Doyle's Fish & Hicky Bar


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Epic Fail Sales Tactic from the Past

When I was a young oil field supply salesman in my 20's, I had a route I followed much like a bread or milk truck would now.    I had inventory at customers sites and would show up once a week to check the "counts".  Whatever was missing I would replace and give the customer an invoice copy on the spot.   Many times at these warehouses I was just one of many route salesmen and we competed for space, speed of delivery and depth of merchandise.      I drove a relatively new Ford van with shelves in the back that was sometimes dangerously overloaded with inventory.    I never wanted to miss a sale.   I was a kid and didn't have much mentoring, not to say I would have listened anyway.    I considered myself to be the BEST SALESMAN IN THE WORLD.   
About the only advice I would take from anybody concerned sales tactics.   For instance, while lame, sometimes gimmicks worked.   I mean, giving a pack of matches away in a bar probably didn't make any bar a penny.   While giving a coupon for a half price meal brings customers in.  Some things work and some don't.     I tried buying lunches, bringing lunches, delivering free beer, free Six Flags tickets, free hats, free Tshirts, pens, lighters, notepads, license plate frames, bumper stickers...........
Nothing worked.    So while visiting with an old salesman one day he mentioned that he would stick a piece of gum in each box he delivered.    That way whenever someone opened it they would get the delightful surprise of a nice piece of chewing gum.    Sounded really great to me  so I tried it.    After a couple of weeks and about $10 worth of chewing gum, sales hadn't increased at all.   $10 back then was probably comparable to $50 now.    So I decided that since my commission made it worthwhile I would tape a crisp $1 bill to the inside lid in each box.   I bet that would knock my competition totally out of the ring!
I made my delivery of the specially prepared boxes in my corner of the warehouse.   I could barely wait to see the sales figures the following week.   
As I drove into the yard the following week to count the inventory I was surprised to see a mound of boxes and other trash that nearly blocked the overhead door.   Two or three men were rummaging around in the hill of trash looking for something.    My contact  was standing there looking POd too so I began to kiss butt the moment I walked in.  I was in shock to see the entire warehouse had been ransacked from one end to the other.   Every box opened up and dumped on the floor, piles of boxes and litter everywhere, emptied shelving, and smashed Styrofoam like snow all over the floor.
" Hey Shorty!"  (for real)   What's going on, spring cleaning?"    He gave me a grimace and waved his arm at the mess. 
"I don't know exactly, but one of the hands must of broke in here and tore up everything.    Kind a weird that nothing seems to be missing though.   Maybe you can help me separate your stuff so we can get it back on the shelf."  
Sure I said  and started picking up boxes.     It was then  that I began to look for the dollar bills I had taped inside the lid.  None in that box, or that one, or this one.   It dawned on me.   Oh my God,  punks came in here and practically destroyed the warehouse looking for those dollar bills! 
I helped straighten up the warehouse most of the rest of the day.   I never mentioned that my dollar bill trick was probably what pushed the "worms" over the edge.    I learned a lesson like the sorcerer's apprentice.    I used just enough of the gimmick to get myself in potential trouble with my customer.    Giving stuff away for free generally attracts freeloaders.
And that just wasn't my customer.