During a training class I observed several weeks ago, an account manager raised this question: “How many of you have sales reps who step on your toes?” After a moment of thoughtful silence, the facilitator of the class asked him to elaborate. “He’s always reaching out to my customers behind my back,” he explained. “I have sales goals to meet, too.”
Culture can make or break a business. When the internal culture of the business is strong, communication is effective and productive. Team members work together toward common goals. Decisions are made in the best interest of everyone, resulting in success for the overall organization.
When the culture is weak, survival of the fittest can quickly become the order of the day, especially between and among your sales reps, who rely on commission payouts to supplement their regular salaries and bring in extra income to support their families and their lifestyles.
An unhealthy relationship between and among your sales reps and the rest of your team stagnates growth and impedes progress. Here are five ways your well-meaning sales reps could be unintentionally undermining your business’s growth and profitability and tips for heading off these potential issues at the pass:
- Re-prospecting. When the sales pipeline runs dry, it can be tempting for the sales rep to circle back to existing customers to attempt to sell additional services. Each visit to an existing customer means a new lead is not being actively identified or pursued. Implementing a clearly-defined sales process in which the sales rep hands off the customer relationship to an Account or Project Manager as soon as the sales agreement is signed, fostering a “hunter” mentality, and designing and instituting enticing incentive programs all ensure your sales reps stay hungry and motivated to continually identify and pursue new leads.
- Wearing blinders. On the racetrack, blinders keep the horse focused on the track ahead. In your business, blinders can keep your sales reps so focused on winning the sale they fail to consider the other members of the team. An elaborate outdoor kitchen might be good for the Rep’s commission payout, for instance, but can your crews comfortably handle the work in the promised time frame without compromising quality and eating up valuable resources? The more your sales reps know about the roles and responsibilities of other team members involved in the fulfillment of sales contracts and agreements and the impact of their actions and decisions on those team members, the more mindful they will be during the sales process to use their peripheral vision to proactively identify and overcome obstacles and challenges that threaten to impact the organization.
- Selling to the wrong customers. Popular thought in the world of selling is that any sale is a good sale. However, not all customers will increase your business’s profits. Knowing which types of customers bring the most money into your business is key for ensuring its continued growth and success. Working with your sales reps to clearly define and pursue the subset of the consumer population that values the specialized goods and services your business offers, and encouraging your reps to actively sell to that specific buyer base, can make all the difference in the levels of growth and profitability your business sees in both the short and long term.
- Selling at inappropriate margins. The more specialized your business’s goods and services are, the higher their associated gross profit margins should be. When your sales reps sell specialized or unique offerings at too-low margins, they increase the risk of those offerings being viewed as commodities, which can compromise your business’s competitive advantage in the marketplace. Work with your sales reps to determine which of the goods and services your sales rep sells can be priced at higher margins. Also, consider bundling complementary goods and services into specialized offerings as often as possible. This will allow your reps to sell commoditized offerings at higher margins.
- Neglecting professional development. Individual accountability and a commitment to ongoing professional development is essential for a thriving internal culture. If your sales reps are not actively and proactively educating themselves about other roles in your organization and the impacts of their prospecting and selling decisions and actions, they are doing themselves, and your business, a disservice. In the same way, if your reps are not continually researching the market and consumer habits, they are missing rich opportunities to rework and refine their selling strategies. Encouraging your reps to pursue professional development opportunities and providing platforms for their individual and collective professional growth go a long way toward ensuring your sales team is always at the head of the pack.
Your sales team is vital to the success of your business. By working with your sales reps to ensure they are fully on board with the mission, vision, and goals of your business and that they are continually equipped to succeed, you can mitigate and overcome challenges that threaten to stagnate growth. You have nothing to lose by investing in your sales reps now for unparalleled gains in the future.
Lisa Perdue is manager of professional development for LandOpt, a consulting firm based in Pittsburgh.