Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"We Didn’t Meet Our Expectations, Therefore We Fired The Sales Manager"

"We Fired The Sales Manager"
A couple of weeks ago I did receive a comment from one of this blog’s readers who indicated that in the company he was working with as CEO, they had decided to fire their sales manager "because they didn’t met their company’s expectations".

Of course, so that I could get a clearer idea of ​​the situation serving to frame such a decision, I asked him if they had followed a business plan when they first started running the business, or even a marketing strategy, or had made a complete analysis of what their business situation was, even asked him if they had made all necessary efforts to find out where was the root of the problems the company was going through, or even situations that led the company to not meeting all expectations they had set for the corresponding period of time.

His answer caught me by surprise as he confessed they had done nothing of what I mentioned to him, therefore I was able to understand the decision to fire the sales manager was simply based on the generic "non-fulfillment of expectations" and these expectations were tied to maintaining an ever growing sales volume. So it was a natural consequence, "sales went down, they had to cut the sales manager’s head."

Why is there the belief that firing the person responsible of any department will make all related problems vanish?

And at least in this case, they only fired the sales director. I have known similar situations in which they have got rid of almost the entire sales team. To put it briefly, stories like the ones we already know.

What hits me the most is the fact that it’s really easy for mosts business owners to blame the sales department, or its manager, when there is a significant drop in sales, or when simply, "sales do not fulfill company’s expectations."

It’s always easier to isolate the problem into a single person and believe, even if it’s only for your own comfort or self-conviction, that by firing the person, your problem will be solved, but reality shows it’s not so simple.

Is this why people say "the rope always breaks at its thinnest point"?

There are so many elements which can affect the sales performance of any product or business. The causes pushing a customer to decide and do business with another company might be so varied, even just to make him choose one product instead of another, that it doesn’t look to me as the most appropriate decision to fire the sales manager without having in advance analyzed which were the real causes for the sales drop.

What if the reason for the sales drop was a highly aggressive and competitive market, or a poor advertising campaign? What if there were some other factors involved, which the company ignores?

In a previous post on this blog I mentioned that a sales representatives should only be considered as the tip of the iceberg in a comprehensive marketing strategy which extends from the product itself to the advertising message your paying customer receives from you, including all multiple communication channels available today and all the contact points your company maintains with the client and the market.

Whether it’s the person making the final product delivery, or a store attendant who gave your customer all initial information, or the website through which the customer placed its order.

There are so many contact points, and so varied, that seems a complete nonsense to hold accountable, or isolate as the only responsible for the whole thing, to just a particular agent, specially when the company itself hasn’t done its homework properly and doesn’t even have enough evidence to make an informed decision.

Properly selling a product is much more than simply having a sales rep on the road doing cold calls.

And I say the company hasn’t done its homework because having a sales  department without backing their work up with a business plan or an specific sales strategy, is simply sending people out to the street, selling your products by cold calling and nothing else.

Those guys do not have the minimum support all companies should offer their sales operations so they can be managed more effectively and professionally.

In every opportunity I have to comment about this subject, I always like to refer to the sales representative as nothing more than the farmer who harvest fruits planted by the company through a comprehensive marketing strategy, properly planned and well executed.

However, I do have to insist every salesperson or representative should be deeply and professionally prepared to do their job, yes, that is required. However the simple skill of "knowing how to sell" doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to close every business opportunity you open up for the company.

Just being a good sales guy does not guarantee you’ll be closing all sales opportunities you’ve generated.

I do know many of us which it were like that! If only sales skills were required to do the job, then there would be many sales professionals earning hundreds of thousands of euros, dollars or any currency you might think of.

And we know that it is not the case.

The real  challenge is for the company to understand there are multiple factors which can affect the sales performance of any product, and that the company itself should be actively involved in managing its sales area, building an scenario that invites customers to make a positive decision towards the company and its products or services, taking advantage of all multiple communication channels and strategies available today.

Believing that firing your sales director is going to solve all your problems, is like trying to cover the sun with one finger. We all know it is not possible.

Photo Credit: studiostoks | Ver portfolio

I recommend you reading the following posts in this blog:
What Role Should Salespeople Occupy Within Your Company?
Why Do I Have To Sell More If I’m Fine With What I’m Selling Now?
What Can You Do When Your Business Sales Are In “Free-falling” Mode?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why Is It So Hard To Collect Money From Your Customers?

