Welcome to Part 2!
Here’s where we dot all the ‘i’s and cross all the ‘t’s. We’ll be talking about roles, workflows, campaigns, technology and much more. But I don’t think we should be satisfied to examine these building blocks in a vacuum. After all, Part 2 is all about practice, not theory. Accordingly, it’s my intention to weave a conversation about how and when these blocks should be deployed, around the description of their constituent parts.
It’s important, therefore, that we set the scene for this conversation. What we need to get started is a high-level plan. You need a model for your new environment. You need a rough understanding of the resourcing (and cost) implications of the new model. And you need to know what the transition is likely to look like.
Interestingly, without guidance, most executives approach these questions in the opposite order. They start planning the transition without a clear understanding of the model or its resourcing implications! As a consequence, these are the questions that typically preoccupy a recent convert to our cause:
Do we start with salespeople, perhaps? Provide them new job descriptions (and a revised compensation plan)?
Do we start with promotions? More sales opportunities will never go astray, right?
Or, do we start with technology? After all, there’s something cathartic about a new enterprise application and all the friendly consultants who come live with us during its implementation!
Of course, all of these approaches are wrong. Dangerously wrong!
A plan that commences with these initiatives will almost certainly fail. Worse still, it will fail so spectacularly that it will discredit the whole notion of sales process engineering – providing you with little choice but to persist with the traditional model, in spite of its shortcomings.
As suggested, the identification of the ideal model is the starting point.
We examined four models in Part 1, but we’ve also acknowledged that our four key principles provide no limit on the number of possible models.
If one of the models described is a perfect fit, that’s terrific. However, if your environment is more complex than the four described thus far, you have two choices:
- Simplify your environment to fit one of the four models
- Start with one of these models and customize it to fit your requirements
Of course if you are not convinced that your environmental complexity is adding value, option 1 is the preferable one!
Either way, your first challenge is to select one of the four models, either as the optimal one or as the starting point for customization.
Unpacking account management
In order to do that, you should answer four fundamental questions:
- Where business-development is concerned, what is the nature of the conversation and where does it (or should it) occur?
- Where transactions are concerned (repeat purchases), what is the nature of the conversation and where does it (or should it) occur?
- What discrete sales activities absolutely must be performed in the field?
- What discrete technical activities absolutely must be performed in the field?
The purpose of these questions is to unpack the concept of sales or, to use the more common terminology, account management. As we’ve discussed, it simply doesn’t make sense to treat sales (or account management) as a single activity.
As you answer these questions, try and organize your answers around two axes:
- Inside versus outside
- Selling versus not-selling
It’s helpful to unpack ‘account management’ tasks into four categories
With the help of a trusty Boston Matrix you’ll end up with something like the above. (It’s likely that you’ll be surprised by the small number of activities that do actually need to be performed in the field.)
Direct or via a channel
With this information at your disposal, you’re in a position to contemplate a big question:
- Does it make more sense to sell direct or via channel partners?
It’s a big question because the implications are huge – and because each option really needs to be an all-or-nothing proposition.
To arrive at your decision you should read (and re-read) the section of Chapter 5 entitled Indirect Sales.
The good news is that, if you conclude that you will sell via channel partners, you’ll likely discover that the indirect-sales model described in this chapter is good to go (with minimal customization).
Mapping activities to roles
You can now start to map activities to roles. Not the roles you already have, mind you. Pretend that you’re starting with a blank sheet of paper, here.
You’ll likely discover that the roles and activities don’t match-up with the categories in our Boston matrix – but that’s okay: that’s why arrows were invented.
Messy is okay. You’re on your way to creating a masterpiece here!
In the example above, you can see the following mapping:
Now that you have a general idea of the division of labor you can get little more detailed in your planning.
My preference, at this point is to create a diagram of the sales environment (including customer service and engineering).
This diagram should be granular enough to show functions, personnel (one circle per person) and work queues – but no more granular. At this point, you should not commit to the number of individuals in each role. You’ll almost certainly want to revise your initial assumptions after we shine the spotlight on resourcing in a moment.
Here’s an example from a business that sells a mixture of simple and complex design-related projects (from another of our quiet revolutionaries).
