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4 Tough Questions to Ask About Your Sales Department

September 4, 2019 Advisory, Finance, HR

Among the fastest ways for a business to fail is because of mismanagement or malfeasance by ownership. On the other hand, among the slowest ways is an ineffective or dysfunctional sales department. Companies suffering from this malady may maintain just enough sales to stay afloat for a while, but eventually they go under because they lose one big customer, or a tough new competitor arrives on the scene.

To ensure your sales department is driving sustainable business growth, not just survival, you’ve got to ask some tough questions. Here are four to consider:

Does our Sales Department Communicate Customers’ Needs to the Rest of the Company?

Your sales staff works on the front lines of your industry. They’re typically the first ones to hear of changes in customers’ requirements and desires. Make sure your sales teams are sharing this information in both meetings and written communications (sales reports, emails and the like). It’s particularly important for them to share insights with the marketing, operations and finance departments. Separate meetings for new customer integration are important. In addition, many companies have success with internal business managers to effectively communicate and execute sales requests across the enterprise. Everyone in your business should be laser-focused on what customers really want!

Does our Sales Department Handle Customer Complaints Promptly and Satisfactorily?

This is related to our first point but critical enough to investigate on its own. Unhappy customers can destroy a business — especially these days, when everyone shares everything on social media! Your sales staff should have a specific protocol for immediately responding to a customer complaint, gathering as much information as possible and offering a fair resolution. Track complaints carefully and in detail, looking for trends that may indicate deeper problems with your products or services. Ensure that management is made aware of issues and prepared to step in as a key resource for customer resolutions. Top sales professionals run at the problem, not away from it! Customers gravitate to salespeople who quickly bring solutions to their problems.

Do our Salespeople Work Well with their Colleagues in Other Departments?

If a sales department is getting the job done, many business owners look the other way when sales staff play by their own rules or don’t treat their co-workers with the utmost professionalism. Confronting a problem like this isn’t easy; you may unearth some tricky issues involving personalities and philosophies. Nonetheless, your salespeople should interact positively and productively with other departments. Why is this important? Because the sales department isn’t successful alone! Salespeople must understand that any decision put into action with a customer has profitability/internal resource questions that must be answered. Each customer has their own unique systems and processes. Sales must assist and clarify open customer questions to effectively run the internal business profitably. If not, they will be causing major disruptions in processes and morale for other departments.

Are we Taking our Sales Staff for Granted?

Salespeople tend to spend much of their time “outside” a company — either literally out on the road making sales calls or on the phone communicating with customers. As such, they may work “out of sight and out of mind.” Consider the salesperson’s perspective as your business processes evolve. For example, new internal policies and timelines might not be feasible for a salesperson who travels 80% of the time. Don’t strangle field salespeople with internal requirements/forms! Keep a close eye on your sales staff, both so you can congratulate them on jobs well done, and so that you can fix any problems that may arise.

Our firm can help you analyze your sales numbers and processes to help identify ways this customer facing department can provide greater profit and professionalism to your company. Reach out anytime – we are happy to help.

About the Author

Tim Stapleton is a leader with significant experience in sales, executive team management, international operations, and procurement. His success with Fortune 50 corporations, mid-cap high growth and start-up companies have allowed him significant exposure and knowledge of multiple platforms and pathways to success.  His industry reputation was built upon his considerable, proven ability to identify channels to profitability.

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