The Worst Case of Sleazy Sales Tactics in History by SuperMedia


To some organizations business is a collaborative process. Grunts at the bottom share suggestions to decision makers at the top on policy related issues. Solutions to problems that impact the good will of clients and the success of the consultants or grunts. In other organizations, unless you are in a position of power, your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions are worthless. You are more or less an assembly line worker who can only impact the decisions that you have been given “authority” to control. Decisions such as what to do when you have a customer complaint.

Companies of the future are nothing-like companies of the past. The old ways of doing business just plain sucks compared to the “Google” or “Zappos” type business environments. You don’t find many mindless slaves who are told to do as they are told without permission for contribution of ideas for improvement.

Before I ended my employment with Idearc/SuperMedia in 2009, I happened to hire one of the best family law firms in the Dallas area to represent me for my Mother’s estate. My Mom died tragically in a motorcycle accident in October of 2008. While at the Idearc/SuperMedia office during this time, I witnessed first hand the questionable actions and backstabbing tactics on behalf of SuperMedia’s sales management team. This deeply disturbed me. I attempted to correct this problem as an employee but was ultimately pushed out the door by Bill Brewer, the new head honcho of Texas Sales at Fuller Drive in Irving Texas. Bill, in all his infinite wisdom, had been on the job for just 2 weeks.

On SuperMedia’s website they claim:

We stand side-by-side with plumbers and painters, landscapers and exterminators, roofers and dog groomers, movers and mechanics. We are the voice of house cleaners, window cleaners, carpet cleaners and pool cleaners. We are their catalyst of commerce.

So to resolve this longtime customer issue, I sent this long email last week to SuperMedia’s management team and public relations department decision makers.

from

Mike Stewart <dallasseoguru@gmail.com>

sender-time

Sent at 4:08 PM (GMT-05:00). Current time there: 8:11 AM. ✆

to

Andrew.Shane@supermedia.com

cc

scott.klein@supermedia.com,Peter.McDonald@supermedia.com,Sandra.Williamson@supermedia.com,Cody.Wilbanks@supermedia.com,mike@smbseo.com

date

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 4:08 PM

subject

Hammerle Finley Law Firm – Potential Win Win Here?

mailed-by

gmail.com

Thanks for talking with me this past week. First, a quick recap of the Hammerle Finley Law Firm Verizon Yellow Pages advertising account, and then some suggestions for a good resolution for SuperMedia.

From the information I have gathered, HF has been a loyal customer and a big advertiser with the company for more than 25 years. They first started dealing with GTE Yellow Pages in 1984, basically at the infancy of lawyer advertising. Because they grew so quickly to a large and respected law firm in the community, a lot of area law firms followed their lead with advertising dollars. In fact, the sales reps often bragged to them about how they sold so many ads based on “what Hammerle was doing.” Pete Hammerle, the law firm’s Executive Director and marketing guru, actually was asked, and appeared, on a customer panel at several kickoffs/seminars that GTE put on for their marketing managers. It was a very good relationship, and HF placed the bulk of its marketing dollars in the company’s yellow pages. By 2007, HF had decided that it would drop all of its yellow page advertising with competitors and contract only with the Company (by then it had morphed into Idearc.) Considering the degree of fragmentation in the yellow pages market by this time, I think this was a very strong commitment on part of Pete.

Unfortunately, their move coincided with the dramatic drop-off in quality and ethical standards at Idearc. I saw that while I was on the inside, as you have seen me rant about on my websites. I know that I don’t have to convince you of the problems that mired down Idearc at that point.

Because they had concentrated all of their advertising in the Idearc books, HF was able to identify the problems with the Lewisville distribution of the book. Their telephone calls dropped off dramatically when the competitors’ new books came out. They found out that their clients had never received the 2007 Idearc book. Then, in June 2008, the 2007 book was delivered bundled with the 2008 Dallas Yellowpages on a “secondary distribution”. When Pete Hammerle complained, Idearc compounded the problem by denying that there was any delivery issue, and gave him a sheaf of delivery receipts containing forged signatures. (Note that Idearc publicly made it a selling point for later books that they had installed a tracking method to fix their delivery problems). By the time the 2007 book was delivered, it would only be in the marketplace for 60 days before being replaced by the 2008 book.

Then the Denton Yellowpages came out, and their advertising was so full of mistakes that it was worthless to the law firm. HF had paid for a solo forced tab, such as had appeared in countless years before it, but that year, for the first time, the salesman sold two forced tabs in the book – and the other forced tab was to another law firm that appeared before the HF tab in the book just a few pages in front (likely a coupon tab.) Some HF attorneys were completely left out of listings, and attorneys who had been removed from the advertising by HF were left in. They were invoiced $1500 more a month than the contract amount.

When HF refused to pay for the mistakes, their salesman, Scott Mobley, responded by saying they would be dropped from the North Collin County book. Left without any advertising in the area, HF went ahead and signed up for advertising with competitors. It turned out that Idearc left their ads in the book (albeit with many mistakes) and then invoiced them for the entire book.

The ultimate problem, however, came when their long-time Idearc salesman, Scott Mobley, started working with the head of the family law section for HF who was secretly plotting to take the law firm’s entire family law section, move across the parking lot, and start a competing firm. Rather than refuse to help this management employee steal half of the law firm’s business, or to disclose the manager’s plans to HF, Idearc’s sales rep Scott Mobley and his manager John Klein, who were assigned to Hammerle Finley’s account once again, schemed on how to get both accounts in the book. Two Idearc cohorts met with Pete Hammerle and said Scott Mobley was too busy and they were bringing in another salesman to work the HF account. They then proceeded to try to sell HF new advertising priced to include all of the attorneys in the Firm, including the 5 attorneys they knew were planning to leave. When the HF lawyer manager moved out with the entire section, it was in large part because he had Idearc advertising that was already under contract (signed while he was still an HF employee) and well under way.

