Friday, October 11, 2013

Can a Sales Guy Ever Say "He’s Got Nothing To Do"?

Can you say you've got nothing to do?
A few months ago, talking to a colleague who was doing sales for an engineering company at that time, just as he was coming back from his two-weeks summer vacation, he said to me that his first few days back in the office were always extremely heavy because "things were really slow. He didn’t have anything to do at his workplace by that time."

Obviously I felt the need to ask him "Why do you feel like not having anything to do?", to which he replied: "It is that all my clients are on their summer break too and they have not come back just yet."

And his reply hit me so hard that I couldn’t help but realize that he was making the same mistake that many seasoned sales representatives make: devoting most of his time managing an active customer base, especially those accounts from which he was receiving a good turnover.

While managing your sales team, or even if you're the person responsible for carrying out the selling side on ​​your business, you must always stay focused on your main task: bringing in new customers.

If you want it briefly, two tasks: prospecting and managing.

The ideal situation for any sales representative in small to medium size business must be to split his time between the completion of three main tasks:

  • Continuously finding new customers.
  • Making sure requests from all active customers are served the best way possible.
  • Developing strong relationships with active customers.

Out of all these, the most important one (and certainly the reason why you have hired a sales representative to start with) is looking for new customers on a regular basis. That's why it made the top of my list.

However, if your own a small company, or if you are the kind of boss who thinks that a sales representative should be responsible for all activities related with his customers, such as collecting money or coordinating delivery of the merchandise, you must definitely think again, because you are going to be using your salespeople’s time for doing things that should not be considered their primary task, and that, ultimately, will bring its own consequences.

And if you're doing the selling, and at some point in time you find yourself in the same situation as my colleague was, keep always in mind your main task is to find new customers for the company. If "all your clients are on their summer break" it is then the best time you’ll have to search for new customers, because nobody will be calling you on the phone or emailing you.

Your customer base needs to grow larger every day.

And growing your customer base is the one and most important thing you can do to promote your business’ commercial success. If any of your sales representative has enough free time as to say "he has nothing to do", it is then that he’s not trying hard enough to get new customers for your company.

And this is, the way I see it, one of the biggest mistakes you or any person who engages in sales or have the responsibility to manage a sales team can make: to only focus on managing active clients or those who are more likely to buy, and leave searching for new customers on the side.

Why should your business always be searching for new customers?

I am sure your answer is going to be something like "to make more money", "to generate more sales", "to boost company’s growth" or "to make shareholders happy", and even though they are all true, there is a deeper reason: a solid, always growing customer base, guarantees your company will be strong enough as not to significantly depend on one single customer (or a small group of them) and will allow it to cope with unforeseen situations (declining sales, other business closures, etc.) in a less painful way.

A solid, always growing customer base provides your business with the strength it needs to survive to market fluctuations.

Have you ever heard of companies that have had to go bankrupt because they lost just one single customer, but which happened to represent a significant percentage of their total billings? Or companies that simply lost a significant portion of their market share and and were not able to put it all back together again?

Cases like these have been many, and most of them are pretty well documented on the Internet. Google them. I am sure you’ll learn a lot, and will recognize how important it is that your salespeople (or even yourself, if you're doing your own selling) keep themselves always on the lookout for new customers.
If you don’t find new customers, it is that you're not looking hard enough.

I have also had the opportunity to talk with salespeople who tell me things like "we’ve got the market fully covered," or that "customers for my product belong to a very exclusive niche", thereby trying to justify their own apathy, or their own inability to discover new opportunities, to analyze their market from different points of view, or to experiment in alternative niches.

Every day, hundreds if not thousands of new consumers who may be potential customers for your business, join the market. Every single day. Go after them.

If I had to make a very general list to include all activities I would like my salespeople to focus on, it would be something like this:

  • Manage all activities related to active customers (those which are actively buying)
  • Strengthen and deepen relationships with these customers.
  • Develop relationships with potential customers as well.
  • Continuously look for new business leads for the company.

There shouldn’t be any opportunity for you to be not busy: If you are not working on servicing active customers, then you should be looking for new ones. It’s that simple.

And if you are managing a sales team which really and honestly is so busy that they don’t have the time to look for new customers, then that’s great news for you: ¡It is then time to hire new salespeople to do the job!

If really you don’t have the time to look for new customers, then hire salespeople to do the job for you.

On top of everything, for any sales department to be considered “effective”, it should be focused on performing two tasks at all times: actively looking for new customers and effectively managing active customers.

Please make a note on the adjectives I have chosen to use: the looking for new customers should be "active", dynamic, committed, continuous and interested, and the managing should always be "effective", meaning there is no time to waste on doing other things not related with managing active customer, like complaining about not having time enough to do the job.

Each one of them, both effectively managing active customers, and generating new ones, are equally important to your business project, yet to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and in any sales department, no matter how large it can be, the #1 goal is to generate new customers for the company.

Are you focusing your attention and efforts on it?

Photo credit : citalliance / 123RF Stock Photo

Related posts in this blog:
Why You Shouldn’t Outsource Sales When Starting Your Business
¿Are you an entrepreneur and don’t like selling?

No comments:

Post a Comment