A high-level drawing of the model is great to crystalize your thinking
and invaluable to sell your ideas when you’re done
In this example, we have a Special Project team that operates in an engineer-to-order environment with our standard model.
Project leaders are members of the design team – which also provides simple design concepts to Inside Sales.
The Inside Sales team is responsible for making outbound calls to solicit simple orders (make-to-stock and make-to-order). This team escalates more complex jobs to the special-projects coordinator.
The Customer Service team is responsible for order entry and management and issue management. And the Promotions person is responsible for generating sales opportunities for Inside Sales.
You now understand the division of labor. The next step is to determine exactly how many individuals are required in each role.
It’s best to start with field personnel and work backwards.
It’s almost certain that you need a fraction of the salespeople that you already have.
As you already know, a typical salesperson performs only two true business-development meetings a week. And, if we re-allocate all tasks other than business-development meetings, the result will be that your salespeople’s effective capacity will increase by a factor of 10 (from two business-development meetings a week, to 20).
This means that:
- Your existing team can do 10-times the volume of business-development meetings
- A team one-fifth the size can do twice the volume of business-development meetings
- A team one-tenth the size can maintain the same volume of meetings
Regardless of your growth aspirations, you should immediately eliminate option ‘1’. Considering the magnitude of the change associated with the transition to this new model, there is absolutely no way that you can commit to generate ten-times your current volume of sales opportunities in the near to mid term.
Absent a ten-times increase in opportunity flow, the obvious outcome of the transition to the new model is that expenses will increase and your salespeople will spend most of their time standing idle.
(And, please, don’t even think about suggesting that salespeople might be able to use their idle time to originate sales opportunities. If this were possible, they’d be doing it already!)
The more sensible approach is to reduce your sales team to between one-tenth and one-fifth its current size. This gives you the opportunity to place your most capable salespeople in the few remaining business-development roles and to redeploy remaining salespeople elsewhere.
Some simple math will help you to arrive at the right answer.
Start by determining the average weekly volume of (true) business-development appointments performed by your total sales team (it’ll most likely be around 2 per person).
Now, there’s a right and wrong way to determine this number. The wrong way is to ask your salespeople (or your sales manager) for an estimate!
The right way is to sit down with a representative number of salespeople and actually examine their calendars – page-by-page – and count the business-development meetings over a one-month period. Remember to differentiate between true business-development meetings and account-management visits (the latter have no explicit business-development objectives).
Let’s call the resulting number your: current (weekly) appointment volume.
Then, examine each of the following, and estimate the number of appointments that can readily be extracted from each on an ongoing (weekly) basis:
- Existing accounts (remembering that we’re only interested in appointments that can be scheduled with an explicit business-development objective – no doughnut runs)
- Existing under-exploited opportunities (these are opportunities that are currently being neglected because salespeople are deeming them to be unqualified)
Once you sum these two numbers, let’s call the result your: readily-achievable, incremental appointment volume.
The number of salespeople you require in your new model will be roughly equal to:
Of course, 20 is the weekly capacity (standard appointments) of each field salesperson in the new model.
In practice, then, if you have 10 salespeople in a particular region (or division) now, with the transition to the new model, this number will drop to between one and two.
The actual number should be determined primarily by your confidence in your ability to generate incremental appointments from existing clients and opportunities.
It pays to be conservative here. Even if you maintain your appointment volume at its current level, you’ll still derive significant benefit from:
- Better salesmanship: all appointments are now being performed by your most capable salespeople
- Better opportunity management: sales coordinators have better attention to detail and pursue prospects more relentlessly than salespeople ever do
- Better customer service: the centralization and formalization of customer service (and project leadership) more often than not has a profound impact on customer satisfaction and, in turn, on re-order frequency
And there’s another important reason to be conservative.
In my experience, most organizations over-estimate their ability to respond to a sustained increase in sales. What typically happens is that an increase in business-development activity quickly consumes the customer service team’s protective capacity. And then, as this activity translates into orders, we discover that, while production has unutilized capacity on paper, it takes quite some time to exploit this capacity, in practice.
