Monday, August 30, 2010


It happens in most sales organisations: A salesman gets dismissed and the rest of the sales team and the whole company, for that matter, view this unfortunate person with disappointment and contempt. And they soon consider this matter finalized by starting to advertise for another sales person, expecting him to obtain more orders than the past one.

But was it really that person’s fault? Does the company not take at least part of the blame for that representative’s shortcomings?

When investigating this matter and talking with the bosses, we will discover a kind of prevailing shallowness, aloofness and, yes, ignorance in this matter.

They may state with irritation: ‘Oh, he didn’t get his act together!’ or ‘he didn’t pull his finger out!’ or similar unprofessional platitudes.

Further probing is necessary: ’ What, exactly, was wrong with him?’ ‘Well, he didn’t pull his finger out!’ was repeated – clearly not an expert’s answer!

Here are some of the questions that should be answered:

1. Was it lack of motivation?

Was he appreciated in the company?

Did he receive any encouragements? Does he have any

opportunity for advancement?

2. Were there problems with time-management?

Was he shown how to organise himself best? Was

he shown how to use a day- book, a customer file, how to process his

Orders or sent to a course to learn word- precessing?

Did he receive too many private phone calls when out on calls?

Was he given too other, non-sales- tasks that were cutting into his

selling time?

3. Was it possible for him to get around quick enough in his territory?

Was his sales territory profitable at all or were they remote, deserted,

country towns in the middle of a drought and therefore without any hope

of obtaining orders?

Did a superior spend some time with him on the road to asses his sales


4. Did he have enough product knowledge?

Has he received sufficient company training or was he simply ‘thrown to

the wolves'?

5. Did he have the necessary social skills?

Being introverted is not necessarily a bad thing but did he have

manners, dress agreeably, and conversed in an educated way? All these

skills are needed for social and business interacting!

6. Did he have any sales training?

The nicest person will not make a product change hands if he does not

know how to probe for buying signals, how to identify a prospective

customer and how to close a sale.

7. Did he have the right sales support?

Has the company been supporting him in his sales activities?

That is, did he have enough samples, catalogues, swatches, point-of-

sales material and was there enough stock to sell from? Was there prompt

delivery and friendly customer service?

Sometimes, a superficial superior may have a quick remark in this


‘Well, everybody else is in the same boat and they are doing all right!’

But was he getting his fair share of everything?

8. How long has he been ineffective as a sales person?

If it took the company a year to find this out, isn’t there something


with that person's superiors?

9. Did he have any personal problems?

Maybe he was going through a nasty relationship breakup, was grieving

for somebody dear to him or is studying in the night for more qualifications? Has he

a gambling problems, substance abuse, or is there an illness that is

impairing his work?

These probing questions may be considered inappropriate by some superiors or even sissy. ‘We do not mollycoddle our employees..’ may be their reply. But are they justified in saying this? Or is it merely a wiggling-out of a manager’s responsibilities?

When following-up on these questions, we will invariably find a management that is wanting, to say the least! It may show Insensitivity bordering on brutality, ignorance and superficiality. And problems with the superiors may come to the fore, highlighting their incompetence and dishonesty to their company.

And that’s where the improvements must start! Right with the employment of the salesman’s superiors which is, of course, the task of the higher management.

And suddenly, we may find the whole competency of an organisation being questioned, which is always positive step. Top managers and CEOs may need to avail themselves of the services of an industrial psychologist to establish the true aptitude, intelligence and skill of their managers they entrust with a team of people.

Peter Frederick

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