Don't Be a Sales Gambler
Updated: Sep 6, 2018
TALE OF THE SALE:
Sally Sales is sitting at her desk when a note comes in about a really nice RFQ for one of her better customers. Sally works for a manufacturing company who makes unique and custom materials for several different industries, one of those being aerospace. Like any other sales person she got excited because the revenue potential was large, the project was moving fast, and this was not in the projections, so it would help the company and Sally reach year end growth targets.
To Sally the request was not too far outside the comfort zone of what her company did today. When she brought this to her technical support team she got a different and less enthusiastic response to the tune of, “yeah it seems like something we do now but there are a lot of small differences and it won’t be easy”. Sally asked how long it would take in development and got a disappointing answer of up to 1 year. She pushed the support group to get started and convinced the customer to start bringing in some experimental product not for commercial use but enough to get them started on some tooling and manufacturing trials for this new product.
To the customer this meant Sally and her team were on the hook to get this right when ready and there was no looking back. Sally didn’t do a great job of communicating that there was a chance they wouldn’t be ready in time. The support team was under the impression that this was strictly research and development and that they were not on the hook to deliver any more than experimental material. As you can see the customer and Sally’s support team were on very different pages and this was caused by the poor communications Sally relayed to both.
Like most new projects the customer of course moved the goal post on Sally and changed some internal specifications causing the already tough development work to get even harder. At this point Sally’s support team was realizing that this salesperson put them on the hook for something they did not sign up for and something they told Sally would be hard and needs enough time in development to be done right.
Not long after the support team realized they were in a mess the customer became aware of Sally’s screw up as well. Not only did they have thousands of dollars into tooling and man hours but they were on the spot with their biggest and most important customer. The typically laid-back customer was enraged at the spot Sally and Sally’s company had put them in. Sally felt awful and knew she had brought this upon herself. Respect was lost for Sally by the customer and maybe even more so from her own team.
Soon Sally’s upper management started asking questions on why so much time was spent on one product and why other more strategic R&D efforts were falling behind. Sally was forced to explain that she over promised causing her customer to over promise to a large aerospace giant who hands out financial penalties to suppliers who are late on delivery. This situation was getting into deep waters, Sally was sick to her stomach, the R&D team felt pressured, upper management was forced to bring in a consultant to help and it ended up costing more than the profit on this project was even worth.
LESSON LEARNED FROM THIS TALE OF THE SALE:
Eventually with the right resources Sally’s team was able to produce the needed results. The damage created by Sally’s big gamble would take years to overcome if ever. The customer no longer approached Sally or her company for new projects and only held on to legacy business that would be too hard to re-qualify and switch. A long-time relationship was broken beyond fixing. You would think the customer side of this situation would be most hurtful to Sally but her internal reputation was destroyed. For a B2B salesperson relying on their support teams this was 10X worse than the customer fallout. No matter how many seamless new customers and new accounts she brought on this is the only thing everyone will judge her by for many years. When a problem moves from bad to worse to critical, leadership typically weighs in and tasks the support group to find a way. Everything is dropped and full attention moves to this project causing massive disruptions to the team. Don’t be the gambling and over promising sales person that puts the company in this position, you won’t recover.