silver bullet (n): the new strategy, usually written on the bag of a cigarette pack, that means that last year’s sales figures will be improved by 200%. Always misses its target.

Imagine, if you will… one of France’s major wine-producing Chateaux has been taken over by a former Sales Director and Management Consultant. As they arrange their first “5-minute round-table head-confab mind-synergy”, i.e. “meeting”, the workers of the chateaux recoil in horror at stories of the grim shit they have reaped in previous jobs. Surely it couldn’t happen here?

“Sales of last year’s wine are down 20%” says Sales Director. “This won’t do. We must sell more of last year’s wine, and we must sell it now.”

“But sir,” says one of the workers, “last year’s wine is not ready – we should be focusing on the wine that we made three years ago.”

“Shut up, fool. We have a STRATEGY!”

Yes, they always do. In fact, they have a new one every year. This year, it involves taking two sales teams, splitting them into three, sacking half of them and then telling them that they’re going to sell ‘value’ instead of ‘wine’. When, after a couple of months, the selling of ‘value’ appears not to be working, they’ll go back to selling ‘wine’.

When that doesn’t work, they’ll go back to selling… well, you get my point.

Every year, in almost every business, there is a new “silver bullet” – i.e. the magic strategy that is going to change the company’s fortunes around. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen in Bordeaux, and management consultants are largely kept from the door. Cynics will, however, recognise some of the silver bullets from previous years, as if they’re taken out of a cupboard, brushed down and polished, and presented to the sales force as if it’s something unique, something new, something bright and shiny!

And sales people, who are like the Red Setters of the business world, lap it up. They’d lap anything up, though. They have memories that go back a couple of weeks at most, if they’re smart, and that’s what gets them through the crushing disappointment of having sold fuck all every year of their career.

Declining sales figures, year on year, don’t even seem to change management’s permanent optimism, as they go around bandying charts that say they’re clearly going to double last year’s sales volume. It’s as if they live in a vacuum, far removed from reality, in which American self-help audio books are pumped into their earholes 24 hours a day. “You will sell more widgets, you will sell more widgets.” Where do they get it from? It’s like a five-year-old taking three biscuits a day from the biscuit tin and insisting to his parents that there are more biscuits than ever before in the tin.

It’s the silver bullet! The silver bullet is going to save us all – it’s our new strategy! We’re going to rearrange the teams, mix people up, give you a few new words to say: “create value, synergise thought processes, add value, sell solutions not services!”, and send you out into the big wide world to sell the same old shit at the same old price to the same old people. But we’ve changed the words, so we’ll clearly double our sales volume and meet all targets and Sales Director will become God.

Except he doesn’t. But he gets away with it, because he’s always got an excuse. Every year, come August/September, when it’s patently obvious that he’s going to miss his sales target by, ooh, 70%, he says “well, I haven’t got the right people in place” or “well, I haven’t got the right marketing tools” or “well, I haven’t got the right product in place”. Never “well, I’m shit at this kind of thing, to be honest with you, I only took it up because I was no good at anything else and I’m a bit of a talker. In fact, I’ve spent most of the year surfing the internet, looking for excuses as to why I haven’t met my sales target – well, a bit of that, and a lot of Britney Spears fake nuddy pics.”

Still, he drives a fancy car.

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