- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Sales not where you want them no matter what you do? So how do we fix the problem?

Just about everyone out there with a sales force has had this problem at one time or another, and there are tools to increase sales through customer satisfaction. This customer satisfaction will depend a whole lot on your sales force obtaining the money, time and recognition they feel they deserve, and frankly, unless you buy into the project, you will be the only loser.

Blindly throwing money at your sales people won’t work. All it does is make them wealthy at your expense. So how can you satisfy the wants and needs of your customers and your sales people and stay solvent in the process? Try a customer-satisfaction incentive program. Here’s an outline that has worked for other companies. Modify it, change it, make it yours.

• Set a few achievable goals. “After the customer buys the first time, they continue to buy, increasing their order each time.” Or your goal could include, “When the customer buys, they like us so well they recommend others to our product or service, so we give them a discount on their next order.” Still another measurement goal might be, “Our regular customers increase their orders by 10 percent each month, and we reward that behavior with lower prices.”

It’s your task to define what customer behavior you want, and then it’s up to you to clearly define that behavior to your sales staff, getting feedback, studying results, and making changes as necessary.

• Set measures you can track. Define the customer behavior you desire, design a customer-response system that tells you whether the action you want is happening.

For example, you might use customer surveys asking the specific questions that would measure the results, or you could make a fact-finding telephone call a couple of days or weeks after the sale. One firm defined their measurement of customer satisfaction as either a positive or negative letter from the customer, and they trained their sales force in how to get this letter. The firm benefits either way from the knowledge gained.

• Define your compensation program: Set all or the majority of sales compensation to customer satisfaction. One way of accomplishing this is to determine what customer behavior (in the form of sales volume) is acceptable, and set commission based on this volume. Publish a periodic list of all sales, ranking sales people by percentages above or below the desired quota — maybe using red ink for those below. Those above receive both the personal satisfaction of being winners and additional money and their customers will benefit from the positive attitude that results from such performance. Those below receive the implied message, “Your customers are not happy and satisfied. Do something about it.”

Will this work? Yes, if you train your sales force in the program, then keep on top of everything.

SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE

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