By: Michael Wolf
Most VP’s that have been through the “Great Recession” of 2008-2009 had to make difficult choices regarding cost reductions, and in sales organizations that meant laying off sales people at all levels. Typically, they were given cost reduction targets by their bosses in the form of x% or x$, and told to do it quickly. Unfortunately, I’ve been there more times than I care to remember, and in Sales organizations, the only possible significant cost reductions are people and travel, and both have business repercussions.
So when these times came, Sales Managers were forced to let the “worst of the best” go, and re-assign their accounts to the “keepers” – and yes companies use these ugly terms. Herein lies the mess, created when you assign Bill’s 8 accounts to 6 different people – you are doing triage without having the time to consider the long term consequences.
It’s only later on, when business stabilizes and begins to recover, that you realize that you have created a monster. Bill’s accounts liked working with Bill, had developed personal relationships with him, and were upset by your re-assigning them to someone else; several of them have been lost to competitors because neither John, Chris nor Joe had the necessary bandwidth to cover them well enough. One told you that “while Joe tries hard, he just does not understand our unique culture and never seems to be able to satisfy our requirements” – Joe is a “hunter”, not a “farmer” and fails to deliver the level of support that they expect.
What to do? The logical thing would be a sales organization account allocation analysis:
Look at each sales and account person, and the customers he or she is responsible for, and decide if these match-ups are workable. If not, make a change; either re-assign the “bad fits” to other sales or account managers, re-assign the sales or account managers to other positions within the company, or as a last resort, take action to replace them.
The surprising thing is that when I talk to sales leaders about this problem, most acknowledge that they have the problem but have not taken any action yet to address it. Unfortunately, we all know what happens when we avoid dealing with a problem that won’t go away by itself.
In my next post, I will talk about Account Teams and how to ensure that they are successful in protecting your key, strategic accounts.