Until recently we've had the luxury of selling in a strong economy. People and companies were buying, credit was easy to come by, and many companies found it difficult to keep up with demand. Things were moving so quickly that many companies found it difficult to maintain open lines of communication between departments, resulting in some delays in filling orders, customers not being kept informed of the status of their order, salespeople relaying wrong information, and other such issues that caused problems and irritated customers, but in the long run didn't cause a hit on the company's bottom-line.
Although that was just yesterday, those days are long gone now.
In today's economy with scarce potential buyers, no one can afford to allow poor interdepartmental communication destroy relationships with prospects and clients. We no longer live in an economy where prospects and customers can be easily replaced.
During the past few years when business was great and the pace hectic, many of us lost our sense of urgency in relaying customer information. We were busy, things slipped, an order got lost in the shuffle, another order took its place. Yes, we regretted it, but we just didn't have the time to coddle every customer and every order, as we would want.
You weren't informed of a missed shipping date. Finance called your sales manager instead of you to say they needed additional information on a customer-and your manager forgot to relay the request to you. Accounting forgot to let you know that the refund for the overcharge to one of your customers didn't go out as promised. Manufacturing failed to let you know that a critical part to fill an order has been backordered and the order will not be filled by the promised date.
All of the above, along with a warehouse full of others, were-and still are-problems encountered on a daily basis by many salespeople.
Shipping, finance, manufacturing, accounting and all the other departments may not think these communication lapses are that big a deal. Sure, they may reason, it causes a problem, but not anything that a phone call won't fix. Often a phone call will fix it. Many times it won't. But each time you make one of these phone calls to a customer, you-and the company-are losing credibility, credibility that took a great deal of effort to build.
As salespeople, we have to recognize that ultimately these communication breakdowns come back to us-we're the ones with the relationship with the customer or prospect. We're the ones who must deal with problems, save the deal, smooth ruffled feathers, and even resell the deal.
We can moan and groan about how it was shipping, finance, or accounting's fault-but we have to deal with the mess. We can hope the other departments will live up to their responsibility to relay critical information to us. Unfortunately, hope doesn't produce results.
Unless your business is still operating in an environment where you have far more prospects than you can possibly handle, you must take it upon your shoulders to make sure these communication issues don't arise. You have to become proactive in soliciting information about every aspect of your sales.
You can, of course, set up an elaborate system to help you track each and every aspect of each sale. Or you can set up a weekly meeting with each department that touches your sale. In the course of a 10 or 15 minute meeting with each department, you can review the status of each of your sales, making sure you don't get a surprise phone call or email concerning an unexpected issue. More than likely you'll have to invest less than 2 hours a week in order to make sure your customers and prospects don't get blindsided with bad news. Not only will you save yourself a good deal of grief, but once each department understands that you will be checking on the status of each of your sales, you'll find that they'll contact you as soon as they see a possible issue on the horizon-and if they have to make a decision as to whether to allocate resources to your sales or to the sales of a salesperson who isn't holding them accountable, who do you think will get the resources?
You can't afford to let communication issues negatively impact your sales. Be proactive. It only takes a little time and effort, but it can save not sales but an entire relationships.
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