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Power Sales


Analysis > Power Sales


Deregulation in the UK happened many years ago now, in the 1980s era of Margaret Thatcher. Utilities such as power, telephone and water were privatized, and rather successful it has been too. Government watchdogs ensure the consumer is not ripped off the companies compete for licenses and territory.

The way it generally works is that, whilst the power lines and gas pipes into your house are managed by one company, the consumable that is poured down them is provided by a different firm -- and this is the one that is your utility provider. To confuse things, many of these companies have expanded their scope. Thus, for example, you can now buy your electricity (and phone service) from British Gas.


The way that competition occurs in this market is that the provider buys the item on the open market and makes their profit through competitively efficient operation and friendly service. The problem for them (and benefit for the consumer) is that switching costs are very low. With little more than one phone call, I can switch my gas provider.

A result of this is that a lot of ongoing effort is put into convincing people to switch and trying to lock them into contracts. And one way they do this is to go around, door-to-door cold-selling to householders.

Selling the sales job

This story is not about the doorstep techniques used by the sales people. This is a story about the sales person and how they are persuaded.

I heard the story from an old friend about his South African nephew. A well-educated young man, he was tempted over to the UK by the promise of a well-paid business development job with a well-known power company. The company expedited his visa but he had to pay for his own air fare. The company then put him up in a house (deducting 70 per week from his salary for this) along with a number of people doing the same job. Which turned out to be door-to-door selling. He even had to borrow money from them to buy his official overalls, with their logo sewn neatly on the chest.

Working for a large company, one would hope that they would be properly trained in ethical selling, although it is always possible that a person motivated by mounting debt or significant commission would turns up the pressure on a vulnerable single person...

And remember the company itself: serious competition is leading them into recruiting abroad in English-speaking countries where perhaps the values are different, tricking clever young people with false promises and trapping them with debt in a foreign country.

Questionable morals, perhaps. The down-side of capitalism, maybe. A trial where you might find yourself, almost certainly. For it is when the pressure is on and temptation is rife that you discover your true values. You can make a lot of money in selling, but real success is in finding yourself.

And the young man? He left, with his integrity intact. The subtle pressure towards making pressure sales was not for him.

See also

Sales, Values


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