As welcome as a fart in a perfume factory

“I am as welcome as a fart in a perfume factory”, a friend recently told me.

He has been tasked with a project to drive revenue. He used this colourful expression to describe how his efforts were not particularly welcomed by colleagues.

It resonated because of what happened earlier that day.

[Let me be clear: This is not a whinge. Most people in my position would recognise this story as an everyday occurrence, but offering a different perspective may be food for thought to some retailers/franchisors out there.]

We supply the platform and the content for franchisors to manage their learning, communications and operational procedures cost-effectively online. I had done my homework and figured there was merit in a quick conversation with the owner to understand whether they had already committed to an alternative. I made a call to a business owner to ask a few questions about some of their current strategies.

I was given the run-around and eventually asked to send something through on email; the modern way of saying b*gger off without the discomfort of saying it to your face. Those of you who make a living as a supplier to retailers will appreciate the scenario.

This time, I declined politely. I informed the gatekeeper that unless I was able to speak to someone briefly, I wasn’t prepared to waste my time since in my experience you never get a response from those emails.

Whilst I did not say this to the receptionist, I am not willing to engage with a company who has that embedded culture, and I don’t want them as a client; because they will be the perfume factory and I am the ‘you know what’…

Symptom #1: Inaccessibility

Companies often make it impossible to be found. For example:

What it says about the business

Do these organisations seriously think they will EVER establish a customer-service orientation in their business when the employees in the stores KNOW that head office treats customers and other stakeholders differently to what they are told to do it?

Symptom #2: Poor gate keeping

Often a gatekeeper is tasked with the responsibility of making off-the-cuff judgment calls about whether the phone call is of strategic importance or not, and that sets the alarm bells off in my mind.

What it says about the business

Gatekeepers have been briefed (or take it upon themselves) to become the arbiter of all commercial interactions and wield their power accordingly, when instead they should be informed to direct (not block) the enquiries to the best person.

Even a photocopy paper sales person (no disrespect intended) can make a significant difference to a company with a product innovation or an opportunity to save money.

Symptom #3: In love with the status quo

We have great technology and superior content that could result in savings of more than 50% over the status quo. I am certain that every person who comes ringing has something to offer. Being connected to other stakeholders in your industry is one of the smartest and most cost-effective ways of staying abreast of things.

Can you imagine where society would be if GPs had the same attitude about pharmaceutical representatives?

What it says about the business

To have the attitude that ‘we will go and find what we need when we need it’ is reactive, slow and ineffective. You will never know as much about photocopiers than the photocopier people (or the learning & development people) and it is free research.


Whilst I appreciate that the CEO cannot take every call, there are simple things that could be done to improve relations with the market place, and at the same time actually build a brand that consumers admire and become an employer of choice.

One of my favourite aphorisms is: “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” (Possibly Harv Eker, probably Anon.)

This means: the way you treat your prospective suppliers is the way you treat your suppliers is the way you treat you your staff is the way you treat your customers – and if you believe different you are kidding yourself.

We are in the fortunate position to run a home office. An occupational hazard is Jehovah’s Witnesses. Heck, I turn them away 99 out of 100. But I always say G’day and even offer them a glass of water and use of the bathroom.

You don’t have to believe in what anyone is selling and you don’t have to buy what they are selling. It’s OK to say no. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be nice – maybe even professional - about it.

I would be interested to hear other sales professionals’ tales in the comments.

Have fun


Ganador provides learning & development strategies, content and technology for customer acquisition and retention in the retail supply chain at twice the value and half the cost of the alternative…

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