The Hand Off To Irrelevancy Or Worse: Bankruptcy

If there’s one thing that’s becoming increasingly apparent in many businesses both large and small is this idea that when it comes to sales, along with the sales process, that it can be delivered like any other inner departmental process within a company. i.e., Shipping handles all shipping related items, but if you need to know inventory you call warehousing, and if you need a question on your billing you will get transferred to accounts receivable and so on, with each subsequent transfer the unavoidable idiocy of needing to repeat every and all prior information given. (Don’t you just feel like screaming when you’re asked to enter your account number for better service only to be asked by the next person, “What is your account number?”)

Sales does not offer itself seamlessly into this hierarchical corporate structure regardless of corporate balance sheet. Sales is the one position as well as department that must be willing and have the ability to move within all departments, as well as have a working understanding of them all. Anything less and you don’t have a sales department – you have order taking.

Order taking staff as well as departments are notorious for a “that’s not my job or department” thinking. Order takers pick up the phone only if it rings, sales people make phones ring. Any CEO or business person that forgets that is dooming both themselves as well as their business to a dust heap in the coming future.

The issue today seems that far more think just because they can look at numbers on some spread sheet – they understand where they’re gaining, or losing, and why. In reality: most have absolutely no clue. Let me share a glaring example.

I received an email from a fellow speaker detailing his recent interaction with a prominent hotel and conference center which was trying to solicit his business. The initial call came from the supposed “sales director.”

At first he was impressed with the call from the director and the call went smoothly, then, he proposed the possibility of hosting a conference there. (just to give some perspective, his offerings are very high-end with price tags of over $15K per attendee are not uncommon. He’s not some “get rich in real estate” seminar leader.) The response? “Great, I’ll have an associate get back to you.” Right there this person shows the title of “director” let alone “sales” has been given in error. Yet it gets even more stupider. (pun intended)

A followup call does take place. The so-called “associate” gives notice to any discerning ear they are not trained or familiar with any true sales acumen. They are nothing more than someone able to read or parrot some sales script where there must be some checklist that needs to be filled out as to ensure “management” they did as they were instructed or face the wrath.

I state this for it is the only logical explanation to answer what was described as a down right annoyance of being asked mercilessly as to “what was his budget” when he had stated over and over budget was not a concern. His concern was availability. i.e., Budget is of no concern, I have the money – do you have the rooms?!

After repeating that he would be booking over 30 rooms, a conference room, meals and more regardless of the rates for as he expressed multiple times, “Money is not the issue here – availability is the concern!” the response was like a broken record. “I understand but what is your budget?”

Finally he demanded not another question till they could tell him the availability. The response came back, ” I don’t have access to that info, and the person responsible for it is currently out and won’t be back until after the weekend.” You can’t make this stuff up. Imagine, a person responsible for trying to secure bookings not only doesn’t have access to what is available, but is secure in stating that the possible client should both understand and accept their obvious, “not my job/department attitude.”

This speaker now incensed ended the call abruptly and immediately phoned the senior manager of the establishment. He was greeted with the wonderful explanation that his call could not be heard for this person was unavailable till (you guessed it) Monday.

He left a detailed message of what had transpired in a tone of “If I were the manager I would want to know.” The response? Monday has come and gone. So has Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on. One can only surmise that handling customer challenges isn’t handled within their department either.

This type of story I’ve heard more often as of late than ever before with companies cutting back on critical staff with acumen and replacing them with bodies reciting scripts managed by text-book hierarchy. Unfortunately this book is all too familiar, with every one I’ve read ending precisely at the same place.

Chapter 11.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr