Price-Driven Corporate Brutality?

4111133975_f7c81d8869_oThe quest for the bottom line leads to brutality, says Seth Godin in today’s blog post.

The race to the bottom, driven by price, causes people within companies to treat others with disregard of the Golden Rule. Outsourcing, treating customers with contempt and treating suppliers with contempt results in those organizations extending that behavior in their own companies.

It’s a really interesting theory and it reminded me of something I saw first hand.

One evening I walked into the inside sales bullpen of a medium-sized company. I saw the following on the whiteboard where the daily sales goals were tracked:

How many kills did you make today?

When you refer to your own customers with that kind predatory language, what type of behavior does that engender?

It turns out that it was the culture of price that drove the “kills” comment.  The salespeople were working in a very competitive environment and the number one complaint they had was about the price. The products they were selling were priced at a higher price than the competition. But rather than sell on quality, the salespeople wanted to sell on price. Their management (not leadership!) hadn’t prepared them to do anything else.

The brutal “kills” comment was just a manifestation of wanting to compete on price. By the way, the salespeople were treated as prey by their management and treated their colleagues in a similar fashion. The customers? Well they were just so much carrion to be picked over–and the customer complaints told a story of unbelievable contempt toward them.

Maybe the race to the bottom does lead to brutality. Even the unchecked desire to participate in a price war may lead to bad behavior. What do you think?


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