Sales Challenges: It’s Good to Be The Boss
There are many things the boss likes about being, well, The Boss, and he is reminded of one of them every morning as he pulls his cart perfectly between the white lines and directly in front of the sign with his name on it which, naturally, is right next to the drawbridge and main entrance of his company. Sir Mel Brooks put it best: “It’s good to be da King.”
Checking his wrist Sundial - the latest technology from The Pomaceous Store - he notes that he’s a little earlier than usual today. Still, it’s roughly 9:30 a.m., closer to the crack of noon than the crack of dawn. But, hey, he’s The King.
Greeting the receptionist, the fair maiden bows her head as he walks down the torch-lit hall to the sales offices and makes a mental note of who is in and who isn’t, of who’s working and who’s gabbing by the water trough. To one of his more senior sales reps he asks, “What are you up to today? Did you sell-eth anything this week?”
Bring in the Next Consultant
Without waiting for an answer, he continues walking into his office. As he settles into his throne, he glances at his calendar and notices that his first appointment is with Lord Farquhar, the consultant who he hired to find out why sales aren’t growing.
At precisely 10 a.m., or as precise as a sundial can be, the height-impaired Farquhar walks in, bows, pulls a scroll from his satchel, and begins his presentation. “Your highness, I have several recommendations for you. Let’s start with your sales team."
First, there’s Sir Bidsalot. He is by far your least profitable sales rep. There is a decision to be made here: Either provide training or feed him to the lions. He’s not costing you any money, but he’s hanging onto accounts that one of the younger reps might be able to crack. And, speaking of those newer reps, allow me to give you an update on the two newbies that your Roman office sent over:
“Tenacious is coming along nicely. He is assertive without being aggressive and is using his Linketh-In connections, created as a result of his years with a competitor, to earn some fine accounts. His chief problem, however, is his refusal to let go of an order. He feels the need to constantly bother your customer service department in a way that makes the Spanish Inquisition look like a Q&A session, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.
“Millenious is a different story altogether. She, like, struggles to, like, put together a meaningful, like, sentence. Her communication style is altogether different from that of the other salespeople. I think Millenious has potential, but she needs structure and guidance.”
Dealing With Legacy Reps
“And then there is your legacy, more established, sales staff ...
“Legacous continues to plod along. His day basically consists of a milk run as he rides from customer to customer, meeting with clients and gathering orders. The guy’s sales methods might be 14th century, but you can count on his selling 500,000 shillings a year.
“Your production department has developed quite a dislike for his work ethic. They take note of the hours Legacous is putting in and grumble about the fact that he will be around for many years to come since he’s not old enough to retire. Word has it that his wife pulls in big drachma and he interprets that as not having to work that hard.
“And, finally, there is Sir Golfsalot. Having built his book of business, he is more interested in his short game than his sales numbers. At a consistent sales level of 1.5 million shillings year after year, you are best to leave him alone and let him cross the finish line. Good rep, but lacks the drive to grow and is therefore not worth spending money on with guys like me.
“And that is my report, Your Highness.”
The king leans back in his throne, ponders what he has heard and then asks, “So what do I, as head of this company, need to do in order to impact sales? Hold nothing back, Farquhar. The fact that the three consultants hired before you were all beheaded should have no bearing on your recommendations.”
Lord Farquhar swallows hard, pulls another scroll from his satchel and begins to read the two key sales activities that any boss can, and should, partake in:
“First, provide leads (preferably researched). Finding the right kinds of companies, then the right companies, and then the right people within those companies, is an important and yet time-consuming activity. Moreover, it’s not one that the salespeople need to participate in. It can be outsourced.
“Your Scottish division tells me it’s like putting a golf ball on the tee and handing a rep the club. I’m not completely sure what that means but, then, the Scots are a different breed. This action saves time — time that can be used performing more profitable activities, like customer interaction.”
Reps Should Be Out Selling
“Second, handle the backend. When a job comes in, that’s the last a rep should see it. Communication and interaction from that point forward should be between production and the client.
“Although reps care deeply, any time they spend chasing down answers to client questions is time that could have been spent on more profitable activities. This is the second of the two most important contributions that you can make to your sales team.
“It helps to maximize client face time, new business development, and all of the other parts of the job that allow reps to grow and make more money. Oh, and it also enables you to own the client relationship, an important factor if the rep leaves.
“This next recommendation might hurt a bit: Legacous has to go. Despite the fact that he is selling enough to cover his cost, harm is being done to the morale of the company while he is allowed to act like a part-time employee. Production is tired of seeing him fishing in the moat on Friday afternoons. There is a point where a legacy sales rep like Legacous is doing more harm than good.”
Leadership Starts at the Top
“Overall, your primary job as head of the company is to see the sales team as your customer base. Just like it’s the salespeople’s jobs to help their clients to grow, it’s yours to help them grow. When they succeed, you succeed. The goal is to be a sales-focused, sales-curious, sales-driven organization - and that starts at the top.
“The sales force should know that you have their best interests at heart and are working with those parts of the company that they affectionately refer to as the sales prevention department to help streamline the processes and, in particular, their jobs as salespeople.
"In short, do everything you can to let the sales reps sell. They are most effective, productive and profitable when they are interacting with customers and prospects. But the cruel reality of sales is the more successful they become, the less time they have to become even more successful.
“This is where you can help. As for your newer reps, you need to show more patience with their success. I hear you are quick with the guillotine when they are not producing within six months. Your job: Provide sales training, sales management, moral support and ... well, Your Highness, lead by example. Yours should be the first cart to arrive in the morning and the last to leave. This mid-morning start time of yours has to stop.”
Having completed his recommendations, a sweating and nervous Lord Farquhar bowed and watched as the King stood up, drew his sword and walked toward him.
Closing his eyes and awaiting his demise, he was shocked to feel a light tap first on the right shoulder and then the left. When he opened his eyes, a grateful King looked at him, nodded and confirmed his pleasure with an ancient blessing reserved only for the knighted: “Dilly-dilly.”