• June 1, 2006
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

It's Hard Out Here For a Manager

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It seems like I've been in something of a rut with this column lately, focusing on what not to do, on who doesn't need CRM, and that sort of thing. Let's recap: January was New Year's resolutions for slacker businesses. March detailed outsourcing plans for the ethically challenged. April ripped into tax accountants and the IRS--fortunately my taxes were done before that issue hit desks. And May hailed a businessman who had absolutely no need for the CRM goodness we usually preach. Do you see a pattern emerging here? This isn't like me--the fact is, I've had a great, uplifting topic in mind almost since I started "Pint of View," but there just wasn't an appropriate time to deliver it. It's about the quintessential CRM user, a job that brings together the best of sales, marketing, and extreme customer service in a managerial role. It's not an obscure position, either--it's appeared in countless movies and TV shows, with such consummate professionals as Dan Aykroyd, Tom Cruise, and Harvey Keitel portraying different examples. Still, I needed a sign. It came, oddly enough, as I watched the Oscar broadcast in early March. I usually ignore the Best Song award, but this year's winner provided the impetus--the backhand to the face, if you will--to bring my dream to fruition. I present to you the pimp, exemplar of all that is CRM-y. You read that right: pimp. P-I-M-P. Sometimes called a hustler, mack, panderer, madam, or procurer--not to mention other, less savory names. If you think about it--and ignore the illegality of the trade--this management pro does it all. Whether heading up a field sales force (streetwalkers), an on-demand dispatch service (call girls/boys), or a brick-and-mortar establishment (a brothel), the pimp's hands are full. Marketing is one of the biggest parts of pimp work. Not only does the pimp present qualified leads to his stable of customer service reps, he must advertise business quality through appearance: Hats, fur and leather coats, scads of bling, and a properly pimped-out ride are all hallmarks of the job. Some are content with the stereotypical Dolemite/Huggy Bear look, but the likes of Archbishop Don "Magic" Juan, or Della Reese as Vera Walker in Harlem Nights, appear more upscale. Mona Stangley, Dolly Parton's character from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, won customers with her smile and personality, while real-life madams Sydney Biddle Barrows and Heidi Fleiss were all about couture and good business practices. While closing sales are left to frontline personnel, the pimp must serve as a sales manager, ensuring maximum profit. The you-better-have-my-money! approach may work for some, but the best pimps are able to provide more constructive criticism of the, err, sales pitch, and suggest ways to cross- and upsell; I'll leave the specifics of that to your imagination. Sometimes customer service intervention is required, too--it is a service business after all. Customers' special requests and complaints must be dealt with, whether through appeasement or smackdown. My boss is probably wondering which one of us will be looking for a new job because of this article, so let me try to deliver a message to redeem it. Business is business, once you get past the specifics. Marketing, sales, and service are part of every venture, which is why CRM is so important to them all. It's also why the most successful businesses split responsibility between specialists, rather than pile it all on the shoulders of one executive. The harried micromanager is just as common a character as the pimp, and as outdated (you might say). Or, to quote Big Daddy Kane, "Pimpin' ain't easy." Contact Senior Writer Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com
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