Specifically we add to the general manager’s duties the requirement to maintain a personal relationship with the company’s top 25 accounts. These are the accounts of the general manager and, as you have heard me say many times, the top 25 accounts provide usually 50% to 75% of the total sales.
Do I mean the general manager has to write up the orders, etc.? No. What I mean is all accounts, especially the top 25, are the accounts of the general manager. The general manager may assign others to assist them such as a salesperson to regularly call on the account and write up orders. But make no mistake. Regardless of who writes the jobs up, regardless of whether you have outside salespeople, and regardless of how you don’t like to deal with customers – maintaining these relationships is what keeps your shop’s customers yours and not the salesperson’s. Failure to do this is the reason printing companies usually face a life and death sales crisis. Someone took the accounts and that someone was the salesperson working for you.
Further, it is the responsibility of the general manager to assure that the business is actively seeking customers. Al Ries in his book, “Focus,” says the business of the business is to acquire and keep customers.
The fact remains thought that most companies, even with outside sales people, have no regular process that targets and seeks business from new accounts. Stephen Covey in his classic “7 Habits for Highly Effective People” uses the historic example of farming. We must plant in the spring to reap in the fall. The business that fails to prospect continually can expect no better results than the farmer who waits until fall to plant the corn.
And this is not just sending out a direct mail piece to the same tired list as we have done for years or setting up a web site. Remarkably, many don’t even do that.
Somewhere we must identify all the prospects that we have in our target market. From that we select those most likely to need our services. Then we follow up with an organized approach to penetrating the account. That includes finding out specifically who buys what it is we sell, which includes getting to see them. That includes us knowing what to do and say when we get in the door. There’s more, but imagine, some general managers think all they have to do is to hire a salesperson and the salesperson will somehow figure it out.
The General Manager’s Role in Price
The general manager is chief negotiator of the business. Unfortunately, many owners are poor negotiators and end up selling on price. That forces us to keep wages and benefits low putting us in a very difficult position. We can’t afford to pay our workers more and we can’t afford to recruit new ones when the ones we have leave because they can earn more elsewhere.
General Managers, who know how to negotiate, get better prices, pay better wages, have less stress and make more money than those who don’t. Those who don’t know how to negotiate; they focus on price and complain to each other about the “guy down the street.” Nevertheless, the role of the general manager in price is to be the chief negotiator. And not knowing negotiation is what helps keep poor printers poor.
The General Manager’s Role in Finance
Every company must have a finance officer. This person’s job is cash management. Generally, they get in the checks, post them to the receivables, organize the bills and write checks. Too many times, general managers see this as their only role. You can no better run a business from the position of finance officer than a supply sergeant can successfully run a battalion. “Take that hill, men – but be sure to bring me back your ammunition usage forms in triplicate. And if you don’t, I’ll shoot you!”
This kind of organization is known in most circles as something akin to chicken manure. “I go out and fight the enemy (CSR helping customers on the front counter) and yet my leader is in the rear echelon (plush office) creating another form for me to fill out. I’d just wish for once he (or she) would just come out here and see what I’m doing and help me with tools that will give us an advantage in the battle.”