There’s a simple reason why it’s all but impossible to extricate salespeople from the production process (particularly in a make-to-order environment).

And there’s a simple solution to this problem. But it requires that we challenge a strongly-held assumption.

So why do salespeople end up in production in the first place?

Well, the salesperson takes a brief from his client. The taking of the brief isn’t a simple transaction — like taking an order. It’s the eventual result of a free-ranging conversation between the client and the salesperson.

As a consequence, the brief consists of some facts and figures — that can easily be transferred into production on a standard form. But the brief also consists of a bunch of less explicit knowledge — kind of like the spaces between the notes in a symphony. And this knowledge inevitably gets lost in the transferring.

The result is that there is just one person in your organisation who has a complete picture in his head of what the final product should look like.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the salesperson inevitably has to follow the client’s job through production.

So what’s the solution? To design a more comprehensive form the salesperson can use to transcribe the brief? I don’t think so!

Let’s examine one of the assumptions that underpins this scenario.

You’ll find evidence of it in the first sentence of the scenario: ‘Well, the salesperson takes a brief …’ Tell me, does the sales person *have to* take the brief?

We have a simple rule of thumb.

The salesperson takes the brief *only* if it can be accurately and objectively transcribed onto a simple form.

If it can’t, the brief *must* be taken by a production person. (In a major-account scenario, this person might be a project manager.)

There are two benefits that come from a production person taking a brief:

  1.  The salesperson gets to walk away from the opportunity the moment it is closed.
  2. The client’s allegiance gets transferred to the production manager as a result of the brief-giving process.

What this means, in practice, is that there will be critical meetings in your opportunity-management process that are attended by both a salesperson and a production person.

Your salespeople will have to change the way they view their involvement in the opportunity-management process. Rather than performing all tasks, they should
see their role as that of a chaperone. In other words, it’s their job to ensure that the brief gets taken, accurately.