Entrust sales to professional staff

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It goes without saying that the professionalism of a service provider is the strongest argument in favour of working with him or her. This is especially true when it comes to difficult and complex services. Nobody needs an unqualified accountant or auditor. Furthermore, you’d be disappointed to be promised one thing by a sales manager only to receive something entirely different when the service is delivered. If that’s the case, why not entrust sales to professionals – the experts who serve your clients? This is exactly what we do.

The approach in which a sales person searches for clients, guides them to sign a contract, and then the technical specialist or project manager delivers the service – has two main shortcomings. First, the KPIs of a project manager and the sales professional are different. The risk here is that there will be a mismatch between the expectations of the customer and the actual result of the services rendered, possibly leading to the loss of the client. Second, in accepting a client without the opportunity to develop a relationship and influence the model for how that client is served, project managers view their task exclusively as that of service delivery. For them, the customer is merely the beneficiary of their efforts and there is not a sense of responsibility towards the client.

In perfecting our service model, we rejected the idea of having a separate sales division and instead assigned sales roles among our marketing specialists and project managers. The former work to find prospective clients from among our existing business contacts and determine areas where they can benefit from our services. They also put together preliminary proposals. This information is then passed along to our project managers who carry out negotiations and sign contacts. While rending services, project managers become familiar with the customer’s challenges and take part in the search for an optimal solution.
Advantages of this approach:

• Professional accountants or consultants can easily choose the optimal service model right away.
• There is no gap between the expectations of a customer and the actual service delivered (all issues are resolved directly and ‘on the spot’).
• Project managers feel a greater sense of responsibility for fulfilling the terms of the contract.
• A project manager’s area of responsibility is expanded (growth in status and powerful nonmaterial motivation).

As a result, the quality of service improves for clients.

The primary risks associated with this approach concern potential demotivation of project managers due to their lack of knowledge and skills to solve new sales challenges, as well as the absence of a transparent system to evaluate and compensate this work.

Understanding this, we have introduced a separate ‘team’ bonus for our project managers that is paid based on the results of work with prospective clients to achieve the goals of the division or group. We have also instituted a training system that gives the project managers the soft tools required or the sales efforts.

Successfully combining the functions of an expert in providing services with those of a seller requires more than being a professional in one’s field; one must be able to communicate with clients, be proactive, see a customer’s difficulties, help to generate demand, and offer the best solutions. Therefore, our training aims to develop the classic skills of a good seller: handling objections, leading negotiations, holding presentations, producing business correspondence, drafting commercial offers, etc. Both our own specialists and external consultants conduct training.

I note that the prevailing approach is supported by the HR functions (training, assessment, incentives and compensation, and orientation), a mentoring system and the company’s top managers. For example, I personally conduct the orientation training that is devoted to the principles of customer service. I believe that our model can be successfully used by many companies from various service sectors.