Thirty years ago, I worked for one of the largest companies in the world. They were profitable and one of the best engineering/manufacturing companies on the planet.
The product we were selling had just become the standard for the world’s largest company and all their global suppliers. This was as near as I ever came to a “fish in the barrel” opportunity for a sales person working on 90% commission.
We were a famous company, recognized for great products and engineering, the largest company in the world just told everyone who wants to do business with them to buy our product, so how tough could our competition be?
Certainly, our competition was not going to retire from the field. One of our competitors was IBM as well as some new technology companies who were well funded and brought functionality to the table we could not match.
Regardless of IBM and stunning new technology the big player said buy our product if you want to be considered for any of the 100 billion we will spend this year. “The fish were in the barrel.”
Every customer I went after had decided that unless I did something stupid, overcharged or could not deliver we were going to do business. The average deal in that industry was over $1,000,000.00 and could easily be $10,000,000.00 or more.
As a salesperson, this felt like being the only child who showed up at an Easter Egg Hunt. All I had to do was run from place to place at the highest speed possible and pick up the deals.
The buyers would always pretend they were looking at our competitors to keep us in line, but no deals were lost to those other competitors, so you are thinking this was truly a great year for me and a happy story – right?
Not so fast! To my surprise, my real competitor showed up when and from where I NEVER expected.
Next, the obvious thing happened. Prospects started signing large contracts and visions of a new boat paid for with commissions was dancing in my head, until “it” happened.
“It” started slowly but it was clear. My company had no ability, interest or commitment to do a great job processing and delivering on these millions of dollars of business. As I looked deeper they were not even going to do a job that meets the requirements of the purchase contract.
To meet the contract terms, we needed to:
- Correctly enter the total order into the production system.
- Purchase the commodity parts the contract required to be staged and delivered by the required date.
- Send our engineers to the buyer’s location to construct the infrastructure to house the purchase.
- Schedule the buyer’s leadership and operations staff for training with their senior leader to be able to use what they were buying.
- Get the buyer and seller project managers together to be sure everything was in place at the right time with the right “trained” people.
- Execute on the delivery on a timely basis.
- Bring the system up.
- Transition the operations of the system to the buyer.
While the vision of this process started slowly, by the end of the week after the signing of the contract, it was clear this was NEVER going to happen as contracted and unless something happened fast the customer would never be happy, never sign off on the installation and I would never get paid, while having to take a lot of phone calls from mad customers.
To protect the customer and my commission I became the project manager and got good at all eight steps and about a hundred sub-steps over the next six weeks.
The valuable lesson I learned was, that while the fish were in the barrel we had no plan to clean, prepare and clean up the fish after I shot them.
Over that year my quota number was NEVER at risk from any competitor with products and services. My competitor was my own company. Every time we shot a fish in the barrel it took me six weeks to go through the eight steps required to satisfy the contract and get me paid.
With my three deals that year over a million dollars, they required eighteen weeks of project management. Just imagine what my income would have been with those eighteen weeks shooting fish vs. cleaning and cooking them.
I would have gotten my boat if my company had not been my biggest competitor.
My company did more to hobble and stop me than anyone outside of my company. I sold three deals in thirty weeks and if I had the eighteen weeks back maybe two more. My competitor (my company) striped as much as 40% of my “should have been deals”.
The message is clear “the chaos your own company manufactures does more to stop profitable revenue than any outside force ever can”. This experience launched my 30-year mission to help you and every business remove the “Cost of Chaos” for producing revenue so you get your boat.
Be clear who your real competitor is and as Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
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