Once upon a time in a land not too far away lived a man called Sam. For the past eight years, Sam had earned his living as a salesman and was successful by most people’s standards. He had won his company’s ‘President’s Club’ for two years running and made his sales quota every year for the last six years. His car was an executive saloon, he wore a Rolex watch and was about to buy a bigger house. He’d just accepted a job offer from the leading company in his industry on double the salary. The future was bright for Sam.
Our story begins as Sam starts his new job. The first few months in the company were wonderful. It really felt like a real step up for him in terms of status. The product training was excellent and everyone seemed super busy, especially at the end of the month when there was a real buzz about the place and the office was full. He figured that business must be good as everyone spent so long in the office getting all their deals processed. His boss seemed a bit intense as he got up close to him, stared into his eyes and told him that as long as he hit his target, he’d survive in the job. Sam thought it was a bit early to be talking about survival but such is the life of a salesperson. This happened a few times in those first few months, and although Sam was focused on achieving much more than mere survival, he just nodded and told his boss that he understood and would do his very best.
Finally, Sam was ready to hit his patch, fully trained up and ready to go. Those first few weeks were a dream come true – he was building great rapport with his new clients and the product benefits seemed to be practically selling themselves. When Sam’s first deal started to come together he was over the moon. When a client finally said “send me your final proposal,” Sam headed back into the office feeling on top of the world. He logged onto the company’s CRM system and looked for the button to generate his quote and proposal. He asked several of his colleagues but they thought he was making a joke, so they laughed and walked away from him. Finally he found someone who explained that everyone worked from spreadsheets and just copied and pasted from old proposals. She said she would send him a few examples to work from. Sam shrugged and thanked her. It wasn’t so bad, he was OK with spreadsheets, and could understand the logic of not re-inventing the wheel each time. Although it sounded more complicated than at his old company, he reassured himself that selling wasn’t about the tools anyway. He didn’t mind working a few extra hours to get the proposal done.
Sam cancelled his dinner plans and got to work, but as the evening wore on, he found himself getting more and more confused. The spreadsheets he’d been given all seemed different, and the proposal templates were very patchy. Finally he had to admit defeat and email the client to buy himself some time. The next morning Sam pleaded with a few of his colleagues to help him out, and several hours later he had a proposal to send to his customer. The other salespeople in the office didn’t seem too happy about having to help him, as they all had so much work to do on their own deals, but their boss was prowling around looking menacing so the job got done.
Sam found out that the customer accepted the proposed deal and signed the contract just before the order deadline for that month. He considered himself lucky, as the expectation was a minimum of one deal per month. “High standards mean high performance,” he thought to himself. Once more he cancelled his evening plans and settled down to get his order ready for processing. He’d found all the forms he needed to fill in, but they were so confusing and he couldn’t get it done on his own. Again, he ended up late to bed feeling confused and annoyed.
The next day in the office he tried to ask his colleagues for help, but they told him they needed to sort their own deals out first. Frustrated, he checked with the Order Processing Team to see if they could help, but the manic look on their faces told him that now wasn’t the best time. No one could help him until the following week.
As the day drew to a close, he faced the music and explained to his boss that he couldn’t get the deal in on time. The furious response was almost demonic in its intensity and after receiving a roasting about time management he left the office sheepishly, but still not really knowing what he could have done better or different.
The first two days of the following month were spent with a calmer, but exhausted member of the Order Processing Team who helped him get his order onto the system. It still seemed like a dark art to Sam with product codes being cross-referenced with multiple price lists and multiple sources of information. He was frustrated that he’d lost two valuable days of selling time but at least the order was booked and would be delivered over the next two months as planned and he’d get the revenue straightaway. His boss was just about talking to him again although there was an odd glint in his eye that made Sam feel uncomfortable, a little like he’d become prey. “It must just be the killer instinct in him,” Sam reasoned to himself. “That’s what makes a great salesman.” When two of Sam’s team left abruptly in the middle of the month, his boss joked that ‘fresh meat’ would be joining soon.
