Sales Clinic: What Does A Salesperson Do?

I spend a considerable amount of time out in the field with clients’ salespeople, providing sales training and sales management support. Over the years, I’ve been out on thousands of sales calls with salespeople representing all kinds of printing companies.

I also went along with them to pick up artwork or originals, deliver proofs, pick up proofs, pick up paper, drop off notepads, pick up ink or toner, pick up donuts or bagels, drop off donuts or bagels, pick up candy, drop off samples, pick up orders from outside vendors, deliver finished orders ranging from one small box to 25 heavy cartons, and one day, I even went along with a salesperson to pick up his boss’s cat at the vet’s office.

Question: Do all of these activities really belong in a salesperson’s job description?

Important Decision

When you make the decision to send a salesperson out into the marketplace, you have another very important decision to make: Do you want this salesperson to focus on selling, or do you want him/her to be responsible for other aspects of the operation of your company?

Before I go any farther, let me make it clear that you can make either choice. There are plenty of people in the printing industry who wear multiple hats, including the outside sales hat. In fact, a “part time” salesperson—part sales and part other operational function(s)—may be the best way for many smaller printing companies to approach outside sales. The economics are quite a bit different between funding a full-time salesperson and allocating 10-15 hours each week of a “fixed” employee’s cost to sales activities.

But that’s really not what I’m getting at when I present the choice between “selling” and “other aspects.” The question I really want you to think about is whether the job description definition of “selling” should really include such things as picking up artwork, estimating, order entry, order tracking, making deliveries, or any of the other activities I mentioned earlier.

Again, this is an area where you have a choice. You can decide that, in your company, the salesperson will do some—or all—of these things. But you can’t escape the reality that these activities take time, and any time taken away from prospecting and the ongoing development of new customers and new business is likely to limit the amount of sales volume a salesperson will bring in.

Here’s something else to consider. There are lots of underperformers in the printing industry, and the problem with some of them is simply that they don’t spend enough time selling. When I work with an underperformer, one of the first things I want to do is take away all of their excuses. That means getting them off “non-selling” activities, unless those activities are specifically part of their job description.

Next Month: More on sales vs. non-sales activities.