The Business of Soulwinning
By Donnie Periodem
There is a business which is unquestionably the most successful not for profit organization in the history of man, and even before then. In recent times its profile has dropped considerably and its growth in certain of its geographical target areas has slowed significantly. How, you may ask, is such a successful business keeping such a low profile these days? Surely it’s in decline and its days must be numbered?
Well if that is your view you could not be further from the truth. This business has the ultimate formula for success and is on the verge of leaping back into a period of revival that will make all organizations peddling rival products wince and cower.
So what is this business called? Salvation. How do we market this business? Soulwinning.
The Structure of the Organization – Personnel
Salvation has a fairly unusual structure, not least because the men at the top have remained unchanged ever since it began.
Overseeing the whole operation is God. Ultimately all the decisions rest with Him but He is ably supported by his Son, Jesus Christ who effectively makes up the rest of the board. The third key man in the business operates very much in a floating capacity and tends to be involved in projects where there are very specific needs. He is known as the Spirit.
There is a team of senior managers, known within the organization as Angels, who act as instruments by which some of the boards less overtly tangible plans are effected. In particular they are involved in offering direct protection to the sales force in case of unsolicited approaches from the competition. However, any member of the sales force is free to leave at any time, should they so desire.
The sales force is recruited in a unique way. Each contract of employment was negotiated personally between the salesman and God, with Jesus acting as the intermediary to negotiate with God on behalf of the salesman as necessary. Each contract is unique, but there is one common theme – an acceptance of all that is encapsulated in the cross, a genuine request for forgiveness and an undertaking to give their life over to God.
It also operates in a unique way. Remuneration is not sought by any salesman. There are no commission system or individual targets. Each salesman is driven on by a deep love for the Chairman and His Son and motivated by the organizations mission statement – to bring Salvation to the whole world. There are various types of salesman ranging from those who sell by example, with no direct selling techniques being deployed, right through to those who go into hostile markets and literally lay down their life to sell the product.
The Structure of the Organization – Locations
Every member of Salvations sales force strives to be located in head-office, known as Heaven. Each salesman who stands true to his contract is ultimately assured of entrance, the only thing in question is when.
Heaven is a wonderful place to be. No salesman has ever seen it so there are no true accounts of what it is really like but it is generally accepted that once experienced, everything else becomes a complete irrelevance.
There is a network of branch outlets across the globe generally referred to as churches. The churches act as a building for the sales force to meet regularly in their local units and share news, ideas and learn more about the organization they serve. Each church also acts as technical support and customer service centers for new, existing and potential recruits alike.
The churches are broken into different denominations. To some extent they are not unlike franchises, accounting to head office and following the organizations core principles but offering differing approaches for customer service and technical support. Unfortunately, this franchising has led to a dilution of the effectiveness of the sales force and, while it is important to maintain the differentiation for customer service and technical support, it must be recognized that, if Salvation is to come to the fore with real and lasting impact, a united sales effort will be required. This will almost certainly have to be spearheaded by a non-partisan central body.
The organization has good geographical spread and in some of its more remote locations the sales force set up premises specific to that locations needs. These are usually referred to as missions. Throughout the world subsidiary organizations have been established to provide financial and other resources to the missions.
The organization is not restricted to these locations but those mentioned represent the principle outlets.
The product is a simple one – VOPS (Very Own Personal Savior). Its simplicity has perhaps become one of its weaknesses as far as the modern day consumer is concerned. It is a no frills product which is universally available. It does not require a minimum investment; it doesn’t come in different sizes or models. It is quite simply one size fits all – no-one who has it can claim theirs is better than anyone else’s, you can’t trade it in, there’s no sell by date and it will never become obsolete.
Does it have a unique selling point? Well, it’s essentially free and, in modern day terms, that makes it unique. The competition make out that it bears a heavy cost and once you own it there’s a list of you can’ts longer than you can possibly imagine. The reality is that those who decide it’s worth investing themselves in order to get their hands on it undergo such a complete and amazing transformation that all the supposed you can’ts actually become don’t want to anyway’s. Still, in any business there are always some competitors who will stoop to any level to win market share.
The Selling Method
How often have you bought something without ever speaking to the top man? Sometimes we effect some major transactions (pension, house, car etc.) without ever getting past the salesman. Have you ever wanted to, or even tried to, speak to the top man? Quite frankly, Richard Branson is unlikely to answer the phone to personally negotiate terms in order to persuade you to fly on his airline. It’s here that Salvation really scores.
Salvations tactics don’t involve the hard sell – there’s no point because if the product is to last the duration the transaction must be done because the purchaser wants to and not because it’s the only way the salesman is ever going to go. In fact, the salesmans role is to get the potential purchaser interested enough in the product to want to talk to the top man. At that point the salesman will introduce the purchaser to God and let God and the purchaser negotiate the transaction privately. The terms of the deal remain confidential forever.
Once the deal has been done the purchaser joins the sales team. It may be that he or she ultimately becomes a front-line salesman or it may be that he or she sells the product purely by example. Again, this is a role worked out between God and the individual.
What about after sales? Have you ever been sat on the phone itching to complain about something or even just seek advice from someone at a company that recently sold you something. After you’ve made your choices on the automated answering service you discover that when you pressed 3 you should, in fact, have pressed 7 because although 3 appeared to be correct, there was a caveat to the message you didn’t wait to hear.
There then follows the inevitable queue for about 20 minutes (that seems like the mandatory waiting period) only to be told that there are currently no representatives available but if you leave a message one of them will call you back. Of course, they rarely do.