Sam got a small deal in the next month, nice and early, and with some help he got it processed before the month end rush. At least he had numbers on the board, and it seemed to keep his boss at bay, although he could tell that he was getting impatient and frustrated, as he would leap up and start pacing the room like a caged animal in the middle of their one-to-ones.
Sam had a much bigger deal planned for the following month which would make his target for the quarter. When he told his boss, he surprised Sam by snarling and telling him that it had better come in on time, or there’d be blood on the carpet. Sam knew then that he had to bring a big deal in.
He pulled out all the stops and got his deal ready for his customer, nice and early. The pricing was agreed in principle with the customer, lease finance had been scoped out, delivery schedules were complex, but planned to perfection and Sam felt confident. He knew he had to get approvals for pricing, lease finance and expedited delivery, so he gave himself an extra week to make sure everything was sorted out. Back at the office he put together the three approval requests and sent them all off, feeling rather pleased with himself for being so organised.
Two days passed and he’d heard nothing, so he chased all three. After a few hours of playing ‘voicemail tag’, he caught the Pricing Manager on his way out of the office. “Have you had the leasing approved yet?” was the first question. “Not yet” Sam replied. “Call me back when you have” was the response. “I can’t take the time to look at it until they’ve agreed it.” Sam tried calling the Leasing Manager. “She’s out until Friday.” The clock was ticking. He called the Logistics Team to get approval for the delivery schedule and they said they were working on it – complex schedules took a few days.
Friday afternoon came and the Leasing Manager called him, “I think we’re OK” she said, “I can sign it off.” Relieved that at least one approval was in the bag, Sam headed in to his weekend worried, but cautiously optimistic.
On Monday things got worse. His boss summoned him into his office. Sam was sure he could see steam coming out of his ears! His first customer had been on the phone, in a rage. The second phase of the delivery had arrived and the parts were all wrong, several key components were missing. Sam needed to get down there fast to appease him while the new parts were delivered on a costly rush delivery. His boss’s eyes looked like they were blazing with fury. For the next three days Sam stayed onsite, ensuring all the new parts arrived and making sure the installation crew got everything done correctly. If only he hadn’t made a mistake on the order. When he finally got back to the office, he told his boss that everything was sorted. “It had better be,” growled his boss drumming his exceptionally long fingernails on his desk menacingly, “and this month’s deal had better be in on time too.”
Sam practically sprinted back to his desk. He’d forgotten all about the approvals on his next deal while he was busy putting his last order right. He tried to remember where he was up to. “Finance – check, Pricing…damn.” He called the Pricing Manager with the news that the finance was OK. “You took so long to call, I assumed you’d lost the deal. Let me take a look at it.”
Meanwhile he picked up a message from the customer who was getting impatient with the time it was taking. “I need the quote in two days or I’m going elsewhere.”
The phone rang again. The Pricing Manager called back. “I’ve approved the deal” she said. “Thank you” said Sam breathing a short-lived sigh of relief. “But it needs the Finance Director’s approval too – it’s below my sign-off level.” “OK please can you escalate it.” “Sure, just send me over the escalation form.” Sam almost cried with frustration – another form. “You can’t fight the system” he thought, “but I wish there was a better system.”
He found and filled out the form and sent it off. It was late now. As he walked past his boss’s door he thought he heard a strange sound – a bit like a dog eating food, but he was too tired to worry. He’d have to get the logistics approval tomorrow so he didn’t want to face his boss anyway.
The next day he called the Logistics Team. “We can do it,” they said, “But you haven’t added the premium for expedited delivery.” “Nobody told me about that,” wailed Sam. “I’m telling you now. You can either add it to the price, or you can take it off your sale.” “Okay, okay” replied Sam, “but I don’t know which.” The Logistics Manager helpfully replied “I can’t sign it off then. Go and make your mind up and come back when you’re sure.”
