Thursday, July 8, 2010

Salespeople Should Never Receive Payments

In the corporate world, sales managers often assign the responsibility of receiving payment to their salespeople.  One of our portfolio companies paid commissions out upon receipt.  They had no receivables support and they encouraged their reps to collect payments.

On its face the idea seems sound.  A salesperson gets paid for the sale, so why not have her collect payment?  When a rep collects payment, it even provides an excuse to stay connected.  However, this policy has unintended consequences and can result in huge customer service fallout.

Your reps act as client advocates.  By contrast, debt collectors are bearers of bad news.  By putting a rep in the roll of debt collector, the company has removed a valuable buffer.  A rep can play mediator to quickly resolve misunderstandings and settle frazzled nerves to ensure the business relationship endures.  If the rep must also act as bill collector, he cannot feign detachment; he must include delinquencies in the sphere of the relationship.

People want to keep their dignity so they'll often ignore sales calls if they are unsure whether a rep is calling as sales advocate or debt collector.  The cumulative effect?  Reps focused on billing divide their sales efforts and customers duck their calls.  This decreases sales department efficiency which lowers productivity and resulting commission.  This also increases bad debt which leads to even lower commissions.  And this can cause a drop in staff morale, crippling the company's profitability.

Case Study: Advertising Agency
We suggested our customer hire receivables clerks to encourage their reps to focus on selling.  Billing clerks could then handle receivables and note in the system any customers that were in default.   On average, a sales rep is better compensated than a billing agent.  So, we suggested it makes sense to delegate these tasks to a lower paid employe.  In a later column I’ll explain an easy way to optimize each employee's duties throughout the organization to achieve maximum efficiency.

The result?  Because the reps
ignored billing issues they had more time to sell.  Reorders increased.  The extra revenue on additional sales that reps could make more than compensated the company for the salaries of the new billing personnel.

When a rep happened upon a client delinquency,  he ignored it until the client's credit line was restricted by the credit department.  If the client addressed it with the rep, he recommended the client call billing to resolve it as a prerequisite to reordering.  The rep deliberately feigned ignorance
instead of addressing it directly with the customer.  In this way, he played the advocate and preserved the client’s dignity. 

Managers and organizations need to realize: the best sales reps are not mere order takers.  They’re client advocates, subject matter experts, and executive advisers.

Yesterday I explained how to eliminate those nasty typos from expensive commercial printing jobs and save on your printing expense.  Next week begins the first of a series of articles on a novel step-by-step approach to developing an integrated marketing strategy.  You can use this as a basis to plan your most cost-effective advertising methods.

This will take a little bit of time but you’ll find it’s worth it.  Upon completing the process, you’ll calculate your ideal cost-effective advertising and know exactly how to spend your budget.  You’ll never question whether you should spend money on a particular newspaper, coupon, flyer, or yellow page ad again.  Stay tuned.  Until then,

profitable business All!


  1. This can kind of relate to not answering your telephone because someone might be trying to talk you into something you really do not want to say NO to but at the same time want to avoid.

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