At least one-third of our quiet revolutionaries experience the following sequence of events:
- They apply division of labor and transition to the new sales model (with a much smaller field salesforce)
- The centralization of customer service and project leadership causes an immediate improvement in customer service and an unsuspected lift in transaction flow
- Customer service and production run out of capacity and need to either add personnel or need to review their operating procedures
- With more aggressive offers and better salesmanship (remember, the more capable salespeople are now handling 100% of the sales opportunities), the sales function becomes more effective
- However, with limited customer service and production capacity, sales must deliberately throttle salespeople’s activity until the constraint shifts back to sales (this can often take months)
Bear in mind that the scenario above occurs after the sales team has been reduced to one-fifth its original size!
Geography and risk
While most executives understand the case for conservatism, many are reluctant to trust the math.
The two common objections are:
- Geography: our salespeople have huge territories – they simply can’t do four appointments a day
- Risk: if we reduce our sales team to a fraction of its current size, we’re exposed – if we lose a single person we’re in deep water!
It’s true that a lot of salespeople have large territories. What’s more, if you reduce your sales team to one-fifth its current size, territory size will obviously increase.
But here’s the thing: travel time is not primarily a function of territory size. What determines travel time is the distance between a given appointment and the one preceding it. As appointment volume increases, it becomes possible for a sales coordinator to batch appointments by travel time.
A typical salesperson, who performs only a few appointments a week, will inevitably find themself flying from city to city because they have only one person to visit in each location. However, a salesperson who performs 4 business-development appointments a day will, at any point in time be working on 80-200 opportunities concurrently (depending on opportunity cycle time). With this number of open opportunities, this salesperson’s coordinator should have no problem scheduling a day or two’s work in (say) Chicago, followed by a couple of day’s work in (say) Atlanta.
Now, if you’ve ever visited Chicago you’ll know that, even within the one city, travel times can be horrendous. But, on closer inspection, even this is not the problem that it appears to be. What tends to happen in large cities is that organizations of a similar type (manufacturers, technology companies, advertising agencies, etc) form clusters, which mitigates the travel problem.
The second concern is risk. In large organizations there’s often a feeling that more salespeople equal more sales. It simply doesn’t seem right that you could increase sales by decreasing the size of the team. Of course the flaw in this reasoning is obvious, it’s not sales people that’s the primary driver of sales – it’s sales appointments.
This concern does take a more rational form, however. If a field team is reduced to just one or two people (as is often the case) management often worries what will happen if a salesperson falls ill (or resigns).
This concern also evaporates on closer inspection. If we imagine a situation where a team of five salespeople was reduced to a single salesperson, it’s true that the organization is exposed if that person falls ill. However, it’s easy to see that this exposure is no worse than in the previous model when you consider that:
- Most of the activities previously performed by salespeople have been redistributed across sales support and engineering team members
- The salesperson’s role has been simplified to the point that it can be readily filled (on a temporary basis) by a senior executive (or, worst case, by a project leader)
Now that you know how many field salespeople you require, we can work backwards to make resourcing decisions for the rest of the sales environment. (Don’t forget to adjust your draft model as we go.)
To recap, project leaders are only required in complex (typically engineer-to-order) environments.
The project leader is a technical person who can hold their own in the client’s executive suite. They are responsible for managing the technical component of the end-to-end engagement and, as a consequence, for ensuring the tight integration of sales and production.
It’s important to note that, in most complex environments, most (if not all) existing salespeople are actually a better fit in the project leader role. This is because complex environments demand project leadership skills and, consequently, attract more technical people.
This means that, if yours is a complex environment, while it’s true that you’ll be drastically reducing the size of your sales team, all that will happen, in practice, is that most salespeople will be reassigned to project leadership roles.
To determine the ideal ratio of project leaders to salespeople you need to estimate the amount of time that an average engagement will consume, bearing in mind that:
- Not all sales opportunities become projects
- All projects will require the project leader’s post-sale involvement
- If you intend to run your salespeople at full utilization, it’s impossible for you to also maintain a project leader at full efficiency because you’ll regularly have resource contention (as the ratio of project leaders to salespeople increases, this becomes less of an issue)
You’ll get a much more accurate result if you estimate the load on the project leader in units of half a day. (To estimate in hours is like trying to measure the circumference of an island with a ruler!)
There’s no doubt that you’ll discover that one salesperson can keep a number of project leaders busy. The ratio of project leaders to salespeople is always greater than one-to-one and often as high as four-to-one.
