Dear Sales Leader, Please Answer ASAP

What does your sales support staff do for you? Fill out forms, route paperwork, fax, make you coffee? If all you’re thinking about are tasks, you’re missing the most important reason for having great support people: increasing your productivity.

If you’ve chosen your sales staff well, they are the creative equivalent of an active volcano. The energy they continuously generate is enormous. They can blanket a small city with your product overnight. But beware: Without containment and direction, volcanoes can be dangerous and destructive.

The best salespeople are also the most explosive. Their energy reaches out to people, even when they’re separated by thousands of miles. They produce boundless enthusiasm for your product and they know how to get their message across to your customer. They find new prospects and new ways to reach them, almost like magic, and they make those that buy from you feel genuinely cared for. You already know that they respond to bigger commissions and recognition, but there is one motivator you might not be aware of.

Good salespeople are always under time pressure. Because they have the volcanic drive to succeed, they get impatient with anything that gets in their way, including your sales process and, if you don’t have them positioned well even the very support people who are there to take the pressure off.

The traditional answer has been to send salespeople to time management and paper management seminars–and then wonder why they just don’t change. Here’s the reason. They don’t change because they are good salespeople, not good support people.

A real solution begins with understanding that the best salespeople and the best support people are not comfortable in each other’s role. The key to improved productivity is positioning support people as team partners to salespeople. Get those who really enjoy working with their opposite, teach them how to respect each other, and get out of their way. They’ll come through for you. Chances are, you already have a miracle maker or two, but they can’t work their magic in the positions they’re in.

Here’s how to start. First, identify your best of both sales and support people. Introduce the idea that if they approach each other as equals, as both being necessary for success, they will be halfway to the finish line. Make part of their compensation contingent on how much they improve your bottom line by working together. If your salespeople have been treating support people as some sort of computer peripheral, you’ll need some serious intervention on both sides. Speak to both in language they will relate to. For instance, sales is like gasoline, support is like an engine at rest. An open can of gasoline is dangerous, but put it in that engine and the resultant power can take you anywhere.

If support reports to sales you’ll have to be even more forthright with both. Tell your support staff right out: Don’t be afraid to shape and contain your partner’s energy. And teach sales that respect for support means realizing that they need support’s assistance to get things done productively. It is also important to acknowledge how much your support partner’s helping you.

Teaming them together, with a bit of your coaching, will position your operation on the fast track.

This piece was originally published at destinationCRM in 2005. I recently found it while searching for something else and decided to revive it since nothing’s changed about the value of teaming. I did leave in the term ‘computer peripheral’ just out of nostalgia. Young readers, that refers to the fact that in 2005, you needed to attach a lot of stuff to your computer to get your work done. Generically, they were called peripherals.

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