Can We All Get Along?

By Per Torgersen on Nov 4, 2012

Do these comments sound familiar from your organization?  These are real quotes derived from interviews with sales people and other functions in various companies.

  1. “All they do is sit in meetings all day”
  2. “They never answer my calls and I never hear back”
  3. “He/she must have a 4 handicap in golf by now”
  4. “Must be nice to work a half day all the time”
  5. “I have to call three times just to make sure something actually gets followed up on”
  6. “They always think I can drop everything at a moment’s notice” 

See if you can guess which are about sales and which are about other functions – answers are at the bottom of this post.

Much is discussed about the importance of sales and marketing having a functional, close working relationship, but what about other functions in the organization, which the comments above refer to; finance, manufacturing,  legal, customer service?  Based on our observations, other functions can be just as vital to an effective sales force but receive a lot less attention.  A sales person cannot be successful in completing their end of the deal – obtaining the order – if … 

  • it takes a week to get a new customer into the system,
  • they can’t get any credit,
  • there is no stock because manufacturing decided to cut sales’ forecast by 20% because they thought they were too optimistic,
  • or a new deal can’t get closed because there are so many internal signatures needed and one person is missing.

There are a number of ways to tackle these kinds of issues, including process reviews.  However, we have also observed that there is often a lack of understanding of what sales people actually do for the organization (and vice-versa) and a too prevalent attitude that they “have it easy”, “are always trying to get an angle”, or that they are “pushy.”  One effective approach to try to remedy this is actually not difficult, and can pay dividends down the line in terms of generating understanding between the functions.

Simple ride-alongs with sales people, or a day in the office shadowing an internal colleague, can do wonders.  The former can expose the rider to direct interaction with customers, the travel many sales people endure, and the dance of administrative tasks sales must do to get something done. 

Conversely, having a sales person see the inside helps them understand how things work when they are trying to set up a new client, get a contract signed, or pick and ship the product accurately from the warehouse.  This can lead to a bevy of new ideas on how things could be done more efficiently, open the eyes of the participants, and spur increased camaraderie in the organization.  It does not take a great deal of investment, but it takes some effort and commitment from leadership to see that these kinds of activities regularly take place, particularly with new hires in the organization as well.

(Answer - 3, 4 and 6 are about the sales force - 1, 2, and 5 from the sales force about other functions).

Per Torgersen

Written by Per Torgersen

Per Torgersen is the resident sales compensation guru at Symmetrics Group. Beyond compensation, Per is experienced at addressing the full spectrum of what makes a sales force effective, from strategy articulation, organizational sizing and structure, customer segmentation, role clarity, territory alignment, incentive design and performance management. If Per is not crafting sales effectiveness programs, he’s likely listening to music; Per is a walking database of pop music across the globe and can name the #1 hit for any given month and year with alarming precision.

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