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Who Lowered This Bar and Why Can’t I Raise It?

Imagine if there was a workforce where employee compensation includes customer satisfaction metrics

One day while I was having dinner with my family, I asked my 11-year-old son, "Who is your favorite hero?" He quickly rattled off a number of baseball players on the Chicago Cubs and then asked "Hey dad who's your favorite hero?" I replied; "Dave Duffield." As you might guess, his reaction was "Who's Dave Duffield?"

Not expecting him to know who Dave Duffield is, I said: "Dave Duffield is an important person in the business world. He took a small software company, PeopleSoft, and grew it into a huge business that frustrated his competitors so much they acquired his company. He introduced a simple concept that changed the behavior of his employees." He then replied with "So what did he do that was so great?" I didn't expect an 11-year-old to fully understand organizational behavior, but I thought here's an opportunity to share a life lesson with my son that he will hopefully remember later in life. "He told the sales guys that they don't get paid until the client pays, which typically wasn't until they reached 100% satisfaction." "What's so great about that dad?" "Well first off, the sales guy has to make sure that the client is successful or he doesn't get paid." He then asked, "Isn't that how business is run anyway?" "I wish. Today the salesperson makes a sale and once the opportunity is closed, he moves on to the next sale and is rarely seen by the customer again. In Dave's company, the salesperson who initiated the sale is fully engaged from the start to the product installation and if success isn't achieved he doesn't get paid." He replied "That makes sense. Why don't all companies do this?" I responded with, "I don't know, but I do know that it takes a really great leader to change the way people behave."

In 1999, I was a project manager working for a transportation company and we were in the process of evaluating several ERP systems to solve a Y2K problem. We narrowed down the product selection to two finalists, Dave's company and his #1 competitor. We went through the traditional exercise of product demos, feature evaluations and reference checks but it was the reference check process that made us select Dave's company. The sales guy from Dave's company closed our last meeting with "regarding references, who do you want to talk to? All of my customers are references because I don't get paid until you reach success and become a reference. My compensation is tied to your success. Ask my competitors for references and you'll get a handful. I'll give you buckets of references." The deal was closed and we never even called the references.

I can't help but wonder, why aren't all companies doing business like Dave's company? Why do we allow the salesperson to put together an opportunity and not hold them accountable for the success of the opportunity? Imagine the impact this could have in everything that we buy.

What If...
The lawn maintenance guy is knocking at the door and you're dreading even starting a conversation; however, this time he starts with "Hi my name is Bob and I'm here to tell you about our lawn maintenance program that will improve the look of your lawn. At any time you can cancel our service, and our only response will be a single question - why? If your reason for canceling is financially motivated, there's nothing that I can personally do about that. If our service doesn't live up to your expectations of what I'm promising today, my compensation is decreased for promising you something that I didn't deliver. Also, I am going to personally call you once month to ensure that you remain a satisfied customer and hold me accountable. Would you like to hear more about our services?"

I had always wanted to be a salesperson because I knew that sales would provide me with some excellent opportunities for personal growth - especially because my personal aspirations were to launch a successful startup. Not that long ago, I made the official transition into selling consulting services. A month into the new gig, I had a conversation with one of the owners about Dave Duffield's approach to sales and how I wanted him to hold me accountable for the deals that I was going to put together. He liked the concept but responded with "While I like the concept, if I tie your compensation to client success I'll have to do it for everyone else on the sales team." My response was, "Exactly and I'm willing to be the guinea pig." In the end, it was decided that the idea was too much for the company to introduce now and I quickly realized that I was working for just another company that was no different than all the other companies - make the sale and move on...

Imagine if there was a workforce where employee compensation includes customer satisfaction metrics that includes the salesperson who created the opportunity. We would be upholding our promises and building trust.

I believe that if you change the behavior of the employees, you'll change the culture of the organization, which will change the buying habits of your customers and thus increase the likelihood that they will come back and purchase more or recommend your product or service to someone else.

Dave Duffield proved that raising the bar is possible but it starts with the salesperson.

I wish I could tell you that I'm a self-made millionaire and it was Dave Duffield who helped me get there but that's not the case, at least not now... However, I am pursuing my dreams of launching a startup and I plan to hold myself and anyone else that I hire accountable for the deals that they put together. Someday I will be as successful as Dave Duffield.

More Stories By Steve Pieczko

Steve Pieczko is a management consultant and published author on management consulting topics. Steve is also the founder of RelMap.com which is a unique approach to dynamically mapping organizational behavior that helps organizations better understand the employees. For more information contact Steve at: [email protected]

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