So far in this series of seven articles, we’ve looked at field-tested activities that you,
the sales professional, can embrace today to generate dynamite growth in your sales, even
in this new economy. Earlier, I shared with you how you can generate more sales from existing
business relationships, and about how you can communicate in a manner that mitigates a prospect’s
sense of risk. I’ve also talked about how you can use testimonials to your advantage, as
well as customer targeting to get the results you’re looking for.
So far, the bulk of my advice has been on what you can do to change
things. In today’s article, however, I’m going to broaden that scope a little more and share
with you another field-tested activity—-but this time, it involves what others (and by that
I mean senior managers and executives) in your organization can do to have a positive influence
My advice is this: get your CEO to sit-in on sales calls. Have your VP of Sales and Marketing
join you when making in-office visits to your clients or prospects. Get your sales manager
to join in on a meeting when pitching to new prospects. There’s a case to be made for all
levels of management to become outfielders on your sales team (As
I write this, I can almost hear the cheers of "hip-hip-hurray" from my readers everywhere).
Why this matters
If you were to share this advice within your company right now, the very first question that
you’d be asked by managers and executives is, of course, why.
Why should management be out in the field when they already have professionals like you
on hand who are great at what they do? My answer and this is one that I give when conducting
sales training to executives and employees of all kinds, is that becoming an outfielder
in the sales process is the only way…the only way…that business leaders can
get a pulse on what’s really going in your marketplace today.
Management guru, Tom Peters, also recognized that this activity is a vital element of what
makes an organization successful. In his book, In
Search of Excellence, (co-authored with Bob Waterman), he credits management at
Hewlett Packard for coining a great euphemism for this approach: Management by Walking
Around (or MBWA for short). Pretty much says it all about what this activity entails,
It’s worth noting that this book—today, considered a classic—was first published in 1982,
when North America was in the throes of a deep, painful economic recession. What Peters and
Waterman (and Hewlett Packard) recognized back then—that there was a lot you could learn
from the people served by your business—still rings true today. Today, Peters is still fighting
the good fight in favour of the MBWA approach. For example, his presentations laud the work
of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, noting how "he religiously visits at least 25 stores a week."
Clearly it’s a lesson that’s not lost on the leaders of business today. Just last week, Amazon.com
founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was in the news after he reportedly showed up unannounced to work
on the floor at one of his company’s distribution centers.
What’s in it for you and for your customers
If these are challenging times in your marketplace, better for management to hear it firsthand
from customers than from anyone else in your organization. Sure, it might be tempting for
some folks in your accounting department to squabble over why the company is spending more
on airfare to fly your managers out to meet with customers. However, the benefits can be
Maybe there are underlying problems or barriers to sales that need to be diagnosed. By having
management out in the field, your organization can get to the root of the matter quickly.
Just as important, the mere act of bringing in reinforcements sends a powerful signal to
the people with whom you do business. It shows that you’re not backing down. Rather, you
demonstrate that you’re bringing in extra resources, including the big guns from headquarters,
to ensure that your customers’ needs are met thoroughly.
Moreover, this approach can help your management team decide what kinds of additional training
and resources your sales team needs to regroup, reshape and revise its sales process. None
of this can happen as quickly or as thoroughly without them first having the opportunity
to see what’s going on out there.
Out in the field. It’s not just where the salespeople and the customers are, it’s where
the answers are, too.