Now that you know the number of salespeople and project leaders you require, it’s quite easy to estimate resourcing for your sales-support team. (I’ll use the term sales-support to refer to customer service along with all centrally-based sales resources, including promotions coordination.)
Bear in mind that, under no circumstance does it make sense for your organizational constraint to move to sales support. Even if your designated constraint is your sales function, you will want to resource this function to ensure that salespeople (field or inside) are the constraint – and not support personnel.
In summary, then:
- If sales is the designated organizational constraint, every role within sales support must have enough protective capacity to subordinate effectively to salespeople
- If another function is the designated constraint, salespeople must have sufficient protective capacity to subordinate effectively to that function and sales support must have enough protective capacity to subordinate effectively to both salespeople and to the constrained function
Let me reiterate: there is no conceivable situation where it makes sense for sales support to become a bottleneck!
This should be obvious but, sadly, I see organizations almost every week where sales (and production) support resources are overburdened – meaning that significant value is being destroyed (cashflow and customer service quality), because of management’s unwillingness to maintain protective capacity in these areas.
It’s very easy to calculate the number of sales coordinators you require. You need one for each field-based salesperson.
That’s it. And it’s non-negotiable!
Think of it this way. Your salespeople are about to increase their volume of work by ten times. It takes an enormous amount of work, behind the scenes, to enable a salesperson to operate at this rate. And most of this work will be performed by your sales coordinators.
The economics make good sense too. The sales coordinator makes the most significant contribution to the ten-times increase you’re about to see in your salespeople’s effective capacity. But, in spite of the value they add, they typically cost less than half what salespeople do.
Customer service representatives
You need enough capacity in your customer service team to:
- Absorb all the customer service tasks that are currently being performed by salespeople (including the generation of simple quotations)
- Process all inbound orders
- Update (proactively) clients on any changes in their orders’ expected delivery dates
In addition to this, we mustn’t forget our commitment to maintain protective capacity in all sales-support resources.
It is likely, therefore, that you will need to add some team members to your customer service team. However, you should be on the lookout for opportunities to improve the productivity of this team. Typically, our quiet revolutionaries have made an incremental increase in team size – but have generated huge increases in productivity by making simple changes to operating procedures and management.
If you’re wondering if you have opportunities for productivity improvement, check your answers to the following questions. If the result isn’t a string of yes’s then the questions themselves will give you an idea of what needs to be done in this area.
- We have a happy, enthusiastic team that processes almost all (>90%) of orders, issues and requests-for-quotations well within customer tolerances
- The team can accomplish (1.) while working normal hours
- We have standard workflows for all common work-types – and checklists for complex activities (these workflows are posted in plain view of all team members)
- All orders, issues and requests-for-quotations are managed using the ERP (or CRM), not using manila folders, post-it notes or home-grown Excel workbooks
- The team has daily (or, twice-daily) work-in-progress meetings that include:
- A review of case-flow and of the size and location of any work queues
- A review of problem cases and creation of an action list
- Updates from production (and procurement), identifying jobs that are likely to be delivered late
- Review of a defect log (containing quality issues that were identified internally)
- The team’s supervisor (or team leader) can quote your current on-time-task-completion percentage, without referencing a report
If you currently have a field team, it’s unlikely that you have inside salespeople at all. Or, if you do, it’s likely that they interact only with those customers that haven’t been assigned to field salespeople.
Either situation is likely to represent a missed opportunity.
Even in major-sales environments, there are generally transactions that can be readily made on the telephone. And the notion that better clients should be managed from the field and not the phone is clearly fallacious.
Your best clients will almost certainly benefit from phone contact, in addition to field visits.
Assuming that your inside team is not your sales front line, it’s unlikely that you will need to add inside salespeople on day-one of this transition.
A better approach is to experiment with the creation of inside sales once you have restructured your existing team. You can start with one or two inside salespeople and add more once you can see that they are paying for themselves.
Traditionally, organizations keep inside sales away from their field accounts because they’re concerned about communication problems (and sales commissions). With the elimination of commissions and the central planning of all field activities, both of these issues disappear.
