Do you manage your sales force with the same vigor as you do production? Are you really measuring sales actions and results that are important to your company’s overall business strategy?
Most commercial printers spend more than 10 percent of total revenue on sales and sales-related expenses. If sales management means tracking sales by salesperson and by customer, then consider two actions to improve your bottom line:
1. Manage your sales force better, or
2. Get rid of it!
Traditional personal selling is the most expensive form of marketing. In sales force-driven industries like print, sales management is a sensitive issue—rightfully so. Owners and sales management should be aware of the dramatic sales trends around them:
Sales Executives have less control over customer accounts. In the past, hiring a seasoned sales executive meant transitioning 60 to 80 percent of their clients to the new place of employment. Today, the ability to move customers is far below 50 percent. Price, not salesperson loyalty, has become the pivotal factor.
Decrease selling expense by converting mainstay business to house accounts. Some savvy companies are converting mainstay business to house accounts, then servicing them with CSRs who are sufficiently educated in marketing to support the model.
Operate with no sales executives at all. For quick turn, Web-to-print jobs, in which digitally printed jobs are sourced over the Internet, personal selling isn’t always necessary. In-house CSRs or account managers are able to provide adequate to excellent customer support.
Some companies with larger and more complex projects are relying less on sales executives as well. In consultative sales situations, the owner is the best salesperson, in many cases. Consultative sales require intimate knowledge of the company’s capabilities coupled with keen business acumen, and the skills to apply technology for specific customer benefit. In this environment, transaction sales skills can only take you so far. Many companies are finding the consultative sales role to be the company president’s most important and rewarding role.
A well managed sales effort mirrors a company’s overall strategic goals. Once the strategic goals are in place, a sales strategy and structure can be established and the plan put into motion. The compensation plan should motivate achievement of the sales objectives and overall strategic goals.
There is no one solution for everyone. Take time to establish well thought out, achievable goals. Allow sales management and key sales executives to provide input on achievability of the directives. Sales accountability is a key to success in the sales compensation plan developed. Many of our clients allowed salespeople to set their own goals and the action steps to attain those goals. They found self-directed goals to be personally motivating.
Monitoring for Success
Once goals are established, the monitoring process should be simple, frequent, and transparent. One of our clients requires a weekly sales activity report from each salesperson and CSR. The reports are then compiled and shared with everyone to ensure accountability. Another client requires sales staff to answer three questions on their weekly report:
1. Who are they going to call on?
2. What events do they plan to attend?
3. What quotes will they follow up on?
Managing a sales force is never easy, but today’s changing marketplace provides new opportunities to realign sales efforts in support of company strategy and hold sales staff accountable. In the end, everyone wins if the company’s profitability soars.
Stuart Margolis, CPA and partner at MargolisBecker LLC, provides information that helps firms operate profitably. Find information at www.margolisbecker.com.