Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Modular Factory Sales Reps' Cries for Help Go Unanswered

I was questioned the other day by a factory owner about my continual harping on modular home factories to have Marketing Plans and procedures in place when it really should fall on the Sales Manager and sales reps to bring in new business and develop builders for the company.

I agree that the Sales Manager should be one of the driving forces to create a Marketing Plan but in reality they have never been taught how to do one much less implement it. Today a Sales Manager’s primary role is to make sure that the production lines are full and take the flak from builders when things don’t go exactly as planned.

So guess who is now in charge of generating leads, qualifying leads, creating marketing presentations and giving new builders the needed factory orientations? 
The Sales Rep!

When a sales rep says they need lead sources, the Sales Manager tells them that is their responsibility.

When a sales rep needs a proposal, they are told to do it themselves.

When they need a sales presentation for a builder, they are told to whip it up themselves.

How did this mentality get started?

The genesis for putting Sales Reps in control of what goes into the marketing mix comes from a heavily sales-driven or entrepreneurial management team who sees the business landscape as a primitive world run by Hunter-Gatherers.

Every Sales Rep is responsible for their own “food.” The prevailing wisdom can be summarized by this statement: “Our Sales Reps eat what they kill. If they don’t figure out how to kill it, they starve.”

In this culture, Sales Reps become their own one-person wrecking crew and spend their time each day selfishly manipulating every aspect of the business to maximize orders.

Modular factory management promotes this behavior. By the very nature of their commission plan, Sales Reps aren’t incentivized to be strategic. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at your own Sales Rep commission plan.

If yours is like 99.8% of the incentive plans I’ve seen, the plan is all about closing deals. As it should be. No matter how many seminars or pep talks you give to your team (you know the ones that start off with a title slide like, “There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM”), it won’t make much difference.

It’s not that thinking like a Hunter-Gatherer is a bad thing. It’s not. It IS a problem, though, when this mode of thinking gets baked into the culture and prevents factory management from creating systems to sustain itself.

If you’re not careful, placing so much emphasis on the accomplishments of individual Sales Reps puts the entire company in jeopardy when one of the top-producing Sales Reps leaves the firm and takes their builders with them. And one of those “systems” that must be put into place is a marketing system that predictably creates more and better opportunities for ALL Sales Reps to meet qualified decision-makers.

Without a system in place to promote the selling process where each element is linked to a specific factory derived hurdle and goal, sales reps are left to their own ideas of how to bring in new builders and that has proven poor at best.

I remember a few years ago a sales rep telling that when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey the factory got over 200 builders inquiring about becoming dealers. All these leads were given to him because he had NJ and since he already had a couple of builders in NJ, he threw the leads in the trash so as not to piss off his current builders.

If you were a factory owner and learned that one of your sales reps threw hundreds of leads in the trash without even contacting them, what you have done?

The days of the sales rep being a cowboy riding through his/her territory without a plan for bringing in new builders is over. Now it’s time for factory management to begin putting together a Marketing Plan and designing specific presentations for different types of builders. A consistent program that sales reps can pull off the shelf without having to spend hours and hours preparing.

In answer to the factory owner that questioned why I harp about marketing, maybe it’s time for him to look at his sales staff and ask himself how much business those trashed leads from NJ cost his company and what can he do to prevent it from happening again.

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