The Australian PeSA Internet Conference just wrapped up in the Gold Coast (awesome, by the way), and I thought I might share with you something I wrote up on my flight in.
Right now I’m on a 14 hour flight to Australia. Most folks would take advantage of a flight that long to get fully caught up on the emails they’ve been dodging, research, or even blast LinkedIn to accomplish some virtual networking. Normally that would be me, too, but I have no wifi. So I thought I’d take the time to write out this post on a subject that frankly has been driving me nuts.
I run sales for the software company SkuVault, a warehouse management system built for eCommerce. I talk to CEO’s, warehouse managers, customer service reps, and assistants on a daily basis. What may be surprising is that all of these folks, no matter what level they are in the company, have come to rely on me for answers. The questions are usually outside of SkuVault – anything from staffing to sourcing decisions. Most sales people would push off these questions and direct the conversation back to the topic at hand: their product, and the prospect’s signature.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disapprove of the aggressive method. In fact, with that approach you can probably sign a few more deals; but – and here’s the difference – they won’t be lasting accounts. I frequently interact with other sales reps to work out deals together and it surprises me how little these reps know about the person on the other line. How did you start your business…Why did you decide to quit your day job to do this full time? Those are some of the questions I normally ask that make other reps sit in silence for a second and probably play games on their cell phone. The answers to questions like that could help keep that account if you know the background of not only their business but their challenges and stories. Call me a big softy, but I really am interested in assisting in prospective and current clients’ growth. Conference calls that should be 15 minutes to highlight SkuVault sometimes turn into hour long therapy sessions on how to prevent the fires that folks spend so much time putting out every day.
I want to tell you about one of my clients; I think you’ll relate. They’re a newer company moving from a wholesale business to eCommerce. They’d tried other systems, just recently moved into a new warehouse, and were rapidly growing when I flew out to launch them. It was scheduled to be a two day launch, most of my clients are up to speed in about half a day. Little did I know that I would only spend half a day between the two on SkuVault and the rest on EVERYTHING else. When I walked into the office I knew why they wanted me there for two days. Pallets had random boxes on them with no clue of the contents, every time someone had a question they were walking from office to office, and as far as set processes – there were none. Not to blame them; this is how many young companies are. Worry about how to get out the day’s orders and spend a little bit of time growing the business. No one has a few hours to sit down and think about how to improve. So I trained the team on SkuVault and got to work on “everything else”. We laid out processes for merchandising, listing, receiving, warehouse, office and general organization. I made flow charts, trained them on task management and chat softwares to stream line communications. Basically I gave them what they needed to get to the next level.
All this from a sales rep. Some say I’m wasting valuable time, but I see it as helping someone grow their business right. So if you’re reading this thinking I’m some self-righteous do-gooder: I appreciate the compliment. Through helping our clients grow, it helps my company grow as well. So sales reps, take a step back. See if it makes more sense to have a consultative approach. If you want your company to stick around, focus on long term relationships, instead of going for the quick buck.