Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Your Sales Should Never Depend On Just One Person.

Depending on one guy?
A while ago I published a post entitled "What are the advantages of developing a sales force for your business" (the link, as always, at the end of this post) and I dared to say that your company’s sales department, or your sales force for that matter, should always be composed by at least two people, never one. Always two.

There are many reasons backing up such statement and I’ll share with you today those I consider most important, but before going there, I will share with you what recently happened to a dear friend of mine, who owns a small business. To protect his identity and focus on the facts, I’ll name him Luis.

It turns out that Luis had a sales representative, let’s call him Manuel, who was supposedly a trusted employee (yes.. one of those) who had been visiting customers, cold calling new prospects, managing orders, preparing estimates, following up by phone with people he visited, in a word... normal day-to-day tasks for any sales rep.

The problem was that my friend Luis, either because he didn’t have the time or maybe some laziness on his side, didn’t get that much involved in managing his clientele, beyond making sure all merchandise was delivered properly and on time, and since Manuel was a "trusted"employee, Luis focused his handling of the commercial side of his business only in the numbers made by Manuel: If Manuel brought in good numbers, it was all good; if he didn’t bring in good numbers, then they needed to find a way to bring them back up.

One day, Luis had to go on  trip and didn’t show up by the store for a little over a month, and when came back he was welcomed  by the bitter news that his “trusted” sales representative, Manuel, had left the company taking with him all relevant customer data and had set up a small shop, from which he had begun to drive customers away from Luis.

What are the morals of this story?

Your business depends on sales. Don’t run away from managing them.

First of all, this brief history shows you plainly the first reason why you should never give up on your main responsibility as a business owner: It’s your duty to effectively and closely supervise the sales side of your business. It is your responsibility.

I understand that many entrepreneurs will shun getting involved with managing the sales area of their business because it can truly become a very stressful and tedious activity, but this little story should serve as an example of what the consequences might be.

For how long has Manuel being visiting Luis’ clients, telling them he was going to to go independent and would be contacting them soon from his own new business? How many times did Manuel stay at home, saying that he was visiting clients while he was really dedicating his time to doing other things?

Don’t focus your business’ sales management only in numbers.

Luis will never know because, as a sales manager, he concentrated his attention only on the numbers and not on the daily activities leading to achieve those numbers. Behind each sale, there is a process, a number of things that happen, visits, phone calls, emails, proposals, follow up tasks, etc...

These activities should be under your supervision as well. Get on the phone with your customers, make sure they are well cared for, that everything is going well. Don’t leave everything on the sales representative’s hands.

You should always have a readily trained substitute to replace your sales people.

Have you noticed that football players are always on the bench ready to replace anyone who gets injured during the game? Well then, you should apply the same policy for the sales management of your business .

Here you must apply the "Theory Of The Truck That Runs Over You In The Corner" thought to me by my dear coworker Gabriela Sambucetti: If your one and only representative to whom you have entrusted the sales area of your business, calls you tomorrow to tell you he was hit by a truck and cannot work anymore, do you have a person readily available, properly prepared and trained to replace him immediately without your sales suffering?

Always think about what you'll do if your only salesperson leaves the company one day. Do you have a plan in place to replace it quickly?

I know it sounds extreme, but things like these occur much more frequently than we’d like to think. If you don’t believe it, look what happened to my friend Luis.

Can you imagine a football game that must be postponed just because there is no replacement for the goalkeeper who broke his ankle?

Supervise, supervise and supervise. And after you’ve done, keep on supervising.

And this is the point that causes more discomfort among business owners: Sitting with your salespeople to see how they are doing? listening to their stories? If at the end of the day what you want them to do is to bring in sales and not to come up with stories.

Listen carefully to what your salespeople have to say and you will discover many important things for your business.

Well let me tell you through those stories you can uncover many things that will help you manage your business’ sales in a more efficient way, if you really listen closely and pay attention.

In fact, you may even discover new business opportunities listening to what your representatives have to say about the market who is buying from you.

Don’t ever forget your sales representatives directly hear the voice of, perhaps, the most important piece of your business model: your customer.

I hope these tips will serve to refine the way you manage the sales area of your business and look at it from a closer point of view, giving it the importance it really has in your project as a whole.

It's good to occasionally learn something from what happens to others instead of waiting for these things to happen to you, don’t you think so?

Photo credit: antonbrand / 123RF Stock Photo

I recommend you to read:
My Biggest Mistake: Outsourcing to the Wrong People

Related posts in this blog:
What are the advantages of developing a sales force for your business?
Why You Shouldn’t Outsource Sales When Starting Your Business.

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