Sales Support vs. Supported by Sales

I was thinking today about some of the salespeople and companies that I’ve looked at this year.

How about a company that spends a fair amount on advertising and marketing, but has a salesperson that doesn’t take company generated leads because he’s too busy working leads that he’s generated through networking, generating referrals and working his connections. Several questions…

Should the company be upset that the salesperson doesn’t want to work company generated leads?

Should the salesperson receive extra compensation because in reality he’s saving the company money on the business that he genearates himself?

If you’re the manager (or CEO) in this company, is this salesperson a positive or a negative?

Does it matter if he’s your top producer or bottom?

How about some “what if’s”?

What if some or most of your salespeople complain that company generated leads are “crappy”?

What if you’re spending more on advertising, but either getting fewer leads or your salespeople are converting fewer leads to dollars?

What if you were in charge? Would you want a salesperson who asks, “Who do you want me to call on today?” or do you want a salesperson that says, “I’ve got people to see today.”

11 thoughts on “Sales Support vs. Supported by Sales

  1. Blanket Statement: I think it generally hurts a company when lead calls are not returned. Rick – you always talk about expectations during your hiring process. Did the sales person accept responsibility to take the company leads? Did the company agree to produce a certain number of leads per year? Are they over-exceeding their anticipated leads? Did the company explain to the salesperson the origin and potential quality of the leads? Can the salesperson have an assistant that would allow them to sell / pre-qualify more? If the sales-person says they’re “crappy”, ask why. Are they crappy because they are not a “gimme”? Ask similar questions we are our clients as to what the real problem is. Are they asking the clients the right questions? What are the right questions? 🙂 Are they being de-briefed after client meetings? Are they not comfortable with cold leads?

  2. Hmm. This one is going to require some thought. I know I’m not the one you are talking about, but I find myself in a similar situation. My experience tells me that if a prospect thinks that I (me) am an expert as a result of them seeking me out or a referral from a mutually trusted source, that they will convert a lot easier and be better long term clients. But, I also have more leads than I can handle that the company has generated and the prospects think of the company highly. So, I consider it my job to develop “speed on bases” with these prospects. It just takes a little longer and requires the skills. But to answer your question wearing an “employers hat”, if my employee was developing their own leads, I’d be thanking them and asking them to teach my other sales people how to do it. I’d probably even give them a higher commission on leads that they generated, since I didn’t have to spend $ on marketing/advertising. All that said… this is good fodder for a post I am brewing called “online marketing is the new prospecting”. I know it’s a bit sensational. But, the post will be more balanced and about how individual salespeople should be attracting prospects to them using the web.

  3. Thank you for a very thoughtful response. I look forward to the post that’s brewing. One word of caution, though… Sometimes salespeople that don’t like to prospect revert to marketing to help generate attention or interest in talking to them. (I’ve seen employee/salespeople advertise on Craigslist, in print, etc. It’s good stuff. It’s just not selling.) This often leads to salespeople waiting for the inquiry (phone or web) rather than being proactive by calling a prospect or going to see a prospect. This can snowball into a salesperson spending an increasing amount of time trying new and improved ways of marketing rather than focusing on their job, which should be talking with decisionmakers about compelling reasons to work together. Marketing is NOT a bad thing, and in a perfect world, marketers should market. Salespeople should sell. They should each respect the other and let the other do their own jobs. Afterthought: Me writing this blog isn’t selling. It might be marketing. It might be PR. It might just be a hobby, but it’s definitely not selling even though clients, prospects, and competitors might read it. Whether I get an inquiry or a client as a result of it, I won’t be distracted from doing the outreach (phone and in person) that I do on a regular basis.

  4. I’m not sure I can answer this within the 3,000-character limit! I’ll do my best. Rick – If you deem this too wordy and choose to edit or delete it, that’s OK. It got me thinking, and I’m satisfied with that. Unless noted, all of my responses assume that the salesperson is busy EFFECTIVELY working the leads that he has generated independently of the company’s marketing efforts.Should the company be upset that the salesperson doesn’t want to work company generated leads? – INFIELD WHY RULE! The company (the sales manager) should be asking WHY the salesperson doesn’t want to work the leads. If they are crappy, get the Marketing folks to stop wasting your advertising dollars! Either spend it where it works, or save it for reinvestment somewhere else (like commissions).Should the sales person receive extra compensation . . .? NO. There is no indication in the story that the salesperson offered any advice to management that the marketing generated leads less effectively than he could do himself. He may have been an outstanding prospector, networker, and referral generator, but he was only looking out for himself, and not the overall interests of the company. Compensation should match the original agreement and no more, until the company is saving money in FACT, rather than having it wasted on advertising whose results are not being used.Is this salesperson a positive or negative? Does it matter if he’s the top or bottom producer? I have to answer these two together. If he is the top performer (or near the top) he is a strong positive. I can either:1. cut back on advertising expenses in his territory and let him generate activity through his prospecting and networking2. add another properly screened and trained sales person covering the same territory who WILL follow-up on company generated leads, and (assuming little or no overlap) dramatically increase gross salesIf he is the bottom performer, he needs to get off his high horse, start chasing the leads I am providing, and learn to be a better networker. What he’s doing may be keeping him busy, but it’s not generating sales!What if others complain that leads are crappy? See the answer to question one above.What if we are getting fewer leads or fewer convertible leads? See the answer to question one above.I want the salesperson that says, “I’ve got people to see today,” then goes out and sees the RIGHT people, and sells them at the RIGHT prices!

