view current print edition







In the Trenches: Selling salespeople

Nothing happens without salespeople. Produce sales reps are the backbone of our business. They are passionate about the items they sell and like helping retailers grow.

Companies come and companies go. Those that go usually do so because of erratic management practices. Failing to meet a revenue budget is often blamed on pricing or the economy or poor store locations or unexpected competitive growth.Face-to-face-meeting-between-a-sales-rep-and-retail-buyersFace-to-face meetings, instead of phone conversations, can provide sales reps with a substantial advantage when trying to close a deal.

Inevitably, when companies are on the brink of losing the handle on earnings, they take the next step in the opposite direction — downsizing everything.

This is when reducing expenditures becomes a bit tricky. Done sensibly, it may have a chance to revive the company. Done out of panic, it will surely be destructive.

To wit: Here is a scenario that backfired.

In an effort to lower operating costs due to sluggish earnings, a supplier with a large sales organization decided to make some expense reductions. The company cut its sales force by 50 percent, dropped all travelling and converted selling primarily via phone and email.

In the short haul savings were realized. However, after six months orders and sales began to slip dramatically. Company profits gradually fell deeply into the red.

The losses created a discouraging distraction for the employees, especially on the salespeople who now had to do their selling at a greater distance away from the buyers. As the sales staff’s self-esteem weakened, so did customer orders. Revenue began to tumble even further.

The negative results prompted upper management to place additional salespeople back on the force and on the road again. Almost immediately orders increased, along with sales and profits.

This just goes to show that unwise sales rep cutbacks will often lead to conflicting results. Reducing operating costs are justifiable business decisions, but should not be at the expense of sales and profit.

Eliminating face-to-face customer contact will easily turn good relationships into lost accounts. Distancing sales reps from a customer’s physical turf only opens the door for the competition to become more visible in capturing the business.

There are wise expense reductions and unwise reductions. Wise cuts are reasonable so as not to fracture the company’s bottom line. Unwise cuts recklessly put the company at risk.

When earnings drop it’s human nature to think about reducing costs. If those cutbacks must take place, be very careful as to what it can mean to employee motivation, your customers and income. Severe cuts can affect sales excessively and lose customer draw power.

Short-term reductions are more practical to a company’s operation. This method allows a jump-start to recoup. It is a far better program than any long-range reductions that may lead a company to possible liquidation if it fails to recover.

The most important advantage of a produce supplier is the sales force. Sales reps know that the best selling method is eye-to-eye contact with the customer. The greeting, handshake and smile are three of the most powerful impressions in a sales rep’s arsenal when they first step into a customer’s office.

Every company wants new customers. In order to capture those new customers, the sales force has to be allowed to do its job. Obtaining new accounts is not a simple task. It takes a special type of individual with unique talent to accomplish it. Nothing happens until salespeople make it happen.

Much patience is necessary on the part of sales reps these days, especially if buyers procrastinate on closing a deal. That’s why it may take time and determined persistence to continue pursuing that sale from each customer.

More and more retailers become new customers mainly because of persevering sales reps. The super-performers win new customers because they don’t surrender too easily.

Many sales reps do not follow up with a buyer after a first visit, but, more often than not, closing a sale takes repeated contact.

It takes determined and proficient sales reps — who really believe in their product — to get those items from the field all the way onto the store displays.

If times are tough, consider the magnitude of salespeople and the value they have before limiting their abilities to do their job the best way possible.