Sam called the customer to tell them about the extra price. “Not a chance. We agreed a price” was the reply. “I need you to confirm it all to me tomorrow remember.”
Sam spent the whole of the next day running around in circles. The Finance Director had agreed the discount, but when Sam explained the logistics issue, the Pricing Manager told him that he would have to get the deal re-approved. When he asked her to reapprove it she told him to resubmit it. When he’d resubmitted it, she asked him if he had leasing approval. “Yes” Sam shouted. “You knew that.” “Not at the new price” came the curt reply. Sam wondered what he’d done to deserve this dystopian nightmare.
He did everything he could and as the day carried on he managed to get the Logistics Manager, and then the Leasing Manager to sign the deal off. Finally, the Pricing Manager answered “I can sign it off, but the FD’s gone home. He’ll sign it first thing.” “Too late!” cried Sam.
Sam got in really early the next day, and caught the FD as he was walking into the office. Finally his deal was approved and he got in his car with the proposal and paperwork, and rushed over to the customer’s site. He didn’t have an appointment, so he asked the receptionist to help. As he signed in, he saw the name of his biggest competitor in the visitor’s book.
He waited for his appointment. Eventually his client came out, shaking hands with a broadly smiling salesman who Sam thought he recognised. His customer didn’t even invite him in, and just said “You were too late Sam. I warned you, and I signed with your competitor this morning. They got their proposal to me on time just like they said they would. How could I trust your firm to deliver if you can’t even do that right?”
Crushed, Sam returned to the office. He knocked on the door of his boss’s office and walked in, dreading his reaction. There was a strange smell coming from the cupboard but that was the least of Sam’s worries. His boss’s eyes really did look like they were burning. “Well” rasped his boss. “Where’s the deal.” “Well… I d-don’t h-have it.” stammered Sam. His boss stood up slowly and menacingly, and the room suddenly felt freezing cold. Behind him Sam heard a click that sounded ominously like a door locking itself. He whirled round and tried the handle, but it wouldn’t budge.
He started to panic and as he turned around and caught sight of his boss he wanted to scream but no sound came out. His boss’s eyes were still burning but he no longer looked human. He had transformed into a creature unlike anything Sam had ever seen before. Fire in the eyes, and razor-like teeth which extended out of his mouth and those hideously long-finger nails which had turned into razor sharp claws. Sam was terrified. “What the hell is happening” he yelled backing up against the wall. “I told you, if you fail me you don’t survive” rasped the boss-monster as he lunged towards Sam.
Sam dodged his boss and put the desk between them. “But it’s not my fault.” yelped Sam as a slashing claw just missed his neck. “It’s all your fault” growled the boss-monster, “you can’t sell and I need you gone to make room for someone who can.” He lunged towards Sam once more, and again, Sam just managed to avoid him.
“I can sell“, Sam yelled. “It’s your stupid systems that screw things up.” The boss-monster was coming towards him and as he stumbled backwards he tripped and fell to the floor. The boss-monster towered over him, sneering and licking its lips. “What are you gonna do about it?” it growled. Sam’s life flashed before his eyes. He was certain he was going to be killed.
Then in a bizarre moment of clear thought Sam said calmly “You just need to implement a configure, price and quote system. No hassle with orders, no problems with approvals and no delays.”
The boss-monster hesitated for a second. Sam rolled out of the way and stared. Strange marks were forming on the body of the boss-monster, like branding on cattle. It screamed in pain as Sam scrambled towards the window. The boss-monster had fallen to its knees and seemed to be dying. Leaving nothing to chance, Sam opened the window and prepared to jump from the first floor. He took one last look as the monster let out a blood-curdling final wheeze, and collapsed on to its back. Just before he jumped to freedom he could see clearly emblazoned on its chest were three letters.
Slay your demons with a configure, price and quote system. Happy Halloween!