April 2006
How to pump up interest levels
Productive sales reps need new challenges but can
Providing new challenges for employees is important for creating an energized work force. Regardless of our responsibilities, whether it’s customer service, production, manufacturing or sales, we all must remain focused and perform the duties for which we were hired.
I’d like to offer some suggestions to do just that. It’s important to understand that if sales reps take on activities that do not generate sales, the overall organization will suffer greatly. Companies need an ongoing stream of business and when this process is interrupted, the results will be very damaging and costly.

Many sales reps seem to have a natural aptitude for teaching and helping others. How frequently do sales reps find that one of their best customers has been promoted within the organization or has left for better opportunities? Often the sales rep must teach the new buyer the intricacies of our industry.
Managers are aware that some sales reps are particularly skilled at this and enjoy the challenge. So it makes sense for this person to help train and mentor one of your new trainees. Most of us like to explain why we take a certain action or position in different circumstances and this can help the person trying to learn the business. A welcome by-product of this approach is that it often helps the senior person rethink her selling techniques by making her realize she may be consistently skipping one or more of the steps necessary to make a sale.

Another opportunity that can help re-energize a sales rep is responsibility for managing a major account. Often, the owner of a printing company will have some house accounts that have been good customers for a long time but may require a better level of service than the firm is providing. This can be an excellent opportunity to give the customer a sales rep who will bring new ideas to the account. Everyone should benefit from this scenario.

When a company sees a good business opportunity in a new industry, it’s wise to strategize with the sales force and get their ideas and input. New business is one of the most important ingredients of building and growing your company and professional sales people will welcome the opportunity to plan on how this should be accomplished and participate in executing the plan.

It’s no secret that getting new business is not an easy assignment. However, for people who are looking for a new challenge and who want to be invigorated, nothing is as rewarding. I have seen established sales professionals buy into a proposed new business concept, add their knowledge and experience to the plan and then go and present the benefits to the customer. It’s fulfilling and energizing for everyone when the planning and effort pays off and the work begins to come in.

I’ve written this article because I recently saw two situations where very accomplished sales reps were directed to take on responsibilities in no way connected to their sales positions. Consequently, achieving the desired results took longer and was more costly than it needed to be. And, even more seriously, this sales rep spent so much time on non-sales related functions that sales forecasts were not met.

I hope the message in this article is clear: people need new challenges and responsibilities. We don’t want our people to be bored and complacent about doing the same thing day after day. What we do want is to provide opportunities for our employees to get energized and excited to help our companies grow and be more profitable. Again, this can only be accomplished when people function within their area of expertise.
Duncan McGregor was president of the former Arthurs-Jones Inc., a Toronto-based, award-winning commercial printer. He led the $5 million-a-year firm to a five-fold increase in sales. He is now a consultant to the printing industry and can be reached at (416) 487-7666.
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