As we discussed in Chapter 3, there are two likely scenarios where promotions is concerned:
- You have a marketing department, however, their primary concern is general marketing communications (as opposed to the generation of sales opportunities)
- You have no marketing department, meaning that all necessary inputs are provided by contractors or agencies
In the first case, the promotions coordinator is a marketing team member who lives in the sales function and ensures tight integration between these two functions.
In the second case, the promotions coordinator interfaces with external providers.
In both cases, the promotions coordinator will be responsible for all campaigns and for the not-insignificant technical implications of campaign management (CRM management, online lead management, event management, etc).
Because a promotions coordinator deals with opportunities in batches (and because a larger batch does not typically consume greater effort), a single promotions coordinator can handle the demand generated by a very large sales team. Typically, we see multiple promotional coordinators only when organizations have multiple sales teams, spanning regions where different languages are spoken.
It’s important that we don’t neglect management. Counter to most executives’ expectations, the transition we are contemplating is likely to be far more traumatic for management than it is for salespeople.
We’ll pay special attention to management in a later chapter so, for now, let’s just reflect on the resourcing implications of the new model.
For starters, it should be clear that the requirement for traditional sales managers has diminished significantly. After all, the field-based business-development team is now one-fifth its previous size (or smaller).
Secondly, much of the activity that was previously being performed in the field is now being performed by an internal sales-support team. Such a team requires an entirely different management approach.
Let’s discuss different approaches to the resourcing of these two important roles.
Sales management (field)
We need to start by asking if the field team is large enough to necessitate a sales manager. If your business-development team now consists of two people – and if project leaders now answer to engineering (which is likely) – the answer is certainly no.
In this situation, it probably makes more sense to combine sales and sales-support management into the one role. In fact, many of our quiet revolutionaries have taken advantage of the industrialization of their sales environments and made sales a responsibility of their operations managers.
If you have a larger sales team and you elect to maintain a dedicated sales manager, it’s important to make sure that your sales manager spends the greater majority of their time in the field (where the salespeople are). They should only visit the office to:
- Facilitate sales meetings (which tend to be conducted via web conferencing software anyway)
- Recruit and induct new salespeople (on the rare occasions that this is required)
- Attend senior management team meetings
All clerical activities (including reporting) will be performed by sales coordinators. When you consider that the sales manager will never make solo visits, sales coordinators can plan the sales manager’s schedule with negligible additional effort.
Sales-support management (inside team)
Earlier, I’ve hinted at the cost of neglecting (or mismanaging) the customer service function. The problem, however, is that many organizations don’t have a big enough sales-support team to justify proper management.
Well that’s about to change! With the centralization of most of the activities that were previously being performed in the field, sales support is growing to include sales coordination, promotional coordination and inside sales – in addition to customer service.
Shortly, you’ll have a team that’s large enough and critical enough to deserve proper management.
Obviously, you need one sales-support manager for each sales-support location. However, you should have only one sales-support team for each continent!
That’s right. Sales support should not live in sales offices. In fact, with this transition, you’ll almost certainly discover that you no longer need sales offices. My rule of thumb is that the sales-support team should be based in the same location as your master (production) scheduler.
When you co-locate the scheduling of production with the scheduling of sales and engineering then you have taken a big step towards synchronizing the firm as a whole.
I trust I’ve provided you enough insight to fine-tune the model of your new sales function – and to calculate the numbers of heads required in each role. It’s time now to consider the economics of this transition.
Because you’re contemplating a major change here, your planning really needs to be iterative. In other words, it’s better done with a pencil and an eraser than with an ink marker.
This discussion of economics is a great opportunity to check the work you’ve done so far and go back and make changes if you discover you’ve made a mistake.
Expenses cannot increase
So, let me tell you, right up front, how to spot when you’ve made a mistake:
- You’ve made a mistake on the design or resourcing of your model if you determine that it causes operating expenses to increase
There are two reasons why I’m firm on this point:
- Management always overestimates its requirement for field salespeople in this new model (this is sometimes a result of management overestimating the ability of the firm to grow)
- The transition you are contemplating is complex and stressful without an increase in operating expenses however, if you increase expenses, the requirement to demonstrate a positive ROI multiplies this pressure
But don’t despair, if you’ve done a good job of designing your model, you still have significant upside. The thing is, you should be able to double your volume of business-development activity before you run into a requirement to increase operating expenses.
