We hear from the economists and the Office for National Statistics that although the UK economy is growing even post Brexit, national productivity is still lagging behind other countries, productivity being defined by GDP divided by the number of hours worked or alternatively Output per Unit of Input.
Remember the three-day week? During the tenure of Edward Heath as Prime Minister in early 1974 there was a spate of industrial action primarily from the coal miners that led to fuel shortages and reduced electrify output. Accordingly the decision was made to reduce the working week for commercial users to conserve supplies.
Guess what; production scarcely reduced even though the effective working week was drastically reduced.
We are talking here about measurable output in the way of Gross Domestic Product but have you ever though about the productivity of other notionally non-wealth producers in your business?
I recall once going to a large and, on the face of it, successful engineering company to discuss their sales operation. We looked at the total orders received, the number of quotations sent out, the conversion rate, and all the other criteria that go to measure the effectiveness of the selling effort.
In an interview with the Sales Manager I asked him how many actual sales calls, that is eye to eye contact with the customer, were made in a given time and he hesitated.
“I try to make one a week”, he said.
“And the rest of the sales people?” I asked
“Much the same” he admitted.
Even though the way that selling is organised these days is different from then, the point should still be made. The best way to generate sales is by personal face-to-face contact with the customer and by using professional selling methods. Let’s make it clear.
There is absolutely no point in expecting the sales people to do all the background stuff such as market research, quotations, follow up telephone calls, general sales administration and eve call planning and at the same time demand from them a high return in order levels.
Sales are one of the areas of business that are genuinely measurable and there is little doubt that given good quality and service it becomes something of a numbers game. The more you go out and sell then the more successful you will be. It really is as simple as that.
So why do so many businesses persist in expecting their sales people to undertake all the peripheral stuff to the detriment of the face-to-face time with the customers?
The most effective sales force I ever encountered was 120 strong of good engineering sales people, flat salary above market rate, no commission and a backup team to do all the necessary administration for them.
We were measured on not only sales successes but also on the expected number of calls per day at around eight. That was deemed a fair number for the market we served and most of us managed to achieve it. It wasn’t a demand, just an expectation and could always be overridden when the situation demanded it.
Paperwork for the sales team during the working week was limited to Friday afternoon hence the joke at the time about the salesman (or woman) who would park the car, open the windows and the roof and “do the paperwork”. This was defined a “getting a layby tan”.
We normally pay sales people a significant amount and naturally expect them to produce. It makes no sense then to have them undertake activities that divert their attention and effort from what they are employed to do; to go to see the customer and sell the product or service.
Increase the productivity of your sales force and just watch the increase in sales. Worth it or what?
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