Who Are The “Sales Influencers” In Your Company?
Lori Richardson posed a very challenging question at Focus.com: “What is your definition of a “sales influencer” in a B2B organization?” I struggled with this for a while, all the natural answers came to me–it has to be the sales force, but we can’t forget marketing……
The more I thought of this, the more I became convinced that while that may be the current answer, it really shouldn’t be “the answer.” The answer really needs to be everyone in the company. Sales and marketing are really the last mile, or perhaps the most visible people within the organization, but we really need to create sales, or more importantly, customer focused cultures within our organizations.
We need to create cultures where everyone focuses on the customer and the customer experience. We already know how sales and marketing are “sales” or “customer” influencers–sure we can always argue they need to get better, but I don’t think anyone would argue this. But the issue is, they can’t be alone in the process!
The entire organization needs to be customer influencers, everyone has a role. Product management, engineering, and development have to develop compelling products and services that captivate customers and help them more effectively build their businesses. Manufacturing and operations need to build high quality products or deliver high quality services, shipping/delivering them on time. Finance needs to create accurate invoices, they need to handle collection and billing issues in ways that enhance the relationship and are responsive to the customer, not just administering the company policies. Likewise, legal needs to be perceived as adding value, not the business prevention department.
No part of the organization is sheltered from influencing sales or the customer experience. The customer experience starts with the first phone call, email or customer query. It continues through the entire relationship–not just their buying experience. Customer focused organizations know that everyone influences the customer experience and sales. They make sure everyone understands their role, their cultures are rich in stories about customers and customer experience. The voice of the customer is critical to every decision–in fact, every day in every facility the conversation is about the customer—and lots of those conversations are with customers who are visiting. It seems these organizations revel in having customers visit, not just the briefing centers, but visiting and working with everyone in the organization.
Too often, too many organizations say the sales influencers must be sales, marketing, and perhaps customer service. They wash their hands of the responsibility for the customer, thinking “That’s not my job.”
There’s another aspect to this issue, it’s the attitudes our organizations have about the customer. Each of us has seen organizations with attitudes, “things would be great if those damn customers weren’t bothering us all the time.” We hear conversations in which internal conversations talk about how unreasonable, how stupid, or what pain customers are. We see people so pressured for performance and their specific goals that they forget their role in creating, growing and serving customers.
These attitudes shape the way everyone works, the way they respond. They can’t be “contained” within the organization, but are manifested in every interchange with people outside the organization–in the way they treat suppliers, in casual conversations with others in the industry, in overheard conversations in restaurants, on planes. Disgruntled employees write letters to the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, or just complain to their friends and neighbors. Gradually a perception and reputation is built. Each of us can probably name a number of companies that we perceive to be customer unfriendly, even if we have never interacted with them, but only know them by reputation.
Sales, marketing, and customer service are just the point of the spear. But they can’t stand alone, our organizations cannot exist without customers.
The question really isn’t “Who are the ‘sales influencers,’” but rather, “How do we make everyone in the organization a ‘sales influencer.’”
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