Company processes and procedure are intended to protect, not suffocate, the company. In their stead an acceptable form of assurance will see the sale through
When the client request goes against the company’s processes and policies, the average salesperson, sadly, acquiesces to fate. He loses the sale, reasoning, “It’s against procedure.” Processes and policy are guidelines not deadlines. They are there to protect, not suffocate, the company. If what the prospective buyer wants goes against the company grain, don’t be too quick to dismiss nor acquiesce. For instance, the prospect says, “We have just opened shop in Kenya and shall be making our orders in an erratic fashion in tandem with a start up. Our head office is in Italy and all payments are being processed from there for now. For this reason issuance of LPOs for every order we make is untenable. Is this something you can work with?”
Juicy sale, but…
The salesperson is momentarily trapped like a dog by headlights in the night. His mind is racing. The account is huge enough to surpass his annual targets. But the process goes against policy. And, he knows what accounts will say: “What if they don’t pay? What if it’s a con like the account you sales guys (sic) brought in 2003?” And that’s Finance and back office for you. Valiantly defending procedure is in their DNA.
What to do then?
First, calm down. Excitement can cloud your judgment. Next, it is ok to tell the client, “This is new to me (or my company). With your help I’m happy to explore a workable solution. Is this ok?” The admission doesn’t diminish your stature- it heightens it. Quite possibly the buyer already knows you don’t know. Foolishness is bound in feigning knowledge and it shows in your fumbling. Your admission dissipates all the debilitating tension, suspicion and frustration. In their stead, the relationship is energized with transparency, accountability and trust. Lastly, understand that assurance is what your company seeks- the LPO is merely a symbol of this.
Having explained the novelty of the request to the prospect, explore solutions. How have they handled this situation in other countries they are in, for instance? In addition, offer solutions. Assurance can come in the form of a bank guarantee, or local references, for instance. Further, go out of your way and research the client – on- and off line. Like the bank representative who was unsettled by the letter from employer the client had brought as part of account opening documents. Even the call to verify details despite being responded to in the affirmative didn’t free him of the unease. He made a physical trip there to ask around and guess what? The fellow had been fired a month earlier and had conspired with someone in HR to ‘confirm’ the letter.
Or, make a judgment call. Like Francis (RIP), who was summoned to head office to explain why he had given a client a four month payment plan against policy. Instead, he sent an email pointing out that the client’s current corporate medical cover was expiring in three months. In essence, the client was paying for the following year’s cover this year, and the company would only be exposed for one month (the fourth installment) as per policy. Yes, sometimes by-the-book defenders can be that blind!
Build a business case
To its credit however, and as a demonstration that it’s not intended to suffocate the company, procedure can be bent with a business case. Sadly, this is territory few salespeople venture into. Building a business case like the one shared about Francis is how you grow as a salesperson. Showing why we must go against procedure, and how we can mitigate against it, is a sales function- not a back office one.
And here’s the clincher. When all is said and done, and the die-hard defenders of procedure aren’t budging, stick your neck out. If your gut and groundwork tell you the account is good, take a calculated risk and offer yourself (salary, commission, post-dated cheques) as assurance. And what if, like in 2003, it turns out to be a con? Well, what if it doesn’t?
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