The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Keep It Simple, Sales Manager

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Today we have a guest post from Sherrie Roberts. Sherrie has been crushing sales goals and breaking records for over 20 years from local broadcast to national networks and rep firms. Serving in roles as salesperson, sales manager, General Manger and Founder.

Government is not the only entity wrought with bureaucracy. It’s known to rear its ugly head in all businesses. Systems and policies are certainly vital to accomplish missions and keep chaos at bay. Yet bureaucracy is proof you can have too much of a good thing. Too often we become so ensnared by rules and with making them, that common sense takes a back seat. 

There’s this thing called the “naked rule” that has become somewhat of a mantra in my management career. Once, in a meeting discussing a unique issue that had arisen, one leader proposed a new policy to address said issue. Yet another leader responded, with brilliant hyperbole, “So if an employee showed up naked to work, would we really need a rule that says you have to wear clothes to work?” Thank you Captain Obvious for saving us that day from yet another policy that wouldn’t solve anything. In this case, it would have created unnecessary complication—as is so often the case.

The epidemic of bureaucracy can exist across multiple departments within a company. Its effects, while broad reaching, have a profound impact on revenue…trickling down to and directly within sales departments. Often, when we say we are our own worst enemy it’s a result of the "complication monster" we’ve helped create. It shifts the balance of thinking on more of what you can’t do rather than what you CAN do.

Consider this a challenge to all managing a sales team. Take an hour today for a good look at your systems and policies that could very well be standing in the way of bringing in revenue. Is there something that can be done to make it easier to do business and thereby ease the path for the flow of revenue?

The Impact of Bureaucracy on Salespeople

First let’s briefly look at the impact of bureaucracy from the salesperson’s perspective. As a manager, it is your job to ensure that your sales team exceeds or, at the very least, meets sales goals and budgets. Solid product and talented sales team aside, is it simple and easy for the sales team to meet objectives? Specifically, are there systems, rules, and requirements that detract from, rather than add to, the ability of salespeople to get the job done? 

For example, say sales are down and you see that your salespeople aren’t making enough quality calls. Do you:

  1. Mandate a weekly minimum number of CNAs with a corresponding summary report for individual review.
  2. Explore the root problem of the decline in quality calls through discussions with salespeople, researching previous sales declines, competitive analysis, product review, etc. and address based upon findings.

Answer “1” not only creates unnecessary paperwork for the salespeople, it is also demotivating and would most likely force the sales team to seek business that it not a good fit simply to meet the requirement. Don’t put bandage on a perceived wound when the real wound is somewhere else.

Sometimes it’s not necessarily the system or rule. It’s how it is implemented, used, or positioned. Take for instance, CRMs or your account management system. If salespeople view it as a requirement rather than a tool, it will not be a revenue producing or enhancing proposition. When it is a tool, it will be enthusiastically utilized and drive revenue. When it is positioned as a requirement, it becomes drudgery and interferes with revenue production.

The Impact of Bureaucracy on Clients

Now let’s look at it from the client perspective. Would your clients say that it’s easy (and hopefully even a pleasure) to do business with your organization? Or, are they met with constant hoops through which they must jump? "The customer comes first" philosophy seems to have fallen by the wayside. Of course, the current culture of litigiousness and the corresponding complications can take a great deal of blame for that philosophical shift. 

For example, say your client agreements are outdated and in need of an overhaul. Do you:

  1. Forward existing documents to a staff assistant to coordinate the update with the company attorney.
  2. Get feedback from your most loyal customer base and feedback from your sales team, and then work alongside your attorney to incorporate what you’ve gleaned. 

It’s important to understand that an attorney’s job is to know the law—it's not the attorney’s job to fully understand the businesses he or she represents. It is incumbent upon all those in decision-making roles to work closely with attorneys to make sure the legal aspects are a business enhancement and not impediment. What might seem a menial task on your manager to-do list could have a definite impact on revenue.

My first sales job had one of those incredibly complicated agreements. You know the kind with four different colors of carbon paper? Well, maybe you’re fortunate enough not to remember such. Regardless, it almost always caused prospects to balk. Yet another sales organization had so much fine print that both salespeople and clients essentially ignored it all only to have important details come back to bite hard.

Oftentimes, however, the process becomes difficult for clients after an agreement as been signed. Are your clients bogged down with fulfillment details potentially causing a bit of buyers remorse? Unfortunately, I’ve lost count of sales lost after an agreement has been signed due to rules and regulations of fulfillment. Sales teams are in the business of solutions. What is standing in the way of you and your team offering solutions throughout the entire sales relationship?

Every Client Touchpoint is an Opportunity to Grow Revenue

Remember every touchpoint with a client is an opportunity to grow revenue. Make it easy for your customer to do business and show them that they are valued. Eliminate and change those things that are consistently interfering and complicating matters.

Ask yourself the following questions prior to enacting a new policy or implementing a new procedure:

  1. What is the issue and is it truly a problem?
  2. Is it a recurring one?
  3. Is it perceived or real?
  4. What are the negative impacts across all departments?
  5. Am I putting a bandage on it or is it a mutually beneficial solution? 

Again, avoid being sidetracked by unique and singular issues and don’t fall into the trap of becoming enamored with systems and with rules thereby losing sight of the greater goal. Systems and rules are great—just don’t let them run amok. Keep your eyes on the prize and keep it simple.

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Topics: Sales sales process