The Business Prevention Department
The Business Prevention Department
So you think your job is just managing your salespeople? Think again. That’s only part of it. There’s lots more, not least of which is managing the business prevention department. Most companies have at least one. Sometimes there’s more than one section that seems bound and determined to get in the way of sales. Not only do your salespeople have to go out and find business, they also have to get the orders past the business prevention departments.
What are the business prevention departments and why do they get in the way of commerce? Typically, and in no particular pecking order, they are the credit department, shipping, order entry, legal and, sometimes even the marketing department. They may not be a problem in every company but invariably there’s one that will give you fits. If you’re fortunate enough to work in a company where everyone is focused on sales, congratulations. Stop reading now. The rest of this stuff doesn’t apply to you.
People in the business prevention department don’t necessarily have evil intentions. They’re just focused on their own little worlds. They’re typical bureaucrats, slavishly following the rules without regard to the consequences. A less polite term might be anal.
Regardless, they can be a real detriment to sales. For example, the credit manager may put a hold on an order because it exceeds the customer’s usual purchase size. Worse, he won’t tell anyone in sales. Next thing you know the account is upset because he’s out of product.
Order entry may sit on an order because it’s missing some critical information. Then they forget about it for several days and it becomes a crisis.
The marketing department may decide to do a blanket mailing offering a reduced price on a popular item. They don’t bother to discuss the campaign with sales. First you hear about it is from an irate customer who’s paying full price for that item. Your credibility is shot to hell.
I could write an entire book about the shipping department but you probably have more horror stories than I have.
So what’s the best way to deal with your business prevention department? First of all you can’t shoot them. It’s illegal. Besides they’ll probably be replaced by someone even worse. Here’s what I have found to work … at least most of the time:
- Better communication. Meet with the problem departments on a regular basis. At least weekly, but more often if there is a chronic problem. Find out what’s happening and what can be done to fix the problem.
- Ask for their help. Explain how important the sale is and offer to take responsibility for the order.
- Compliment them on doing a good job. Tell them you know that their job is not easy and you appreciate their diligence.
- Sell them! Treat them like they’re customers also. Buy them donuts. Hell, buy them an occasional lunch. Make them your buddies.
- Above all, don’t hang them out to dry. Recognize that sometimes they’re right. In that case you need to back off and try something else. Like maybe find a solution with your salesperson or the customer.
Sometimes people in other departments just need to feel that they’re appreciated. That they’re part of the team. It’s your job as the sales manager to let them know that. Let them feel the love.
Street Smart Sales Management is written weekly to provide sales management professionals with timely and actionable tips. For more information about Oliver Connolly and the services he provides please go to www.clevelstrategic.com