Reviving Customer Service

The importance of the roles of salesperson and sales manager

I have long contended that to set your company apart in our industry, you only must do two things:

  1. Do what you say you are going to do
  2. Do it on time

I am guilty of being old school and simplistic. As the years flash by, the more I aspire to simplicity. Many people in the branding world make things too complicated. They try to be all things to their customers instead of showcasing their core competencies. Or, they rush to judgement by offering every new product or service without surveying their client’s needs, relying on their strategic plan, or just doing a good job of listening to their customers and their entrepreneurial instincts.

When you look at the internet, watch television, and engage with various businesses each day, you have probably concluded that customer service is on the decline. Some say it is on life support. Many think it is dead.

The digital revolution has decreased the importance of having actual humans at
the front lines of business. Remember what Netflix, Amazon, Dollar Shave Club, Uber, and Warby Parker (designer frames/glasses via online) have done to differentiate themselves from the competition and enhance customer service experiences with limited customer service staff? These are all billion-dollar companies only five to 22 years old.

The pandemic did not help. We still have a shortage of people in the workplace. Young people want to be influencers and sit in front of their basement camera and hope for internet glory and riches (my teen grandchildren have already proclaimed this to me).

Many people have yet to discover a burning desire to work. Through welfare, our government helped enable those that wanted to get a check without providing work. It even created a subculture of under-the-table side hustles for cash and lack of accountability. And, those unique souls that have a great work ethic and personal pride are doing three co-workers’ jobs with their pay not keeping up with inflation.

Sounds grim? There is hope! It is as simple as finding the best fit for the roles of the salesperson and sales manager. You may not get to the size of Amazon, but sales will always make up for a lot of ills. And, if you hire for attitude and use your team during the interview process, the customer service part will become as automatic as breathing.

Well-rounded salespeople

The fundamental duty of a salesperson is selling. This includes meeting prospects,
presenting, and demonstrating products and/or services, inducing the prospects to buy, taking orders, and creating sales. Then repeat.

A salesperson should guide buyers in buying the goods they want. They must attend to complaints. A good salesperson should attend to the complaints of the customers immediately and try to settle their grievances quickly and sincerely.

Salespeople should be active in the collection of invoices. This gives them a vested interest in completing the sales cycle. The adage, “A sale is not complete until the money is collected,” is more important today than ever. This can include the collection of the bills and remittance of the amount to the firm. (Nugget: tie their paid compensation/commission to the collection of deposits and final payments.)

A salesperson may be required to collect information about the creditworthiness of the customers. In such a case, they must collect detailed information and submit it to the firm in a timely manner.

Salespeople should be required to send daily, weekly, or monthly reports to the firm, providing information about the calls made, sales effected, services rendered, travel schedule, expenses incurred, business conditions, competition, if any, etc.

People in sales are required to organize their travel. They must prepare the route and time schedules to systematize sales efforts. This travel may require pre-approval by ownership, the sales manager, etc.

Attending sales meetings convened by their employer at periodic intervals to discuss marketing problems, sales promotion activities, sales policies, etc., is an important requirement.

A salesperson must undertake travel regularly to cover the sales territories assigned. They may have to periodically arrange the packing of goods sold and delivery if required. This is a team sport! And, this will help build good customer service loyalty.

Every salesperson must build up a satisfied clientele for their employer and thereby promote the goodwill of their firm. This may include joining civic organizations, attending trade shows, etc., to increase the visibility of themselves and the company.

Often, salespeople should help recruit others for open sales positions. Having them accompany new sales trainees while making sales calls is beneficial for both parties. Our company offers a recruiting incentive, and it handsomely rewards the outcome of a new referral hire.

Salespeople should establish direct relations with vendors — distributors, wholesalers, etc., and collect market information to pass on to their firm. Knowledge is power, even today.

Sales manager characteristics

The specific responsibilities of a sales manager can vary from company to company. But typically, the tasks include sourcing talent, training and coaching the sales team, setting the sales strategy, and reporting on sales activities. What are their key areas of focus?

  1. Hires sales team members
  2. Trains and is a mentor for salespeople
  3. Oversees sales strategy
  4. Collaborates with other key departments

What does an employer look for in a sales manager? To be a great sales manager, you must be empathetic. Empathy allows managers to identify underlying problems their team is facing and see challenging situations from their point of view. This understanding helps sales managers build better relationships with their team.

