Ask Permission, or Beg Forgiveness?


Is it better to ask permission or beg forgiveness?

That is the mantra of the sales manager at work…

Is that typical in business?


It’s typical of the human condition. And it isn’t a bad thing. How else does one learn to be a decision maker if one constantly avoids making a decision by deferral all the time?
In my workplace the phrase is often used when a decision is needed but formal executive decision cannot be obtained because they aren’t around.

Unless you are implying the reason it is said is the speaker is doing something dodgy?


Usually the latter.


An example… A fairly large wholesale customer places an order, include a line that we are discontinuing. Sales Manager is happy to offer customers discounts on this line - but only if they ask for it - and we haven’t actually announced the decision…(!) Given the rocky relationship with this particular customer, I suggest being proactive and telling them it’s going out, and offering the discount… “It’s better to beg forgiveness”, is the reply.

That’s the typical scenario - basically my thoughts are to be up front and honest with our customers, but his is to put profits first and then only if the customer finds something out, react to it with an apology…


It’s a fine line, I tend to fall into the latter category, probably more often than I should :stuck_out_tongue:

Similar to what Entropy said, if you’re always looking for permission nothing gets done. I tend to make a call based on the information I have and move forward.

EDIT: You’re reply popped up while I was typing. I think you’re scenario is different there @cosmichobo and I don’t know that this phrase quite applies.

Your Sales Manager is being very short sighted. For me this is one of those places where you want to build relationships, if the customer finds out you weren’t being honest they can get dirty and I’m going to assume there are other potential suppliers out there for them. It’s amazing how much damage a single sales guy can do.

If I was a sales guy working with a commission in there, I’d be wanting to build the relationship with a view to sell more in future either in terms of length of relationship as well as a potential increase in the volume of sales. His actions might be a couple of % extra today, but doesn’t help tomorrow.


@The_Hawk :slight_smile:

I call him the “80’s Stock Broker”…

Fact is the business has a 40% pa turnover of wholesale customers, which based on my google research is costly to the business and less than ideal… Building relationships is less expensive than starting new ones… So yes, I see it as very short sighted. But my degree is google based, and he… actually I’ve no idea if he has a business degree, but as he’ll happily tell you he’s worked in the big league for big players, knows the right people… (yet now works for a company that “only” turned over $2m last year…)


In my experience, yes. As is selling something you know you can’t deliver, and putting pressure on the people doing the actual doing to make it happen.


I’m the next office over from the stock broker and his off-sider. I overheard the offsider’s performance review last week. The guy has brought in huge buckets of orders over the past 3 months, but because the new lines aren’t actually in the warehouse, and thus not with the customers, they are only that - orders - not sales… Now, yes, the Stock Broker was actually pretty fair about this fact, but the air was still thick with “gee whiz what a shame these aren’t actual sales…”


An order as far as a sales person is concerned is a sale and should be treated as such. If the company isn’t managing inventory then that’s the inventory manager that needs a kick up the pants. If an order is there the sales person has done their job. As to the scenario above, they should always tell the customer when something is being discontinued. If they then ask for a deal then so be it. But knowingly hiding something important is dishonest. See what happened to thermomix when they hid the new model from the customers.


It is not and never was the sales guy’s job to do the work of inventory staff.


I work for a company that rarely has backorders. But until the customer service invoice which they only do when stock is being sent that day it doesn’t count as a sale. I know plenty of places that invoice instantly then allocate stock etc. we have a system setup whereby we rarely can meet a target but end of fy in March I needed $1200 worth of sales to meet the stupidly high target which had only happened once in 12years. The customer service team took leave as that was also the week before Easter, not all sales were sent as they stopped shipping overnight cause they didn’t feel like it, coupled with the $50k order they had sat on since late feb it meant I had orders far exceeding what I needed. But due to them I missed out. On a lot. I thought well my bosses are pretty fair so if it were me I’d treat it as if I did make it. Got my letter while on long service leave in late may telling me I’m not. You learn your true value when a company screws you over. My targets were 4million btw so not like $1200 was much.


I’m surprised anyone continues to buy the products sold by the place I work, given how frequently they run out of stock. Indeed with a 40% w/s customer churn rate, I know a lot don’t continue.


I dont believe he is using the saying in the right context, which is about acting on your own initiative, confident the boss will support you.

A more correct one would be “all’s fair in love and war”, or “a stitch in time saves nine”. What he is doing is maximimising short term returns while he can. There would be no guarantee that customer would be back, and if he offered the discount unasked he would be leaving money on the table. I don’t see how the reality of the product, like all products, being discontinued soon is an issue, unless it can’t be supplied. How do you know the customer isn’t fully aware of that, but wants the product now? You might argue he could have offered at least a portion of the potential discount to help build customer loyalty, but that would be marketing in a way (and the only context where “better to ask forgiveness…” makes sense. What you seem to be advocating is he make less money than he could honestly do for his boss. That would be the least moral thing to do. This would not be a good and faithful steward.


A lack of inventory control will kill your company eventually. My brother was working for a distributor of bicycles. No names mentioned, you can see the writing on the wall. The boss starts fudging the prices and the inventory stock. A business like that wont stay alive for very long. There’s a good reason why Apple hired Tim Cook.

An efficient company is a good company. It might be boring but its the truth.


I spoke to the sales guy the other day… and yes, basically he’s being told he’s failed his targets, because 70%-odd of the sales he’s brought in haven’t shipped - despite that being the business’ fault, not his.

And he’s even been told off for giving customers free shipping on their orders, because although the order was over the free-shipping threshold, we wont be shipping the order in full - so “stock broker” says they shouldn’t get the free shipping.

Yes, technically he’s mis-using the phrase - he just applies it to anything that may lead to him/the business getting a bad wrap.

I honestly honestly cannot understand how this business has remained operating for 20+ years… the stock broker is new, but his ideals match the owner really well.


That’s a load of horse crap to be honest. If the order was placed in full then it must be honored in full. I’m pretty sure even the ACCC would ping you on that. Its the inventory guy that needs to be sacked and not the sales guy, but this is a free world and eventually your best sales people either get sacked or leave. That’s my personal experience in that people end up leaving a company like that and it ends up looking like a boat full of drowning rats.