  5. Rob, this is a major benefit to having a blog. I get to participate in thoughtful, valid conversations with professionals that are striving to be better and not afraid to get involved. Thanks.

  6. Hello Rick, Great topic.In the past 10-15 years salespeople have come to expect companies to provide them with leads. I think this evolved because companies believed that if salespeople didn’t have to develop leads then they would have more time to focus on selling. Maybe this was OK a few years ago but the world has changed due to the massive amount of advertising that bombards all consumers.The internet has made conventional means of advertising less effective. The cost of generating leads through direct mail, radio, print and other media has skyrocketed.Most marketers are unable to produce as many qualified opportunities as in years passed without spending huge amounts of money.The result of providing salespeople with free leads has led to a population of lazy and expectant salepeople who have forgot the the art of prospecting. Sales 101 requires that salespeople prospect or hunt. Salespeople who have been given leads without having to hunt the past 10-15 years need to go back to hunting or starve.Employers may provide some leads however, it is the saleperson’s responsibilty to augment the compliment of leads from the employer, to insure that the sales goals are met.As far as running company provided leads vs self-generated leads there should be no differnce in the way they are handled. Provided that they meet the lead qualification of the company.It is the salesperson responsibilty to treat all qualified leads with the same respect. If he is tanking company leads for self-generated then reprimand him.As far as compensation is concerned for self-generated leads it should be discussed upfront in writing as to whether or not they qualify for a higher commission. This author believes hunting leads to opportunties that the company would never have had and should qualify for finder’s fee or higher commission. A good hunter should be encouraged to keep hunting and develop referrals. The best way to encourage this is money for producing profitable business over and above the company provided leads.As far as crappy leads are concerned many times salespeople will blame the lead or marketing for their own failure.Obviously this is not fair to the employer or marketing. Frequent de-briefing should cull out the bullshit from the salesperson.However, marketers also have accountabilty for producing effective marketing programs based on identifying the best prospects and opportunities. If the prototypical prospect has income over 100k marketing shouldn’t be marketing to people in the 50k bracket. It is not uncommon to hear marketing and employers blame failures on lead conversion on the saleperson. Here management debriefing, measuring and tracking, and frank analysis of the marketing results is needed. A culture of teamwork must permeate the organization so people will be encouraged to work together and look for a scapegoat! Wow I didn’t think I had that much to say. Mark

  7. I have been stressing to my new sales people that we need to have a system and everyone uses the same system to develop leads and sell effectively. So if you have a top performer who has his own system, the other sales people are not able to copy it and it would be more difficult to manage an individual with their own system. As has been pointed out, a lot depends on the ‘contract’ between management and sales. From the team perspective the sales person should be doing the job as described, with the ability to properly qualify all leads. Leads come from everywhere, and sometimes a combination of different forms of advertising are needed to produce a request for a sales call. I would much prefer the ‘I have people to see today’ sales person and help them understand how their behavoir fits the big picture of the company.

  8. Great comments! Most of what I would have added has been contributed to this one. I do have one comment though…a salesperson who has his own leads to work is great – a testiment to his happy customers – and those leads will always be superior to company generated leads. However, the other side of the story is if the president of the company wants his company generated leads worked and he isn’t willing to hire another salesperson to work them, he has the right to insist that the salesperson with his own leads work the company leads. And as the boss, it is his obligation to exercise his will. There is a chain of command and commands are to be carried out. This is different than whether or not the president is correct. That’s not for the employee to decide. He may in fact be a total moron but he is boss!

  9. We often forget that the boss has the right to be wrong. We also shouldn’t assume that the boss is wrong, after all, the boss may be looking at a bigger picture that we may not have access to.

Care to share what you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s