If you lack empathy, you may apply too much pressure, and this can negatively\ impact your team, leading to poor performance, unhappy culture, and employee churn. Not good.

Sales is a high-pressure job, but sales management is even more demanding. You need resilience to lead your teams through tough times and to motivate them day after day. To build resilience, you must set a clear vision of where you want to lead your team. This will enable you to “push through the challenges.”

My experience is that to be a great sales manager, you must always keep things in perspective. Try adopting a more balanced and realistic thinking pattern instead of giving in to irrational thoughts when facing obstacles.

The sales manager exists to serve the customer and the sales team, not the other way around. Embrace this servant leadership mentality to make sure your team feels nurtured and appreciated. Develop this skill by being helpful and available. Take the time to listen to individual needs, questions, and concerns. You’ll be better able to help the team overcome its roadblocks.

Being a sales manager means you’ll be communicating with a lot of people: marketing, customer support, management, ownership, and your team. You must be able to convey messages clearly and compassionately. Learn how to find the appropriate tone of voice for each type of situation. For example, you might use an assertive tone while giving out instructions, but a reassuring voice while speaking to a disgruntled customer.

Practice active listening. It pays to focus your attention on the other person, be it a teammate or a prospect. Wait until someone is done speaking so you don’t talk over them and miss important information. Strong public speaking skills certainly come in handy, too. You’ll need to make frequent sales presentations to other departments or companies, so confidence is key.

Sales management involves putting out fires that pop up during sales cycles, whether it’s a stalled deal or a disappointed new customer. You must be skilled in anticipating problems and reacting accordingly and calmly.

The first step is to remember you aren’t alone; get help from others to resolve complicated issues. It also helps to think outside the box when problem-solving; creativity can do wonders in a tight corner. Use critical thinking to come up with ideas that will turn chaos into order.

Finally, develop a process that helps you determine the best solutions in high-pressure situations so you can make quick, well-informed decisions. Salespeople often need an extra push to continue closing deals, especially after facing rejection. A great manager can step in to lift their team’s spirits and get everyone excited to go after their next lead. Share uplifting sales quotes with your team on a hard day to encourage them, or take a junior salesperson or two under your wing and have regular coaching sessions to help them develop resilience.

Being a sales manager means you wear many hats. But sometimes, you must take them off and entrust certain tasks to members of your sales team. Delegation frees up your time to concentrate on the most important parts of your job and allows team members to assume more responsibilities and grow their skills. This might not come naturally to you, but it’ll become easier as you build trust in others. Try assigning some extra work to junior salespeople who want to take on more responsibility. Support them and track their progress, but avoid micromanaging. You want to inspire everyone to stick to the sales plan, not force them.

I learned the hard way this next bit of advice. Do not assume a great salesperson will be a good sales manager. Often, a top-tier salesperson (a rainmaker) is a natural self-producer, and they do their best with team support and little to no micromanagement. This personality type often does not manage others well because they assume every salesperson should be like them. But, those types of superstars often do 80 percent of the sales in your organization, so let them fly.

Remember, you want a sales manager that has emotional intelligence (EQ), which is often more important than IQ. If they are self-aware, can self-regulate, have empathy, and are intrinsically motivated, they can make all the difference in your sales team. The synergy of a good sales manager and sales team can rocket your firm forward in revenue, profits, and customer service.

Customers deserve better service, even if they do not expect it in today’s world. This gives your business a golden opportunity right now to differentiate your offerings from the competition by surprising and delighting customers with the quality of your service. An investment in customer service through good sales and sales management is an investment in your future.

Paul Ingle

Paul Ingle

Design Center Signs

Paul Ingle started selling signs in 1985 and has worked with regional, national, and international accounts with custom, architectural and production manufacturing firms. He has held various positions in sales, sales management, and marketing since 1973. From 2006 to 2017, he and his wife Nita owned Design Center Signs in Tyler, Texas (A Comet Signs Company.) Comet Signs is now part of Stratus, the leading facilities and branding implementation firm. Paul is a past president of the Texas Sign Association and its regional chapter the Greater DFW Sign Association. Contact him at paul.ingle@cometsigns.com.

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