Gil, that still means $300. I really do wonder what a singlet costs.