Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why are so many companies afraid of their sales reps?

By: Etien D'Hollander

I can’t tell you how many times over the last year I have heard senior managers make excuses for their sales reps regarding sales reports.  Comment such as this: “He’s a top performer, I cut him some slack if he doesn’t do his sales reports” or “I can’t afford to lose him so I don’t force him to do his reports” or “if he makes his numbers I do the reports for him” or my personal favourite, “I B.S’d my reports so what value are they anyway?”

            Why are so many companies so short-sighted? Don’t they realize what impact this has on their future?  How do you plan marketing strategies without feedback from your sales reps?  How do you schedule manufacturing without sales forecasting? Don’t forecasts come from sales rep input?  Without proper manufacturing schedules you may get back orders, or warehouses full of unwanted inventory. What are the costs of that?  How do you plan product enhancements or new product development without knowing what the market needs are? 

            I once worked for a medical company that was created because of a significant but expensive enhancement in care requirements.  In less then 5 years this company became the dominant player in this therapy.  We, sales reps, were high-energy, highly commissioned, money-driven, gunslingers.  Reports? What reports? Who had time for reports? Reports slowed you down.  Well guess what happened?  The competition was paying attention, and they not only caught up but passed us in technology.  The enhancements that should have been developed were never bubbled up to the right people internally.  The back orders due to lack of forecasting caused huge delays in delivery and drove our customers to our competition.  Product development was working in the dark and the next big thing fizzled.  Within ten years the company was gone.  Management had disappeared and all of us high performing sales reps had moved on to other companies bringing our bad forecasting habits with us. 

            I recently had the opportunity to work with Tom.  Tom is VP of sales for a company which is a major player in the directory pages industry. A highly competitive industry under duress.  Tom realized that the biggest challenge to becoming a market leader in this industry was to have a motivated, highly productive sales force.  Because his sales reps typically make 10-20 sales calls per day, he wanted the fastest, easiest sales reporting tool possible.  Tom choose FrontRow-Solutions because of its ease and speed of use, with texting and mobile app capabilities.  He made sales reporting mandatory and when his top sales rep refused to use FrontRow he asked him to find another job.  The result after six months was a dramatically improved sales force, with increase in both sales call quality and quantity.  The insights he gained from a 90% compliance level enabled him to individualize and customize sales rep training, develop marketing strategies, and better manage his pipeline.  The company continues to achieve above average performance. 

            Unfortunately not all managers have the foresight and proactive leadership that Tom has.  Many companies stagnate because of the fear they have of their sales reps.  How many SFA’s and CRM’s have failed because the sales reps have decided to make them fail? 
           The success of CRM comes sales rep adoption. Don't let the tail wag the dog.