The best way to navigate this discussion of economics is with an illustrative example.
We’ll consider the case of a typical mid-sized, engineer-to-order organization (maybe a custom manufacturer or a software development firm).
Here’s the resourcing situation, before and after the transition. The right hand column shows the change (delta) in payroll cost. Payroll costs are indicative, only. Salaries will vary from region to region, but the relative numbers will stay pretty much the same.
Here are the changes in this example:
- The field sales (business-development) team has decreased to one-fifth its previous size
- Each salesperson is supported by a dedicated sales coordinator
- Each salesperson is supported by two project leaders (it’s highly likely that project leaders were sourced from the sales team)
- The capacity of the customer-service team has increased by 60% (ignoring efficiency improvements)
- No inside sales personnel have been added
- A promotional coordinator has been added, along with a sales-support manager
- There is now just one sales manager
- All team members are paid salaries
- Management is responsible for ensuring that salespeople are maintained at full utilization (when the sales function is the organizational constraint)
And here are the predicted effects:
- Sales (business-development) capacity (and most likely the volume of business-development meetings) has doubled
- Customer service quality has improved significantly (a consequence of a larger and more efficient customer service team and four dedicated project leaders)
- Management is now in the position where they can actually manage the sales function, in the true sense of the word manage
- Payroll cost has reduced by $310k (it is also quite likely that some regional sales offices were closed, but this cost saving has not been accounted for)
At the beginning of this chapter we discussed that, without guidance, most managers approach the critical questions in the wrong order – starting with questions about the transition:
Do we start with salespeople, perhaps? Provide them new job descriptions (and a revised compensation plan)?
Do we start with promotions? More sales opportunities will never go astray, right?
Or, do we start with technology? After all, there’s something cathartic about a new enterprise application and all the friendly consultants who come live with us during its implementation!
Well, we haven’t fallen into that trap. We’ve fleshed-out our understanding of the new environment by starting with the design of the model, then the resourcing, and then the economics.
Now, it’s time for us to turn our attention to the transition. I’ll provide some detailed guidance in a moment but it’s important that we start with the most critical rule of all.
Start at the factory door and work backwards
You heard me right! Yes, this initiative is all about improving sales. But, no, we are not going to start with sales or promotional initiatives.
We’re going to start by making sure that we have a firm base to build upon – by fixing customer service! As was discussed earlier, insufficient capacity and poor operating procedures in customer service can do enormous damage to customer service and, consequently, repeat order flow.
And, in most organizations, customer service is not an exciting place to work. Typically, these teams are under-resourced, ill-equipped and poorly treated. While their name would suggest that they are responsible for customer service, in most organizations, customer service representatives are second-guessed by salespeople multiple times each day.
All this has to change.
If you are going to transfer absolute responsibility for customer service to the customer service team, this team needs to be properly resourced and properly equipped. They need information at their fingertips about job status and production capacity. And they need the authority to make decisions on the spot.
If you make the mistake of pushing forward with the reengineering of the sales function without, first, fixing customer service, you will discover that an increase in sales activity results on a greater load on customer service and a marked decline in service quality. This in turn will damage customer relationships and disenfranchise salespeople.
With that understood, let’s walk through the notable steps in the overall transition.
Step 1: appoint a project champion
An undertaking of this magnitude needs to be recognized as – and managed as – a project. In most organizations this project will need a dedicated champion for it to have a real chance of success.
You can either allocate a senior executive or you can identify an up-and-coming team member and provide it to them as a way to demonstrate their readiness for management. Either way, it needs to be a full-time responsibility.
Step 2: sell the direction of the solution
It’s unlikely that you will be able to plan this initiative without people in your organization getting wind of the fact that change is afoot.
In most cases, it makes more sense to come clean with your team as soon as you have a plan, than it does to allow team member’s perceptions to be shaped by the rumor mill.
