Sales people are a valuable resource

By Elizabeth Gooding / Published:

In my last post, Getting better all the time, I said some things that could have been perceived as a slight to sales people in general. Let me be clear: sales people are an incredibly important resource for almost any company. They are hard to find, hard to keep and without them, revenue doesn’t happen. In fact, they are so valuable that two important parts of managing them are making sure that they can focus on selling, and removing potential barriers to their success.

Removing the barriers

For companies transitioning to inkjet, or who support multiple production processes there can be challenges.

Your team may not understand the relative capabilities of the different processes and how they can meet customers’ needs separately or in combination. They may also be unclear on the relative profitability of one approach over another. These barriers can be reduced or eliminated with reference materials and training.

There is another problem that is harder to overcome, trust. If you want the sales team to spend their time selling, they need to trust that you won’t mess up “their” account. Any time new technology or new processes are introduced, there needs to be some associated trust building to demonstrate that the technology and the people behind it can deliver as promised.

This can be combined with education for sales people and customers in the form of samples, templates and guidelines that shorten the sales cycle by showing rather than just telling, what the technology, for example inkjet, can do.

Maintaining the focus

Assuming you have the trust of your sales team, there is still the process of getting them to focus on the sales process. When sales people feel like they own every aspect of an account, they spend less and less time actually selling. Here are some things that you probably don’t want your sales people spending time on, even if they are good at it:

  • Managing projects
  • Participating on development calls
  • Responding to customer service issues

Often the impulse for sales people to participate in these types of activities is a corollary to the trust issue noted earlier. They don’t trust their colleagues to take care of “their” account. If that is happening at your company, it is not only a poor use of your sales people it is likely demoralizing for the project managers, developers and customer care colleagues who should also see it as “their” account.

Optimizing your sales resources

Not every company is organized the same way, but most will benefit from at least some of the opportunities for resource optimization below:

  • Limit project calls that sales people attend
  • Provide clients with red/yellow/green status reporting on key accounts to maintain trust without distraction
  • Keep sales people informed, but do not run client issue management/escalation through sales
  • Do not allow sales people to be the “fixers” of client problems. (I could write a whole post on this one.)
  • Break sales teams into hunters and gatherers
  • Allow “gatherers” on the sales team or client services to pursue add-on work
  • Have a clear hand-off from sales to client services/project management
  • Provide additional incentives when introducing new technology or processes
  • Create a feedback book to leverage what sales people learn from their clients to spark new ideas for products and services, but don’t allow them to “make stuff up”
  • Make sure that the sales team is clear about what you want them to sell and motivated to sell it

Just as sales people can have trust issues that the company can deliver what they sold, many of their peers may be frustrated that they are selling stuff that isn’t on the menu or making promises the company can’t keep.

Remember who the manager is

Good sales people are hard to find. They are often driven, competitive, opinionated and they want to win business. That’s what it takes to go out and sell to new customers every day. But as important, and potentially aggressive, as they may be they don’t run the company. The only people reporting into the sales department should be sales people.

Your sales manager’s job is to get the sales team to sell what senior management decides are the most profitable and maintainable services for the company. They may have input to the planning process, but once that is done, everyone needs to pull in the same direction.

Now that we’ve talked about getting the sales team trusting in your offers and focused on selling what is profitable, we’re set up for our next discussion: what is profitable. That is always an interesting discussion with inkjet. Stay tuned.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Gooding

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Elizabeth is the Editor and Co-founder of Inkjet Insight. She has a rare ability to see print related issues from many perspectives. She has managed creative teams on complex design projects, selected outsourcers for major brands and helped print organizations to retool operations, focus their market positioning and educate sales teams to accelerate growth. She works with a team of top analysts to translate experiences into tools, data and content to help print organizations evaluate the potential of inkjet, optimize their operations and grow pages profitably. She is a founding member of the Inkjet Summit advisory board, the co-author of an award-winning book on designing for inkjet and a curious consultant constantly seeking innovative ways to drive new pages onto inkjet presses.

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