Often, talking to staff cannot only let you know what’s working but also what’s not. There might be things that you aren’t even aware of that prevents sales. That’s where perspective comes in.
Last week, I had a timely interaction with a fellow soccer dad while waiting for our daughters to come off the practice field. He is a marketing VP for an aftermarket automotive yada yada thing, and he’s a pretty loud and opinionated dude with perspective. I could tell the call he was on did not go the way he wanted. He was disgusted that the conversion rate the sales teams he was indirectly responsible for, and as such represented a substantial part of his bonus, was not hitting their numbers. According to him, his marketing was working and generating the inquiries and leads that should put him in the money, but the sales teams weren’t making the deals happen. He was angry, and I could tell he was dejected—me, being the curious sort, dove deeper.
“What’s up with your sales teams?”
He jumped at the opportunity to vent. He went on about how his sales leader’s excuse was that he needed more seasoned sales consultants in the field. That was compounded by the inability to get training time from their organizational development side, which had been working double-time to build out an innovation model to roll out company-wide on a tight deadline.
“Sucks,” I consoled as the whistle blew and the girls poured off the pitch.
Why would an organization spend time marketing for new customers when they don’t have the bandwidth to take adequate care of their current ones? What an ironic predicament it is to be departmentally painted into a corner by the very team whose sole existence it is to develop the organization into a more functional machine. In most furniture operations, it is the store manager’s responsibility for a lot of these functions. Training, selling, numbers, and individual stats are the manager’s duty to oversee and make successful. It reminded me of an AH-HA moment that haunted me for years, and I wonder how many furniture retailers are as guilty of this as I was.
I was fortunate enough to have a manager working for me in the golden days of his career. Therefore, he lacked ambition or political motivation, so his comments were utterly lacking in self intendedness. When I would communicate a new policy at a Saturday meeting, his big meat hook hand would go up with an ear-to-ear smile on his face and politely inquire as to the thinking behind the policy. When my partner, who ran the back end of the furniture business, decided that we would no longer do deliveries on Sundays due to overtime policies, the hand went up. When we announced that we would not pay commissions on a sliding scale anymore, the hand went up. When we told everyone the parking lot would be closed because it was to be slurry coated the following weekend, the hand went up again. I finally pulled him aside and asked, “what else?”
We had a 45-minute conversation about all the things we were doing that prevented sales. What things did we do as a company that hurt, injured, or hindered his ability to effectively govern the sales team and make as many sales as humanly possible. Almost everything he shared with me was apparent to him but entirely void for me. Perspective is an amazing thing and should be talked about and celebrated. We all have our jobs to do, and just because the stars on my lapel outranked his bars doesn’t mean my perspective trumped his. We’re all on the same team working towards the same goal.