A broad overview is sufficient – with the promise of more detail as each stage of the transition comes into sharper focus. The key points will look something like this:
- The current model has scalability (and possibly quality) problems (here’s the evidence)
- We’ve taken inspiration from production and project environments and planned a new approach (based on division of labor)
- We plan for the customer service team to take full responsibility for customer service tasks – and we intend to add capacity to customer service and work closely with that team until their capability is proven
- We plan to simplify the sales role and, specifically, to separate the responsibility for:
- Pure business development
- Opportunity management
- Opportunity origination (promotion)
- The processing of repeat transactions
- Technical experts, who support salespeople (pre-sale) and who facilitate the execution of projects (post-sale)
- In practice, this will mean that:
- The existing sales team will be split into pure salespeople and dedicated project leaders
- Salespeople will be provided with executive assistants
- We will increase our investment in the generation of sales opportunities (promotion)
- Customers will interact directly with customer service where repeat transactions (and transactional issues) are concerned
- We don’t have more detail than this right now, but we commit to the following:
- We’ll involve you in the detailed planning as each phase draws near (customer service is obviously phase 1)
- No one will get demoted or earn any less as a result of this project
- While the reality is that the new direction may not be a perfect fit for all team members, we have no intention to decrease overall headcount
Step 3: fix customer service
It’s time to go to work now and fix customer service. Because this is phase 1 of the transition, it’s important that you succeed quickly and conspicuously!
The good news is that fixing customer service, relative to the rest of the transition is quite easy. Remember the problems with customer service are more likely to be the result of neglect, than they are any real failure to execute.
While a detailed exploration of customer service is outside the scope of this book, there is an article on our general approach to process improvement in Appendix 1.
Step 4: recruit sales coordinators and provide basic training
The selection of capable candidates for the sales coordinator positions is critical. In particular these individuals need to be savvy enough to be able to schedule a salesperson (who sits above them on the organizational chart).
It’s possible to fill these roles by recruiting experienced executive assistants – however these individuals are hard to find and (consequently) expensive.
Our preference is to recruit smart, recent-graduates and train them from scratch. Sales coordinators need basic product knowledge and a detailed understanding of your CRM. It’s very beneficial to send them out in the field for a few days with the salespeople with whom they will be partnered.
Step 5: centralize opportunity management, repeat transactions and project leadership
There’s really no way of avoiding the fact that the stars need to be in alignment when you centralize the management of sales opportunities (and salespeople’s calendars).
This transition is an all-or-nothing proposition. Sales coordinators must take full ownership of salespeople’s calendars. Salespeople must hand-off all repeat orders and issues to customer service. And project leaders need to be capable enough to ensure that salespeople have no active involvement in technical activities.
Furthermore, in most cases, the entire sales team needs to be transitioned at the one time. If you expect salespeople and project leaders to work together productively, there can be no period where there’s an overlap of responsibilities.
Step 6: scale-up opportunity flow
You should do no special promotions until opportunity management has been centralized and the environment has adjusted to this critical change.
When sales coordinators first take ownership of salespeople’s calendars they should simply focus on scheduling the activities associated with existing open opportunities.
Once existing opportunities are under control, the next step is to generate business-development meetings from within the existing client base. As with all meetings moving forward, each of these meetings will be associated with an opportunity – and each opportunity will have an explicit business-development objective (even if, from the clients’ perspective, the purpose of the visit was a cup of coffee).
You should only consider cold-market promotions once you are sure that the new model is operating effectively and that you have sufficient protective capacity in sales support. If you have done a good job of planning this promotion, you’ll likely be surprised by how easy it is to maintain salespeople at full utilization without special promotional initiatives.
The organic increase in opportunity flow you experience will be a consequence of:
- An improvement in customer service quality
- An increase in the volume of visits with existing clients
- The elimination of qualification (remember, your salespeople will now engage with anyone who has a non-zero likelihood of purchasing within a reasonable time horizon)
You may have been surprised that client communication does not feature in this plan.
There’s a good reason for that. If you do a good job of this transition, there’s no requirement to sell it to clients. From your clients’ perspective, the only thing that will change is that they will hear some friendly new voices on the other end of the phone from time to time.
You should avoid any attempt to directly influence your clients’ behaviors. If they want to ring your salespeople to place repeat orders or report service issues, that’s their prerogative. Your salespeople should welcome their calls and then organize for the appropriate person to call them right back. Once your clients discover that it’s easier to communicate directly with customer service representatives (and with salespeople’s coordinators), your salespeople’s cell phones will simply stop ringing.
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You now have a plan. Or at least the skeleton of a plan. Let’s push forward then, and see if we can’t put some meat on them bones!