"We just need our sales people to sell more!" Such was the business improvement game plan proposed by the short-lived president of a previous employer. Of course! More Sales! Why didn't we figure that out sooner? Someone let the sales department know that it's time to start calling on customers.
The fact is, when it comes to revenue growth, it is often difficult to know where to start. The temptation is to make a laundry list of the things that the sales department should be doing differently. I suggest, however, that sales growth begins not inside the cubicle cluster of the sales department and not necessarily out knocking on the doors of customers. Rather, sales growth begins on—of all places—the shop floor.
Under the umbrella of price, metal finishing customers value five things above all else:
The sales person representing your operation is called upon to make commitments as to these requirements. Once those commitments are made, the sales person's credibility, and that of your operation, are on the line. Failure to meet these commitments is a sure way to impede revenue growth.
A sales representative in the finishing industry recently lamented that he had lost a large automotive project. The Control Plan, PFMEA and other necessary documentation had been prepared, submitted and approved by the customer. The sample run was walked through the shop and the customer loved the parts. Then the production quantities kicked in. Several orders were late, the customer rejected a non-conforming shipment, one order was mixed with another customer's parts and within the first 30 days of production, the project was pulled and awarded to another finisher. The most knowledgeable and motivated sales person in the industry cannot make up for a shop floor that can't meet reasonable expectations.
To improve your operation's ability to meet the commitments it makes, consider doing the following:
I do not argue that the sales department should be let off the hook for stagnate sales performance. An underperforming shop floor is not an excuse for the sales team to spend its day feeding an addiction to computer solitaire while the rest of the operation gets things under control.
That said—the combination of a highly motivated and effective sales team with an operation that meets its commitments is a powerful recipe for top line growth.