Can You Handle It? What Would Happen If You Actually Got the Business You Want?

One of the first questions we at Randolph Sterling ask a prospective client when we start talking with them about either inside sales services or sales management is “What would happen if you get this additional business? Can you handle it?”

You can imagine the response we usually get, which is most times “Absolutely. You just worry about finding the business for us. We’ll worry about fulfilling it.” If it were only that easy I’d sleep better at night. But my job is to help you grow your business and to have you working with happy clients.

We had engaged with a company that makes agents used in experimental drugs, but for this conversation, they could be manufacturing the widgets from your Marketing 101 textbook. As I talked with the VP of sales, he said “Rich, I really don’t know how to motivate my reps. I’ve tried everything—contests, incentives, bonuses—but I just can’t get them to sell more.” What we found was not a lack of motivation, but a lack of confidence that the company could back up the promises of the reps.

This company was tops in their industry, which is quite competitive. Standard lead times from contract signing to delivery usually ranged between 4-6 weeks. This company, however, was currently running “at capacity,” and had started quoting lead times of 7-12 weeks. The reps felt that they had lost their competitive advantage as they had initially quoted their regular lead times only to have to go back to their clients to tell them that they couldn’t meet them. Quoting longer lead times didn’t seem a solution to them either as they felt their current clients would think they were taking advantage of their relationship and they felt with new clients, they just simply would not be competitive. Their solution was to sell less. They would only promise what they could deliver. This kept them running at a decent rate…for a while.

Soon they saw sales slow, the pipeline not as full as it had been, and hence the call to us about how to motivate the reps. As we did our due diligence in talking to the reps and reviewing the sales process, we uncovered the lead time problem. The solution came not in any new sales techniques nor any sales contests, but in working with operations to view the feasibility of adding a third shift, something that the company had not considered before. Just seeing the conversation taking place gave the sales reps the added fire to keep pushing for new business. The eventual addition of the third shift, coupled with the sales reps explaining the short term rise in lead time to their customers and using it as a way to more solidify their relationships, resulted in the short lead times which resulted in a 32% growth in the following 4 months.

Sometimes motivation comes in ways we don’t originally expect.

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