Sales Prevention Department: Where’s Yours?Article by Colleen Francis, November 16, 2018
Lost sales often happen for reasons that are entirely within our control. Quite frequently, they’re caused by the kinds of internal rules we create in businesses of all sizes. When that happens, we are creating a sales prevention department for ourselves.
Granted, organizations thrive on rules—policies, procedures and systems—because they help make people work more efficiently. The problem isn’t that they exist. The problem is that we allow so many rules to go unchecked.
The hard truth is that many rules are good at solving the wrong problems we have in our organizations today. And they do so at the expense of bigger, more meaningful problems that go unsolved. That’s how a sales prevention department festers. And the effect of that mistake isn’t always immediately apparent.
One client of mine—a Fortune 50 company—had a VP of Sales who was left utterly stranded by his own firm because of internal rules that said it was forbidden to replace an employee’s malfunctioning laptop PC until it broke. This executive—whose daily job performance hinged on having well-functioning sales tools—was left waiting for many weeks until his sales-generating PC finally died (and then faced more delays before his new machine would ship). And it was only at that point that the firm’s IT department said: “oh, you should have lied to us before and just said it was broken before it fell apart…we could have saved you weeks of waiting.”
In this example, the rule they had put in place did a good job of reducing IT costs. But was that really a meaningful problem to them? Obeying that rule came at considerable expense of lost productivity, lost sales and lost time.
Accept this fact: you do have a sales prevention department that’s operational in your business right now. The important unanswered questions are how often you feed it and what you’re going to do about it.
Beware the pinch points. Not all bad rules that fuel sales-prevention department growth are that obvious. Many are simply pinch points in the processes you have in your organization. You only find them if you choose to go looking. You need to do this, because each pinch point represents a factor that’s holding you back from making more sales to your customer.
That’s what happened with another client of mine. They worked in a fast-paced industry where quotes needed to go out within 24 hours if they were going to fully achieve sales growth. That wasn’t happening. In fact, what we found was many of their quotes were going out several days late. Why? Because they had only has one person within the entire organization in charge of approving all pricing. That was their pinch point. By giving more people that authority in the business, more quotes could go out in far less time.
What’s good for the customer is also good for you. A sales prevention department loses its ability to grow and hurt you when you reframe your thinking on rules and start asking: “is this good for our customer?” When you do that, you’re establishing a customer success criteria: aligning your internal operations with the way your customers want to buy from you.
By challenging your team to put themselves in the shoes of the customer, you’re inviting everyone to re-examine what it looks like to buy from your business. The more you do that, the more skillful you become at eliminating barriers and at smoothing over any speed bumps that stand in the way of that customer doing repeat business with you.
Remember: any time you find a rule that’s good for your internal operations but bad for your customer, you’ve uncovered something that’s hindering your sales growth potential.
Sales prevention departments show up in organizations of all sizes. None exist deliberately. But what they all have in common is the effect they inflict: they slow down your customers from being able to do business with you, and frustrate their desire to buy from you more often. The sooner you recognize this, the sooner you can fix it, and the faster you can accelerate your sales.