Let’s start by realizing that there are really only two divisions in every company, Sales and Sales Support. Since Sales Support includes everyone not in Sales, Sales Support consists of Production, Accounting, Marketing, and so on. Without sales there is simply no money for Sales Support salaries. Still, Sales needs Sales Support to perform.
The Sales people are doing their job out in the field. The non-sales people are at the office or at the plant everyday. They’re the ones you see most often, and can be the most influential.
In their desire to help the bottom line, non-sales people may be undermining sales. They often propose various money and time saving ideas, which is wonderful, but it’s up to you to protect sales. Many well meaning suggestions contain these preamble phrases to look out for:
1. “Why don’t we just…?” This is how the suggestions to cut costs usually start. The suggestion itself indicates that they don’t know why we “don’t just.” Be on guard for this because both you and they must know the reasons why “we don’t just.” A thoughtful discussion usually will result in many answers to this ageless question.
2. “Why do we have to…?” This is usually followed by a suggestion to make their job easier, thus reducing labor costs. This may indicate that they don’t really know or understand why they must do this or that. There are many subtle quality queues and nuances in your product or package that they may not realize. They may well have a good suggestion, but make sure it is not at the expense of sales.
3. “If we just cut this out, we could save…” and they do the math. This is usually a simple multiple of a small savings times the number of units sold. Beware! This may hurt sales in ways they know nothing about. This thinking is based on the assumption that sales will remain at the current level, before the “cost” savings or “labor” savings idea went into effect. Savings can rarely be as simple as a mathematical formula. By discussing the need (or lack of) the particular part of the product or package they are suggesting be eliminated, you both will come to a better understanding of what is necessary to make sales happen.
4. “I just came up with this great idea!” Some suggestions stem from your people’s desire to make their mark on your product or package. Sometimes their motive is career, sometimes it’s based on a desire to be more like your competition, or they may think “its time for a change”. Your product’s uniqueness may be the very advantage that distinguishes it in the marketplace. Consistent packaging and logo designs are critical to your product’s image of dependability.
5. “This will increase sales.” Your marketing people can make or break your company. They may have a tendency to think they have control over your sales people, and that your sales people must use what they are given. What they design on their computer screens may look fine to them and the other marketing people, but until it has it been field-tested, whether or not it will “work” is an unknown. Marketing is expensive, so think carefully before funds are spent on a new idea.
Your Sales Support staff is well meaning, and you should welcome their ideas. In my next article, we will discuss how to keep the good suggestions coming, and how to make money and time-saving decisions that won’t hurt your sales.
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
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