No details doesn’t mean no devil

People hated Ed.

In sales meetings when it was his turn to discuss results in his territory he would say things like: “Sales are down.  The economy is bad.  We have to find new customers.  My Account Executives are working hard.”

Then… nothing.  Silence.

This usually elicited some polite studying of the reports that William had compiled for Ed’s territory and all the other territories, a nervous cough or some inquisitive, yearning looks toward him.  They all thought the same thing, ‘What else?  Surely there had to be more?’ but there never was and they would move onto the next manager who would expound upon the metrics of the region, market volatility and the unfair competition with inferior products that was robbing them of market share.

Occasionally someone would ask a question which at its thinly veiled core was: ‘Isn’t there more?’

Ed was never dismissive or defensive but his replies were usually of the nature: “No, that sums it up.”  People were beginning to complain to Alexander, the Director of Sales.

Alex had engaged Ed ad hoc about his Territory Production Summary (TPS) reports before but the conversation had gone something like:

“So Ed, in the meeting you said that sales are down, how far down?”


“That’s not real good, what do you attribute that to, specifically?”

“The economy is bad.”

“Yes, we know that but why is the economy bad?”

“Lots of reasons Al, sort of a question for an economist.”

“Okay, yes, I imagine it would be, but what are we going to do about the economy and our lagging sales.”

“Can’t do anything about the economy, we have to find new customers and convince them to buy.”

At this point, impatient with the retelling of the TPS Alexander usually said, “But how are we going to find them and get them to buy?!”  Even though he knew what was coming.

“My Account Executives are working hard.”

At this point Ed would smile and head back to his windowless cubicle and Alexander would go to his corner office, exasperated and looking for more.  What that “more” was, he wasn’t quite sure.

He’d had short meetings with Ed’s people off and on over the past six months to see what they thought about Ed.  They had nothing bad to say.  Ed was a good guy.  Ed was direct.  He didn’t complicate things.  He told it like it was.  When he pressed them about his management style almost to a person they said, “Works for me.”

Alexander secretly wondered if the death of Ed’s wife had caused a mental breakdown of some sort.  He knew he saw a therapist on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month.  He could only imagine how that went.

“So Ed, how are you doing?”


How is work?”

“Same as always.”

“Are things going well?”


“How are you sleeping?”

“Good.  Sometimes I can’t get to sleep.  Sometimes I wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep.”

“Do you miss work because of it?”

“No.  I always go in.”

“What keeps you awake at night?”

“Nothing in particular, I’m just not sleepy.”

“Nothing on your mind, no anxiety or stress or unresolved issues?”

“No, just not sleepy.”

“Well, that’s good, you’re being productive even though you’re losing sleep.  What wakes you up in the night?  Do you have racing thoughts?”

“No, just wake up and feel rested.”

“What do you do to get back to sleep?”

“I read or clean up the place.  Sometimes I just go in to work.”

“And how is work going?”

“Good, sales are down.”

“Oh, I’m sort to hear that.  In your territory or company-wide?”


“Why is that?”

“The economy is bad.”

Alexander secretly pitied the therapist.

Deep down, he didn’t despise Ed like the other territory managers seemed to.  He knew the economy was bad.  Their Chief Market Strategist had been providing him analytics for months showing key markers trending downward.  He also knew that among their existing customers they were maximizing their sales in this down economy so the only way to increase revenues was to find new customers.  His sales background told him the only way to find new customers was to keep your nose to the grindstone, work hard and bang on doors you hadn’t ever banged on before.  These things were all true and yet he also knew that those answers wouldn’t satisfy the V.P. of Sales in their monthly conference call.  Benjamin required more than that.

Benjamin lived for strategic planning, detailed analysis and complex profit and loss projections based on past and future results.  The current economic and specific business climate had to be fully vetted so that if called upon, he could justify to the President of Sales why their numbers weren’t meeting the budget set last August.  Furthermore, their reactions to any shortfall could not just be summarized by “We have to find new customers and get them to buy” there had to be at least a three-pronged plan to shore up those slumping numbers, in fact the more prongs the better.  This would entail complicated alliances, marketing and sales efforts with a projected return on investment.  The plan had to achieve a high level of detail and yet be easily digestible to the President.  After all, the President oversaw multiple divisions and departments and ultimately reported to the E.V.P and CEO.  “We’ll work harder” would never cut it.  In fact refusal to flesh things out further might get a person fired.

No, Alexander thought, Ed knew how they did things at Barrett and Blanck.  He would have to provide more.  He would have to give more detail, more analysis, more strategy and more complex metrics.  Alexander couldn’t cover for him, especially since all the other territory managers served this up to him on a regular basis.  To treat Ed differently was clearly inconsistent and preferential.  Regardless of his peoples’ affinity for him and their clear approval of his style if one of the other managers wanted, they could raise a big stink when it came to salary and bonus time.  If he let this continue the company would have no leg to stand on if someone pushed about the way Ed operated.  This had to stop.  He would have to bring Ed in for a serious meeting.

The next managers’ meeting was in two weeks.  He would request bullet points for Ed to address during his report a couple of days before and go over them with him if they didn’t contain a sufficient level of detail.  This should have a dual effect.  It would make Ed’s report more robust and satisfy the other managers and get him off the hook with Benjamin who listened in on the meetings.  He could coach Ed on a point of order that he clearly wasn’t getting.  It might save his own ass, and Ed’s.

His email to Ed was simple.

“Please send over your territory results, metrics and budget analysis with justification for the upcoming conference call on Thursday.  I’d like to review them and offer suggestions.”

He couldn’t have been more satisfied with the information Ed sent over just 45 minutes later.  There, laid out in all their glory, were complete spreadsheet analyses of sales, budgets and efforts to extend market share.  Furthermore, each spreadsheet and graph had a two to three sentence explanation, succinct and to the point, but directly laying out the figures above.  This managers’ meeting would be different.  It would get Benjamin off his case and alleviate the resentment toward Ed from the rest of the managers.

Except it didn’t.

When he said hopefully, “Now we’ll hear from Ed about what’s going on in the West-Central Territory.” all eyes turned to Ed and Ed stated very matter-of-factly:  “Sales are down.  The economy is still bad.  We’re trying to find new customers.  The Account Executives are working hard to do that.  Thanks.”

Someone cleared their throat.

The sound of a pen literally dropping off the table could be heard along with Sandy from Marketing grunting as she leaned over and picked it up off the floor.

A few of the other managers turned their gaze from Ed back to him with inquisitive looks.

“Ed, what are your Account Executives doing specifically to find new customers?”  A polite frustration in Benjamin’s voice came through the phone line clearly.

“We’re leveraging existing relationships.”

“Good, what are your projections for this leveraging?  What are the metrics for the relationships you’re tapping into?”

“No way to put a number on it, Ben.”

“Give it a try, Ed.”  It was clear Benjamin wasn’t going to let this go.

“17 points.  Margin of error 15 points.”

Some of the managers looked at Ed, incredulous that he’d just told the V.P. of Sales that his metric literally meant nothing.  His projection could end up as a paltry 2 points or an earth-shattering 32 points.  Others looked at Alexander with an “Are you going to let him get away with that?” expression.  Others just looked down at their reports, as if they couldn’t bear to be around what might happen next.

“So, Ed you’re telling me that we could see anything from nearly a one-third increase down to almost nothing?.”  Benjamin’s voice was light but the passive aggressive tone was clear.


“Yes” was all Ed replied.

Does this ring any bells?  There’s more to this story and I’ll continue it next week to see if Ed survives.

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