Well if you decide to take VOPS you have a permanent hot-line to the top man. No automated answering services or obstructive PAs, just a direct line to God. Unlike most people in His position, the boss of this organization doesn’t live on the golf course or at the cricket, far from it. He is available to His entire existing and potential customer base 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year – even Christmas day. Where necessary He can provide direct contact with skilled and experienced technicians who, guided by Him and with the help of the Spirit, can fix any possible problem. You find me another organization that can offer that sort of product back-up!
The competition has one principle advantage over Salvation. It has a range of products sold through a number of exotic sounding and well marketed outlets. These products are aimed at those who are seeking what salvation offers but with an apparently more up to date appearance. Under the trades description act I am sure there is scope for some sort of mis-description, even mis-selling, action. However, that is not Salvations way and they permit the competition to continue operating in such devious ways, confident in the durability and appeal of VOPS.
Where the competition really scores is that its lead product seems to have widespread acceptance – apathy. In every consumer that subscribes to apathy the competition has a potential lifelong customer. The beauty of this product is that it requires no effort from the consumer but once subscribed to deters the individual from ever seeking VOPS. Apathy is one of the major threats to the universal acceptance of Salvations product.
The competition has embarked upon a campaign, albeit very subtly, to glamorize its products and even desensitize the consumer base to such an extent that most of the products it peddles are accepted as part of life by most people without even a second thought. Indeed, the dirty tricks and slur campaigns embarked upon by the competition have resulted in many people becoming suspicious of, and even hostile towards, Salvation and its product.
Day after day individuals and institutions bet millions on Company forecasts which hang on uncertainties and unknown products. The motivation is the fast buck and often the forecast fails, the product is a disaster and millions are lost. In the grand scheme of things the gains and losses are inconsequential and yet, more time, effort, emotion and thought is devoted to these corporate shots in the dark than is ever given by so many of those same individuals to what is quite literally a life and death decision.
Salvation offers a sure thing. The product cannot fail, there is no risk and the forecast is guaranteed to come to fruition – after all, it was put together by God and He does have a monopoly on good ideas and does know exactly what the future holds. The investment criteria is even easy to match – all you need is a willingness to stand before God as you are (you don’t even have to make yourself look good for the interview), accept the great things that were accomplished when Christ died on the cross and seek forgiveness – surely that’s more straightforward than persuading a syndicate of several banks and venture capital investors to put a couple of hundred million pounds into an unknown company with an uncertain future?
Investment principles suggest low investment – low return and low risk – low reward. Well Salvations product flies in the face of that – no risk and an investment only of yourself for a reward that nothing else can ever come close to. Why, then, is the take up of VOPS faltering? Relevance.
Let’s draw an analogy with the Ford Fiesta. This is a car that has been around for years and is essentially today the same car as when it first came off the production line, the only difference being its outward appearance. Ford was alive to the fact that its market was ever changing and consumer tastes altered from year to year. Do you make a new car to combat this? No, you change the way an existing model looks to accommodate those tastes. Salvation is no different – its market has changed and the tastes of its consumers have altered. The competition has made a good job of turning the consumer away from VOPS but the product is bigger and more durable than the competition. All it needs is repackaging.
A Way Forward
Only God can determine the way forward for Salvation but whichever way He chooses will require the assistance of his salesmen to implement it. It is up to His salesmen to listen to God’s instructions and take forward His plans, carefully discerning those instructions which are from God and those which arise from the deception of the competition. One thing is for certain, though – in no way must the product be diluted. There is no compromise as far as what’s in the box, all that can change is the wrapping – the product needs to be attractive enough to make the consumer want to see what’s in the box and honest enough so as not to disappoint when the box is opened.
As a method of introducing the product, angels, crosses and bold statements are out. Singing and preaching in town centers is out. These are the very things that the competition uses to turn people away from Salvation and its product. By making people feel uncomfortable in the presence of such imagery or open displays of selling the competition has caused the efforts of those salesmen involved to have the opposite effect as was intended.
It is essential that the marketplace is studied. Consumer tastes must be identified, analyzed and built into a model which allows the packaging of VOPS in relevant material. The competition must be understood – do you believe that Virgin took on the might of British Airways without first investigating every tactic, product, method, strength and weakness of its opponent? Of course not. It is time that Salvations representatives on earth realized that this is war. Yes, the war is already won and the competition have long been defeated, but in their death throws they fight on – no chance of winning but every intention of going down fighting and taking as many as they can with them. Complacency is off the agenda and it’s time to get equipped for battle.
Why is Salvation not exploiting the internet? How many people would respond to a poster showing a cross and giving a phone number? Compare that with how many people would respond to an advert simply stating www.salvation.com? Would you not log on out of curiosity? Astrology, tarot, palmistry and so on are all innocent consumables used to draw consumers deeper into the competitions portfolio of products. This approach is not rocket science – get them through the door and you’re over half way there. Salvation could use a similar principle – a well designed web site could draw consumers into discovering the message by encouraging them to delve further and further into the site – no sinister methods or underhand tactics, just getting the packaging right.
Music, the dance scene, sport, leisure and film are all high on peoples list of life priorities today. By establishing consumer likes, dislikes and associated trends Salvations sales force will be able to develop methods for introducing VOPS in ways relevant to those activities. For Salvation to succeed the sales force must become more creative and more alive to possibilities. It may seem like hard work but all those who feel the challenge is too great, the target unattainable and the commitment required is impossible should take a moment to compare their task with that of Christ when He came to earth and use that as the benchmark for measuring hard work and commitment!
Relevance is the key. The world is changing faster than it is possible to monitor. The explosion of information may be indicative of the end times drawing near but until that great day when God extinguishes the competition forever it’s time his salesmen, the soul winners of the church, woke up, washed out their ears, emptied their minds and really sought God’s instruction.
The Business of Soulwinning. Written by Donnie Periodem.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.