In this online course, Drew Boyd, marketing professor and consultant, highlights the importance of maintaining proper support for a sales team from within the company. Professor Boyd discusses the various types of connections sales reps will need from other departments in order to be successful. He also outlines strategies a sales manager can take to facilitate, nurture, and reinforce those inter-company connections.
- The sales task has four elements. Who we call on, what we sell, how we sell it, and where we go to get support within the company. This fourth element is critical, because without proper support reps won't get the job done. Good managers measure this activity to make sure the reps are getting the right support when they need it. Depending on the nature of your industry and your company reps will have a variety of reasons to have connections back to the home office. For example, they may need help resolving a customer problem.
That might be a billing problem, a late delivery, perhaps a product return, or maybe the customer is just plain unhappy. Sales reps may need help from your technical experts on getting products to work at the customer's site. They may need help from marketing on creating new selling tools or promotional items. In some selling roles pricing negotiations are essential and this usually requires internal support from the finance team. Along the same lines, reps often have to negotiate contracts with the client, they'll need support from your legal department.
Your sales task should spell out the specific people within the company who support your team and what kind of issues the reps are allowed to contact them about. You don't want your reps running around the company looking for support in the wrong places. This wastes valuable selling time and it may be irritating your internal support people. Even with a well laid out roadmap of who supports your sales rep things can go wrong. Reps maybe unaware of the sales task or they don't understand it.
A bigger problem is that some reps like to cut corners, especially the experiences reps. They find a helpful person in the company that do them a few favors here and there and they keep going back to them to get help. That'll cause problems. Things can go wrong on the other side too. A support person may not realize that part of their job is to help your reps. They may not have the same expectations as you do. Or perhaps they lack the training on how to give support. It could be a personal issue between your rep and the inside person, they just don't get a long.
You need to find and fix those types of problems. So how do you measure this activity? You have to look at both sides of the question. Monitor what your reps are doing by looking at their call reports. They should be logging the time they spend with an internal support person, including what was discussed. Also, ask your support teams to generate status reports or to keep a log of their activity supporting your sales reps. Be attuned for any complaints you get from people in the corporate office, as well as from your reps.
Don't ignore these, the problems will only get worse. Your challenge is to make sure your reps find the right balance between selling time in the field versus time spent getting help from their internal colleagues. So here's a few tips to keep the operation running smoothly. First, set clear expectations with your sales reps and internal support people. Bring them together in joint meetings to talk about their interactions and what each side needs to do to be a good partner. Have conversations with the department heads to make sure you're in alignment with their priorities.
Hey, these departments have other important jobs to do, so you need to make sure you stay on their radar screen. Next, invite support teams to be part of your sales training programs. Perhaps they can deliver training related to the support they provide. Finally, include support people in your reward and recognition programs. Invite them to the annual sales meeting and recognize the sales support person of the year. This not only creates a team environment, but it also motivates these very important people who are making you and your reps more successful.
- Defining the sales task
- Calling on the right customers with the right products and services
- Evaluating your team's sales activities
- Measuring outputs of sales: customer satisfaction, wins, losses, etc.