A large percentage of top-producing salespeople are free spirits by nature.
They're entrepreneurial with high drive, ambition and self-reliance. They work — often by choice — individually as they know they can produce results. They possess the most important skill any employee can have: the ability to produce results. They're rainmakers and most companies need them.
By their very entrepreneurial nature, however, they often alienate themselves from the support staff in a company — sometimes by choice, other times by company structure.
Regardless, companies must realize the value, and necessity, of team communication throughout the entire organization.
Why is this so important?
Let me share an example that clearly makes the case.
A longtime business colleague of mine has been performing a good deal of consulting with a client in the health-care industry during the past year. The company is in an aggressive growth stage and required its payroll and tax processes to be outsourced to a payroll company with the ability to scale its offering as the company grew. It also needed a payroll company with the ability to add such key services as human resource and employee benefits services in the near future.
The company contacted one of the nation's leading payroll companies in terms of reputation and fees charged. They did their due diligence and checked with clients in similar industries and all signs were go.
The salesperson for the payroll company was highly experienced, very knowledgeable, engaging and extremely competent.
The company signed on and provided the salesperson with all the required information and documentation to proceed. Again, he handled it seamlessly.
Only smooth sailing ahead, right?
Unfortunately, with the structure of the payroll company, salespeople receive commissions on their accounts for the term of the relationship. However, their involvement with the client ends upon the contract being signed. From that point, the account specialist handles all interaction.
When my colleague's client worked with the account specialist during the transition, it was a nightmare. Funds weren't directly deposited into the employee's accounts on the designated dates. Some employees were overpaid or underpaid. Still others weren't paid at all, creating a huge trust void among the employees in their employer. Moreover, incorrect taxes were withheld and the payroll company filed incorrect extensions with the Internal Revenue Service creating a significant, unexpected tax bill for my colleague's client.
It wasn't until my colleague personally called the president of the payroll company that the salesperson was ever alerted to the problem. Too little. Too late. The damage was irreparable. And the irony is that the salesperson worked from the same location that processed the transition and knew the specialist handling the transition.
I understand that often, depending on the size of the company and/or the industry, salespeople aren't also servicing the account. They're focused on securing new business. And I'm certainly not arguing that all salespeople should now become customer-service reps, too. Very few people can sell, let alone sell effectively. Selling is a very difficult, very skilled profession, which is why top producers are compensated so well.
Additionally, having employees with specialized focuses and responsibilities can better serve a client. For example, in several industries such as advertising and public relations, it's common for agencies to have "win" teams comprised of skilled, experience professionals whose sole purpose is to win business. They present themselves as such and tell potential clients that they won't be the people staffing the account. And the clients typically roll with this because it's stated — and known — upfront.
However, when the salesperson isn't also servicing the account, he or she must remain in the loop, especially if commissions are possible.
It's account suicide not to be.
Why is this so important?
In addition to protecting his or her hard-earned potential commissions, the following are key:
- Rapport and trust.
Presumably the salesperson has established good communication with the customer. And more importantly, the customer likely trusts the salesperson as they decided to become a customer. This positions the salesperson as an invaluable resource for, and link to, maintaining the relationship.
- United front.
When all departments are communicating, each employee can promote the same position. It eliminates the "he said, she said" game.
- Team atmosphere.
Additionally, the interaction and communication between all departments promotes a team atmosphere. This is both positive and attractive to customers.
- The communication and team atmosphere also demonstrates the company's organization to customers. This can prove invaluable, as one of the most common customer laments is the disorganization and unreliability of vendors.
- Improved servicing.
The communication and team improvement will also yield better service to the customer. Pooling all individual talents and abilities can revolve issues more quickly and effectively. It's also more likely that up-selling of additional products and services will occur as the needs of the customer will be an ongoing process rather than an event.
Most importantly, anyone that's been in sales for even the shortest time knows this basic truth of selling: It's exponentially easier to lose a customer than gain a customer. If for no other reason than selfish desire for preservation, companies must have their people from all involved departments communicate.
So, what's the solution?
The following six-step process will work effectively to build team unity, maintain clear internal communications and effectively serve the customer.
- Gain buy-in.
Meet with your people and let them know what you're thinking and the reason why this transition is so important. Then gain their buy-in to move forward. If you receive push-back, or some people don't want to be team players, you can candidly say, "Especially during today's uncertain economy, this could preserve all of our positions."
- Set clear goals.
Set goals for frequency and types of communication among teams. Set goals for increased customer satisfaction levels. Whatever is relevant to your company, set goals so that your people know the end they're working toward.
- Set expectations.
Let every employee know what role they play in the process, the value of their activities, and what's expected of each.
- Establish processes.
Once the goals are set, you must discuss and track them regularly. At minimum, all necessary employees should briefly touch base weekly. Additionally, monthly meetings where all involved attend are beneficial in updating status and tracking towards the established goals.
- Maintain accountabilities.
Employees can only be held accountable when they have clear goals to achieve and set expectations to meet. However, once these are in place, you not only have the right, but the responsibility to hold them accountable. Only when all employees are accountable for their results will the vision be realized.
- Set rewards.
Set milestones and reward your people along the way. Such team communication is, unfortunately, the exception rather than the rule in business today. Your people need to be acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle