This is a story about Fred. Fred manages a very busy full-service hardware store that’s part of a huge national chain. His store is immaculate, his inventory spot on and his ability to predict what his customers want is legendary. But something is not quite right in Fred’s store.

Fred’s supervisors really want to love him, but they just can’t because Fred’s store sales are consistently below average, despite the size of the store and the high amount of traffic his store experiences.

On the surface, Fred’s a good guy. He’s friendly with all of his staff. He’s really good with customers and is by far the best salesperson in the store … potentially even within the entire chain. In a large store like his, however, it takes more than one person to drive overall store numbers; Fred’s team needs to produce as well. But they don’t, and the sales results continue to be a disappointment to the company.

You see, Fred is a scaredy cat. What, you may ask, is Fred so scared of?

He is afraid to have courageous conversations with his staff. He avoids these kinds of discussions like a cat avoids bubbling cauldrons, instead hoping the people he wishes would do something different will magically “get it” and change their ways. Not surprisingly, Fred is consistently disappointed by the results.

Fred sighs a lot and tells himself that he is just going to have to put up with the fact that he’ll always have “idiots” on his staff because there aren’t a lot of competent people to choose from in his marketplace.

One dark and stormy night, similar to many nights before, Fred watched one of his newer part-time employees, Jeremy, out on the sales floor. Jeremy’s initial sales process was pretty good – he was asking questions to understand the customer’s needs. But Jeremy hit a snag when the customer asked several questions about a specific product line with which Jeremy was unfamiliar. Jeremy froze, obviously panicked. Instead of seeking assistance from someone else in the store, Jeremy told the client that the store didn’t carry that particular product line. The customer’s initial eagerness turned to wariness, then to frustration, and she finally left abruptly without even purchasing the items she already had in her hands. Fred groaned; clearly, he had hired another idiot.

The next day, Fred did what he always did after witnessing a disappointing employee. He called a team meeting, because that’s what Head Office said he should do to build morale. At the team meeting, Fred offered a general overview of the product line that Jeremy had been unfamiliar with the night before, and again reminded the team how important team selling was. As usual, the entire team … including Jeremy … walked away more than a little confused as to why yet another store meeting had been held.

Two weeks later Jeremy quit, confirming Fred’s belief that he wasn’t worth investing in. Two months later, Fred found out that Jeremy was the top sales person at the hardware store across town.

Moral of the story:

  • Scaredy cats help better manager’s improve their sales OR
  • Idiots can be turned into performers if you face your fears!