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March 10, 2008

The Plan Has Nine Steps, But It’s Not a Nine-Step Plan


My marketing director had worked hard on the sales plan. He made charts and everything. But more than that, it actually looked like a pretty darn good plan. I was convinced it would work. All nine of the steps he recommended made sense. I was proud of the work he had done.


“Good job, Max,” I said. “Your nine-step plan is excellent.”


“Oh, D.F. It’s not a nine-step plan!”


“It’s not?”




“But I count nine steps here.”


“Yes, it has nine steps, but it’s not a nine-step plan.”


“Well how-many-a-step plan is it?”


“It has nine steps. But we’re not calling it a nine-step plan.”


This was when my head exploded. Some time later, after my executive management team had scraped the oozing remnants of my brain off my office wall, rolled them back up into a ball and re-inserted them into my cranium, I continued without missing a beat:




See, Max is a little sensitive about the way things are labeled. He fears unintended perceptions. He thinks about stuff like this a lot. So when I called his plan with nine steps a nine-step plan, I touched something deep inside, something very personal, something very weird.


“D.F., that’s not the perception we want to convey.”


“What perception would that be, exactly?”


Max sat down in the chair in front of my desk, placed both hands on the edge of said desk, sighed deeply and looked me in the eye. I wished I was at an ice cream stand, or maybe getting pulled over for speeding.


“D.F., I’m sure you realize the power of verbal suggestion. Multi-step programs identified by the number of steps included in the process are often associated with things that do not reflect the true nature of our framework here, and in some cases conjure associations that could detrimentally impact our positioning.”


“Well. We wouldn’t want that. What did you just say?”


“Think, for example, of the 12-step programs associated with substance-abuse rehabilitation. Or eight-step real estate selling programs you so often hear about on television.”


“You mean like the one by that guy with the toupee that looks like a raccoon?”




“So you think that people will have a problem with our sales plan because we call it by a name that sounds like the name of something a raccoon-head guy thought up?”


“It could happen.”


I must admit, I had never thought of that. Probably because I would sooner sit around wondering what kind of shampoo and conditioner Madeleine Albright uses than think about that. But that’s Max. He comes up with good sales plans. He’s just a little funny about what you call them.


“Max,” I said. “What do you want to call the plan?”


“I prefer to call it the V.I.P.O.R. plan. That stands for Vision In Pursuit Of Revenues. I was reading a book by Thomas Friedman and it just came to me.”


So we can’t call it a nine-step plan because it will make people think of the raccoon hair guy, but it’s OK to name it after a snake?


And you think I’m strange.

© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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