(That last issue is one that is going to be raised in a lawsuit {and quite possibly on my sites} against Idearc and is going to lead to some really bad publicity at a sensitive time for the new company.)

Rather than resolve these complaints, Idearc sued HF.

With all of this history, I know you are wondering why I think there may be a way to salvage this long-time customer.

If it had been any other year, or any other top management, or if any type of ethical constraints placed on salespeople, then none of those events would have happened. When the complaint was received that the books weren’t delivered, then the company would have admitted that delivery problems were a huge issue that was being faced by the industry and given HF credit. When the misrepresentations and mistakes were brought to light, the company would have listened, evaluated them, and given a credit. The company would not have said it was pulling the ads, and then billed for them. And, most importantly, the company would not have allowed its employees to help a rogue manager commit fraud.

I’ve spoken with Pete at length, and I know that he is willing to believe that the old group and its philosophy is gone, and that the new company will be different. He is interested in the products and the new management direction at Idearc. He is a savvy marketer, and sees that there is a definite advantage to a web campaign that ties-in with the Firm’s website. He would like the door opened to talk to someone about a new contract. And where HF goes, so does the bulk of the legal advertising dollars in Denton County. He is willing to explore advertising, but he cannot do that while he is at odds with the company.

If you really want to show the world that the old Idearc is gone, and the new SuperMedia management is going in a successful direction, then I think you have a chance to do that here. For more than 20 years, Pete and HF were one of your biggest supporters and swung a whole lot of business your way. They are willing to do that again. When you do a risk-reward analysis, I think you’ll see that chasing a very difficult lawsuit (and facing a counterclaim) is bad business, and having a new contract, with new money, as a showcase for a new product is very good business. I’m willing to help you sell that to Pete and HF. Can you give me a response as soon as possible on this?

Cheers,
Mike Stewart

“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” — Albert Einstein

P.S. Hammerle has a new website http://www.Hammerle.com, the only remnants of the old site is the thumbnail on SuperPages.com. The thumbnail is of the Lawyers.com site. It would be great to get someone in “I-Care” to correct this. Just like past problems, it would be nice to move forward from that outdated website design, lol.

So, what was SuperMedia’s formal response? TALK TO OUR LEGAL DEPARTMENT. I don’t talk to legal departments. The response from SuperMedia doesn’t shock me. They had the opportunity to win a big on back. They screwed up, but they sit behind some God forsaken bullshit 4 page microfont contract and want to keep the philosophy that the company has no corporate conscience.

From Seth Godin’s Blog:
The corporate conscience

There isn’t one.

Corporations don’t have a conscience, people do.

That means that every time you say, “It’s just my job,” or “My department has a policy,” or “All I do is work here,” what you’ve done is abdicated responsibility–to no one.

It’s convenient and even comfortable to blame the anonymous actions of many working in concert on a evanescent brand or organization, but that starts you on an inevitable race to the bottom. Organizations have more power than ever before. They are better synchronized, faster, and possess more tools to change the economy and the people in it than ever before. And the only option available to the rest of us is for individuals to take responsibility (it’s not given) for what they do and how they do it.

The very same tools that permit organizations to synchronize their efforts are now available to you and to me. I guess the question is: will we use that power to humanize the systems we’ve created?

PS It’s not just about being a good citizen: when bad behavior comes back to hurt the company, it hurts you, too.

Considering that “Attorneys and Lawyers” account for 13% of the revenues for yellow pages publishers, I am sure once my new “Attorney Yellow Pages Advertising” website is complete, lawyers everywhere will have a new place to discuss these sort of injustices.

As a libertarian, not that it matters other than my addiction to all things political, I firmly believe that social media will be the deciding factor in how business is done. No longer do you get clients from name recognition alone. Reputation is vital to the success of any business entity. Activities like those mentioned above do not go unpunished. We have been forced to pick sides, whether it be Democrat or Republican, since the early days of voting. Social media and online reputation has thrown a wrench in the way the gears of business turn. You can not avoid your questionable actions. Future elections will be decided in social media, not yard signs and bullcrap TV ad promises.

My response to SuperMedia’s management teams response to this email? “How about telling the legal department to call me!”

looks like the old walking fingers is flipping us the bird, huh?

Otherwise, I will be seeing you folks here later. Standing by the good guys. You know, the big local law firm that has padded the pockets of your crony executives and sales reps for countless years only to be stabbed in the back by your so called “media consultants”.  Just a bunch of mindless cold calling commission sales reps. They (specifically all the new folks you hired to cut salary costs) don’t know the first thing about real media buying.

 

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4 Responses to The Worst Case of Sleazy Sales Tactics in History by SuperMedia

  1. How many of you sales reps witnessed coverups on broken delivery deadlines? Please do tell.

  2. […] and the worst sleazy sales tactic ever: **-Working with clients competitors and sharing private company information or helping folks compete-** […]

  3. […] did you get the email addresses Sir? Is your management team resorting to these sleazy sales tactics to drum up business now? Must be tough selling a dying medium that was once a monopoly and now has […]

  4. […] Stop selling on the fear of not being represented or losing your position. These fear tactics do not work. Businesses have more choices. You want to continue to ruin your industries reputation with these sort of sleazy sales tactics? […]

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