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Mr. Marx, Wherefore Art Thou?
Old 08-28-2008, 07:36 PM   #1
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Mr. Marx, Wherefore Art Thou?

An amazing economics experiment and how it got field workers to pick a lot more fruit. - By Tim Harford - Slate Magazine

Devilish techniques to break up worker friendship groups and maximize production.

Ha
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Old 08-29-2008, 09:18 AM   #2
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That is really interesting, Ha. I enjoyed the article and the premise. But what occurred to me is that it is not so different motivating fruit workers as salespeople. My boss was telling me a story this morning about when he was in sales, how when the new year's incentive pay plan was unveiled, the best sales guys would set to figuring out how to game it for the most pay. And so each year the company would change the plan. This led to both higher productivity and higher pay for the workers in the end. The higher pay part is where the anecdote diverges from the Slate story, unfortunately.

Perhaps at least we can credit Mr. Marx with the minimum wage floor available to Farmer Smith's pickers, though.
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Old 08-29-2008, 09:37 AM   #3
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My boss was telling me a story this morning about when he was in sales, how when the new year's incentive pay plan was unveiled, the best sales guys would set to figuring out how to game it for the most pay. And so each year the company would change the plan. This led to both higher productivity and higher pay for the workers in the end. The higher pay part is where the anecdote diverges from the Slate story, unfortunately.
Gotta be honest, that is BS. I used to hate that when I didn't have control of my own compensation. One year, I got hired as a sales manager for a small company. My first full year there our sales team raised NET PROFITS $800,000, a 55% increase. Almost immediately, the company changed the pay plan for everyone, and I would have had to DOUBLE that the following year to make the same money. There's a FINE LINE between motivating salespeople and making them want to quit, and most companies aren't that smart about the difference.......
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Old 08-29-2008, 09:42 AM   #4
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Note that my boss quit that job to buy this business instead, FD--because you are absolutely correct.
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Old 08-29-2008, 09:49 AM   #5
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There's a FINE LINE between motivating salespeople and making them want to quit, and most companies aren't that smart about the difference.......
I think that many companies have adopted the theory that any old schmo can do the job as good as any other schmo, so why not go for the schmo who'll work the cheapest.

Well, except for the exec suite, where they can't seem to print money and stock certs fast enough...

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Old 08-29-2008, 10:14 AM   #6
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I found motivating sales people to be easy. I just talked them into buying a mercedes, a big house in an expensive town, and wearing clothes that were as costly as mine. Then I made sure they got married.

After that they became rather self motivating.
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:17 AM   #7
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I found motivating sales people to be easy. I just talked them into buying a mercedes, a big house in an expensive town, and wearing clothes that were as costly as mine. Then I made sure they got married.

After that they became rather self motivating.
That's why I quit working for guys like you a long time ago.........
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:17 AM   #8
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...and had a passel of younguns in private school...

Huh, no wonder it is impossible to motivate me...
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:17 AM   #9
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I think that many companies have adopted the theory that any old schmo can do the job as good as any other schmo, so why not go for the schmo who'll work the cheapest.
And we wonder why customer service is horrible and salespeople are awful.........
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:19 AM   #10
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Yeah, but there are plenty of new suckers prospects showing up every day...

About the only other highly effective method I came up with was not allowing sales people to hang around the office. They could either go find a customer to talk to, sit at a coffee shop somewhere or go home and have the wife ask them why the hell they werent out there selling something.
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:20 AM   #11
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And we wonder why customer service is horrible and salespeople are awful.........
It no wonder. Any company that wants to stop having its best employees talk to and help their customers is going to go down the drain, unless of course all of its competitors follow suit.

Its also worth noting that we're sort of getting what we pay for in many cases. So many people make decisions based on cost of the product that companies are simply giving us what we want.
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:23 AM   #12
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Yeah, but there are plenty of new suckers prospects showing up every day...
I was one of them when I was wet behind the ears........

Quote:
About the only other highly effective method I came up with was not allowing sales people to hang around the office. They could either go find a customer to talk to, sit at a coffee shop somewhere or go home and have the wife ask them why the hell they werent out there selling something.
I used to have a boss that wanted to "get to know" our spouses. He used to give out large gift certificates to a local jeweler to the top salesmen in the various promotions we had, and would CALL the wives/husbands/SOs to tell them about it..........worked like a charm............
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:25 AM   #13
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Its also worth noting that we're sort of getting what we pay for in many cases. So many people make decisions based on cost of the product that companies are simply giving us what we want.
So, that should apply to financial services too...........
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:29 AM   #14
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Nope. Plenty of companies charge more for inferior products and services, and for some reason some people equate price with quality, even when the quality has been demonstrably shown to be lesser than cheaper products and services.

And by the way, we just called your wives to tell them about the gift certificate to make sure you didnt spend it on your girlfriend. In the cases where you did, we got the expensive divorce bonus, which would result in the salesguy working twice as hard to catch up. And of course another big house and mercedes had to be bought.

What I should have done is gotten in cahoots with a real estate agent and car salesman and gotten kickbacks.
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:30 AM   #15
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Gotta be honest, that is BS. I used to hate that when I didn't have control of my own compensation. One year, I got hired as a sales manager for a small company. My first full year there our sales team raised NET PROFITS $800,000, a 55% increase. Almost immediately, the company changed the pay plan for everyone, and I would have had to DOUBLE that the following year to make the same money. There's a FINE LINE between motivating salespeople and making them want to quit, and most companies aren't that smart about the difference.......
If I remeber correctly, that is why Ross Perot quit at IBM and founded EDS- at IBM they kept cutting his commission level becasue he "was making too much money".

Sales in one thing. but the real dark side of piece work is found elswhere. Alaskan fishing and small loggers. The workers want to make money, it is done on shares- but it leads to some pretty horrendous accidents in these dangerous environments.

Ha
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Old 08-29-2008, 10:37 AM   #16
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Silly me, all these years I thought he was just another poor devil bled out by a woman. Now you tell me its about the man!

Sure sounds heartfelt!

Ha
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Old 08-29-2008, 11:09 AM   #17
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Silly me, all these years I thought he was just another poor devil bled out by a woman. Now you tell me its about the man!

Sure sounds heartfelt!

Ha
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