Sales Force Management as a Barrier to Customer Satisfaction
During the first 10 years or so of my programming career, a number of my projects revolved around sales force automation. At Windsor Group, I worked on tools that would make our territory managers more competitive. At GE Capital Consulting, I worked on a couple of client engagements that involved customizing a sales force automation tool called Overquota. Eventually at Solarcom, we built our own tool in house, based on best practices that we had developed over the years of working with these other tools.
One common thread through each of these implementations and customizations was the desire to tag a customer or prospect as belonging to a particular sales rep. For a customer, it was fairly clear that the person who first sold them something would likely own the account. With prospects, a regional approach was generally taken. Here lies the rub – for larger companies, which region do you choose: the region that contacted you, or the region where the company’s headquarters is. The response I usually saw was that it was based on the headquarters.
It straight sales organizations, that isn’t a tremendous barrier. The cost of on-site sales calls is usually transparent to the customer. In fact – they are built into the margin of the deal. If the rep comes from outside of your office’s region, you had better believe you are paying a slight premium to what a local representative would be able to offer.
What if it is not a straight sales engagement? What if professional services are involved? Here is where it gets tricky. I usually have seen it where the partner’s local presence is engaged. For a company site in Atlanta with a headquarters on the west coast, this means you as the customer are partnering with a company that is going to provide service from the far side of the country. Every flight, hotel, meal is going to add additional overhead to your engagement.
There needs to be some intelligence employed by vendors and their value added resellers to provide the best value to the customer. Staffing projects requiring onsite resources with those 3,000 miles away does not seem practical – especially when the VAR has a local presence with a presumably local talent pool.
There needs to be a focus on putting the customer’s needs first at their office location – ahead of the needs of assigning business within territorial bounds.