Why Is It So Hard To Collect Money From Customers?
On more than one opportunity I’ve shared with you in this blog my opinions about why it is important for every entrepreneur to learn how to sell its products and services, in despite of the fact that sooner or later it will end up delegating such tasks in a sales team or a commercial director, in the best cases.

But thanks to the very kind comment from my dear friend José Luis Del Campo, I realized that I had left aside an issue that could even be as important to develop as the ability to sell, and it is to be able to collect money you are charging customers for your products or services.

Because even though it’s true you really need to have the ability to bring in money, it’s useless to produce all that money if we can’t collect it or, even worse, if we can’t even get them to pay for it.

And this is most likely a problem that can translate into three different scenarios:

  • You’re embarrassed by collecting the money you're asking for your work.
  • Your client doesn’t believe your work is worth the money you’re asking for.
  • Your client doesn’t have the money to pay, either because he’s tight-fisted by nature, someone who simply doesn’t like to pay, or wants to get it all for free.

You must learn to find out when a customer is not appropriate for you.

I'll start with the last one because it’s the easiest one to solve: those customers who do not have the money to pay the price you ask for what you’re selling, or are some of those who like to be coaxed to release the little money they owe you or, in the worst case scenario, are the kind of customers who want to get it all for free.

And I say that it’s the easier one to solve because for this kind of customers there is quite a simple answer: "I don’t want to continue working with you," although you can come up with the words you like the best, or make up a more polite and less frontal way to deliver the same message.

There is nothing wrong with letting a bad paying customer go to work with another supplier.

Why the answer has to be so upfront and straightforward? Because in the medium and long term, these customers end up becoming a waste of your time and an unnecessary waste of energy, both for you and your team.

Remember that during the process of prospecting new clients, there are two key elements which allow you to consider a customer represents an interesting opportunity for your business: The customer has a visible need your product completely satisfies and, the most important element of all, customer has the money to pay the price you’re asking for your product.

No matter how early you wake up, the sun won’t be doing it earlier. And if the customer doesn’t have the money to pay the price you’re asking for your product, no matter how hard you try to sell him into the benefits of your offer, the money is not there and it will become the objection you’ll always stumble upon when your customer tells you "Sorry, I don’t have the money to make a decision."

There is something else you might want to consider.

Every sales process is a relationship between equals where no one is above anyone.

And this will help you give proper answer to the second situation in which you're in front of a customer who doesn’t value the offer you made, therefore, doesn’t think it’s worth the money you're asking for.

If we get back to the beginning of the whole sales process, your customer has a need your product satisfies way more than enough, therefore, there is an exchange of real and obvious benefits: Your customer wins because with your help it will solve a problem it has, and you also win because you’ll get paid some money to provide your customer with a solution to their problem.

When there is a clear value proposition, well understood by your customer, money is rarely a problem.

The problem occurs when you really haven’t looked at the situation from this point of view, or you haven’t made your customer understand it clearly. That is why he does not understand why you're asking the money you’re asking for: He hasn’t seen the concrete benefits he’ll receive from your offer.

That is why, during any sales process, you must make all necessary efforts to establish clearly your added value proposal, ie, the reasons why your client should consider your product as the option to choose to solve his problem, instead of all other providers who are also bidding.

Last but not least, your time and knowledge are also worth it.

If your product or services are able to solve a major problem your customer has, why you should not get paid for it? If you are really adding value to your customer’s life or business, what is the problem that, in exchange for your assistance, you receive money?

If it comes to a product you're selling, think of all the time it took to create it and develop it. Is it really a product of so little value that you must give it for free to your customer? Then why does it make you feel uncomfortable to ask money for it?

Is it really a product of so little value that you must give it away for free to your customer?

And when it comes to selling your professional services, then what do you have to say about all the time invested in training yourself to gain all the skills and knowledge you now have, in order to be able to offer your services the way you do?

Is it worth your time so little as to give it away just like that, even though in exchange of your time and effort, your customer is efficiently solving a problem it has?

That’s why we consider of vital importance during the sales process, that your client clearly understands what your value proposition is and the benefits it will receive after buying your product or hiring your services.

Only then your customer will understand that it’s really worth paying the money you ask for, and even more.

And for those who do not have the money to afford it, or even make you get down on your knees to collect what they owe you, you already know what the answer is.

Related posts you might want to read in this blog: