A Little Bit Of IT Hustle Goes A Long Way These Days

Written by Todd L. Michaud
February 24th, 2010

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).

Some salespeople are just plain lazy. I’m not sure how they manage to keep earning a paycheck. With all of the “plates in the air,” I consider my time my most valuable resource. As a result, I get really annoyed by people who waste my time, especially salespeople. If a salesperson doesn’t put in the effort to learn about potential customers before engaging with them, he is going to be given a “Bozo” tag, and that is a very difficult tag to remove.

Thirty minutes of research about a person or a company can have such a big impact on the sales process that it baffles me why so few providers take the time to do it. It seems to me that “hustle” has become the exception rather than the rule in sales.

I had a chance to attend the Food Service Technology Conference and Showcase this week in Long Beach, CA. During my time at FS/TEC, I was struck by examples of both great sales hustle and the opposite. I’ll start with what didn’t work.

One of sessions was called “Speed Dating.” This is the description from the E-mail I received to set up the session: “As a roundtable leader, you will bring one of your business challenges or opportunities to the table—literally—and engage in a dialogue with seven (7) pre-screened suppliers who may have ideas or resources that will help you move your business forward. It is not intended to be a sales call, but a high level consultation that facilitates understanding and problem solving.”

Each “session” was 10 minutes long, and the IT providers rotated among the tables. I decided to participate in this session largely because I was interested to see how it all worked. OK, so it didn’t hurt that the show also offered to offset some of my travel costs.

My overall impression of the event is that, while it was somewhat awkward (probably similar to real speed dating), I gained a lot of insight from the providers; they helped me understand the depth of their offerings. In most cases, I was not aware of some of the services and products on offer that could potentially address a current Focus Brands challenge. I am glad I had the chance to participate.

But what bothered me about the event is that some of the vendors had done no preparation for the session. It was finalized the week prior to the event, and a list of attendees was provided to all of the providers. As a result, I was somewhat surprised when I was asked, “So what does Focus Brands do?”

With a perfect opportunity to have a focused, one-on-one conversation with me about my challenges/issues, I would have thought the person sitting across the table from me would at least be aware of which brands we represent. But that was not the case. It’s too bad that this person wasted a good opportunity to have a valuable dialogue about our challenges (as I was able to have with some of the other providers in the session) because of a lack of knowledge about our business.


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