Friday, May 6, 2011

The Case Against Category Management –Prelude to Exercise #4 -3

Back in my youth, long before I was able to tell the difference between a computer and a waffle iron, I had a job selling radio advertising for KRYS-Radio in Corpus Christi, Texas. Except for the sales manager I was the best salesman they had – in fact, I was the only salesman they had… but I don’t normally bring that up.

One day, a young fellow named George came to the station to convince the owner he needed another salesman. George had no radio experience. In fact, as I recall, George had no sales experience whatsoever; but after three visits, the owner decided to give George a one-month trial. As a caveat, he told George IF he could sell a certain air conditioning company a package of radio commercials, he had the job with no probationary period whatsoever.

Now if you’ve never been to Corpus Christi, Texas in the summer, it’s like living on the Sun, with a slight breeze to protect you from total incineration. The long and the short of it is, this particular prospect, the man that owned the air conditioning company, had all the customers he could handle, and the only advertising he believed in was the Yellow Pages.

The man clearly did not want to spend money on radio commercials. George on the other hand, did not know this. He had been given a seemingly impossible task to procure a job he wanted more than anything in this world, and George was determined to make the sale; and frankly, to put it bluntly, he was just too damned ignorant to know any better.

Well, George DID make that sale, and as they say throughout Texas, “I’m fixin’ to tell ya’ll how he done it.”

The first week, our hero made several sales calls, being shut-out each time by the man’s secretary. So, George did a rather ingenious thing. He made friends with a guy that sold advertising on billboards and somehow he talked him into putting a sign on an empty billboard (yes, he had researched the gentleman’s route home each day) that said something to the nature of “Mr. Smith!” (I don’t recall his real name), “KRYS-Radio wants your business.”

Now you may have thought this got George the sale… George certainly thought it would. But repeated sales calls to the man’s office produced the same familiar results: “I’m sorry. Mr. Smith is in a meeting and cannot see you today.”

By the end of the second week, I found George hunkered down over his desk, obviously distraught and staring at a blank wall. He was deep in thought and it took several jabs to get him to notice I was there. So, I invited him out for a drink, and as we sat there sipping our beers, I tried to cheer him up by offering a silly suggestion.

“George,” I said. “Find the boy that delivers the man’s newspaper to his home every afternoon and pay him a small sum to insert your business card inside before he tosses it on the porch.” That stupid idea (at least I thought it was stupid), lit a fire under George and he dropped his half-full beer and rushed out of the tavern to look for the man’s paper boy.

Now you may not believe this, but on the third day of the third week, the man left a message at the radio station for George to come and see him. George darted in and out of every office at the station and proudly announced to everyone that he had the guy where he wanted him, and he would be back in fifteen minutes with the signed contract.

What actually happened was, the man finally agreed to buy a package of radio ads, but only if George promised to never bother him again. George taught me a valuable lesson I will never forgot: You can sell anything to anybody… if you want it badly enough.

*****

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