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For the Want of a System Better Than a Sticky Note, a Sale Was Lost

Posted by Mark Graban

Aug 16, 2016 6:30:00 AM

Post It NotesEarlier this year, my wife and I decided to replace her 2008 vehicle. She still loved it and it drove well, but out-of-warranty repair costs were starting to add up. No, it wasn’t from the Toyota family of vehicles, but that’s a different story.

We were both loyal to the brand and basically wanted to replace it with the updated 2016 version of that exact same model. We had bought it at the dealership in Fort Worth and had always gone there for service (except for our three years living in San Antonio). The salesperson who helped us in 2008 still works there, so I’d see him and say hello when getting routine maintenance done or getting bigger issues fixed.

I was there for the 75,000-mile service when the service department discovered a major repair (I sort of envy the guy who drove a Toyota pick up a MILLION miles). I went and talked to the sales guy about our interest in a new vehicle. He spitballed a number for our trade-in value and said he’d get a more formal quote and would follow up shortly.

I saw him write this down on a sticky note. He placed it on his desk near his computer.

What happened next? He didn’t get the sale.

We shopped for the new vehicle online and found that the same brand’s dealer in Dallas had far more inventory on hand. While we considered ordering from the factory and waiting (an estimated 4 to 6 weeks), we thought it was helpful to go do test drives at the dealership with a greater selection. You want to drive different engine types and see different colors in person. This goes to show that while inventory is waste, some inventory is helpful, if not necessary.

We thought we might test drive in Dallas but still order from the guy in Fort Worth.

A couple of days had passed, and the Fort Worth salesperson NEVER CALLED.

We found a vehicle in stock at the Dallas dealership that matched our needs. Their trade-in quote was higher than the Fort Worth guy’s estimate. So, we pulled the trigger and bought the car.

The Fort Worth guy, to this day, might not realize that he lost an easy sale.

It makes me wonder, did the sticky note get lost? Was it covered in papers? Did it fly away and fall in the trash can? Did he discover it weeks later, only to think, “Well, if they want to buy, they’ll call me.”


So this whole episode makes me think about organizations that use sticky notes to capture employee ideas. Some Lean consultants really advocate the sticky note method.

What can happen? Many of the possibilities are bad:

  • The sticky note stays in the manager’s pocket and gets lost or goes through the wash
  • The sticky note goes on a manager’s desk and… then, nothing
  • The sticky note goes on a white board and then falls down and gets lost

Maybe improvement happens…but the odds of it are probably lower than it would be in a better system. Before I knew of continuous improvement software, I’d have people fill out a cardstock form and pin it to a bulletin board. It’s less likely to fall down, but the card could still get misplaced.

The beauty of continuous improvement software is that ideas don’t get lost. People don’t forget to follow up because the system reminds them and helps escalate the issue. During our sales cycle, prospective customers very frequently complain that, “Our employees have lots of ideas, but we forget to follow up.”

Imagine if that car salesperson had a better system? That’s money in the bank…and it could be for your organization, as well.

Check out this free eBook to learn more about continuous improvement software.

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