Salesman, what am I paying you for?

Artículo Departamento Comercial - Equipo de ventasDon’t you feel that’s a strange question? But, what do you think is the usual answer when you ask your salesmen? And you, what DO you pay them for?

The usual answers can be summed up as:“We’re paid to sell” or “We’re paid to follow orders”.

If you get answers like these or variants on them, you have a big problem in your sales organisation. I’ll try to explain why.

A salesman whose only objective is that of selling more will only visit those accounts from which he expects to get an order, he’ll pressure the client harder and will, in some cases, offer terms and promotional conditions that may prove very difficult to redress in the future. If all your commercial staff is just looking to maximise sales volumes, they won’t be providing the company with the market information it needs, nor will this be correctly documented in the firm’s support systems. They won’t be talking to the client to explore new business opportunities nor will they be building relationships with the customers to help to keep the competition out.

If you find this a little far-fetched, just take a look at your customers’ files. How many of them put “Contact”: John, Paul or Mary? Where are the surnames and contact details? What are you going to do if you want to contact them directly? Or, far worse, what happens if the salesman leaves you company? He just walks off with the customer list and details?.

Obviously, selling is one of their tasks and, very probably, the most important since without the orders you cannot invoice your customers. But to sell successfully, a salesman needs to make a plan and do his homework before, during and after his visits, and, perhaps most importantly, all within the limits of company frameworks, strategies and policies.

So…, what should I be paying them for?

To sell with an eye on the bottom line.

It might seem obvious, but not all salesmen are fully aware of this.Selling profitably means selling the volume of company goods or services at prices which assure each customer’s cost-effectiveness.

To represent the company. 

As a businessman, it is vital to realise that your sales team is your company image to your customers. This impression will be influenced by the way they dress, how they handle themselves, how they put themselves over whether or not they are adequately aware of the benefits and advantages of the product. So, given this situation, why do so many companies leave these details to chance and the individual salesman?

To be part of the marketing team. 

Simply put, this means the salesmen have to take information to the market and bring information back in accordance with the systems and frameworks established by the company. In other words: they should be doing those administrative tasks inherent to their job, something that the majority of salesmen hate. Without the information, the company is “blind” as the lack of data means they cannot make informed decisions. Specifically, the sales team should provide, at least information on:

  • Complete customer details including a “Who is Who”
  • Competitor data
  • Market opportunities
  • Entry barriers
  • Sales routes

These three duties for the sales team are by no means an exhaustive list and, depending on a company’s specific needs, may be added to or adapted.

The next time you ask your sales force why they are getting paid if you get an answer along the lines of: “many things in addition to selling” you are on the way to having a professional sales team.

Salvador Devant
Consultor en estrategia comercial y márketing en International Team Consutling