Making the Jump From CSR to Sales

From “The Bitter Sales Manager’s Bible” *

CSR Disease
(see-ess-are di-zeez) noun—Affliction known to take down many sales-wannabees as they mother every friggin’ detail of every friggin’ job and get caught in the bloody quagmire of their orders, unable to grow beyond the limits of their own inability to just let it go, for crying out loud!

No such thing, but would make a great title, don’t you think?

The minute—no, the second—I hear that a rep I will be working with is coming from an inside sales or CSR position, I instinctively have a Scooby Doo “rut-row” moment and think, “Here we go again!”

One of the more difficult aspects of growing sales is in letting the internal production process take care of itself and focus on your job as a salesman: Selling! Those who can accomplish this see their sales increase and their stress level stay in check. Those who don’t, can’t, or won’t hit a ceiling and can’t figure out how to break through. Their frustration level rises in direct proportion to their sales manager’s stress level.

The difference is CSR Disease.

CSR Disease occurs when the rep who sold the order takes on the characteristics of a Helicopter Parent and hovers over the details of the project from start to finish, protecting it like it was a child. On paper, it sounds like a simple solution: Let go. But, in practice, it can be impossible to get away from the deeply-ingrained practice of watching out for the little things.

The cure?

The first step is to admit that you are afflicted. The second step is to communicate the details. The third step is to trust in your internal process. The fourth step is to distract yourself by, oh I don’t know, getting out there and selling something else, perhaps?

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • Hike

    Thanks Bill. As I always tell the outside sales reps I work with as their Inside Sales Rep…."You get em and I’ll keep em"….

  • Sam Woodbery

    On paper your idea of letting go is true, but as a salesperson who’s paid on what ships each monthly cycle, holding the CSR’s accountable to follow up is paramount for the system to work. I’ve found (in my experience) that upper management holds the sales staff accountable for producing sales but don’t monitor the CSR’s in how often they call/email for changes or proof approvals. This disconnect forces sales to track order progression to insure it moves through the system in a timely fashion, thus keeping customer satisfaction high (and hopefully reorders.)
    I’ve even had bosses say they don’t have time to monitor CSR’s but for us salespeople to cite specific failures so they can then follow up! Management oversight over the entire work flow is, in my opinion, the main shortcoming to a successful production process.

  • Rick Baker

    You certainly have a way with words Bill, along with very valid points! I think all "sales people" can be tempted to get caught-up in "paralysis of analysis", over manage the project, and not letting go!

  • Andy Rotman-Zaid

    Having sat in both chairs and having some outstanding salespeople/reps work with me on both sides of the aisle…sometimes the knowledge and experience a CSR has to brings to the client table is a benefit to both the company being represented and the client. A good company knows that taking a CSR and throwing them to the sales fire untrained deosn’t do anyone good. The best CSRs I have had understand that we can back each other up and that we have separate jobs…mine outward facing and theirs is inward facing. And when we have each others back…there is no better for the company we work for. Good CSRs make good sales partners. It all in how they are trained to work as teams that creates success. Onward.

  • Kimberly Becker

    I agree 100% with you Bill as long as the sales rep isn’t consistently loosing customers due to late production, incorrect art or stock. When everyone does their job right it is a beautiful thing!

  • Steve Morley

    Take your CSR to meet your clients at their place,then out for a meal,this firms the bond and also creates more of a sense of responsibility all round. It becomes personal in the best way. Simply put, you are the matchmaker. The relationship is formed and hopefully will blossom. You get out there and bring in the sales.

  • Roger Buck

    Some excellent points Bill! Give them the tools, the education to use the tools and a good enviroment…then let them do their job and you do yours.

  • Bill Filipiak

    It sounds like you went through this yourself! Great points! I would like to add that trust in the new CSR has to be earned with the standard "trial by fire" and see if they can handle the jobs you now sell. It’s a painful pill to be sure but it has to be done. You will know quickly if they can handle it or not. My 10 years in CS included training and I saw my fair share of people who thought they could handle the pace and stress, fall apart in weeks! It’s not for the thin skinned!!

  • Dennis

    Good morning everyone. Great article Bill.

    I transitioned over from counter sales/inside csr to outside sales and it took me a few (code for several) years to be able to let go and go get. I still find myself at times slipping back into the office to help out with order processing and production follow up when we are extraordinarily busy though. It’s in my blood to make sure our clients are taken care of.
    Have a great day everyone.