By Sid Chadwick, Chadwick Consulting, Inc.
“Management had to be there – on the floor - Sunday – at 7:30 am…all day….partly to encourage and support our front-line Troops….with a clear message…….‘We’re all in this together’…Otherwise, we couldn’t meet the deadlines we were given….nor could we possibly know the size and frequency of orders….that would follow….We were changing how we saw our future potential…”………Scott Rempe, Sr, V.P., Sales & Marketing, Excalibur Direct Marketing.
I’ve had the honor of knowing and working with this Sales Leader --- for just over 25 years…we share our experiences…and our perspectives.
Question: What would you be willing to do…for significant, additional new business…..if you didn’t know who that business would ultimately come from, or when…? (Would you wait until you need that business…?)
When this talented Sales Leader chose his current position and evolving role, about four years ago, he probably had an intuitive awareness that he’d been preparing his entire career…for his upcoming, evolving role.
He’d learned from previous front-line leadership positions --- that ongoing education and training requires many facets… and that… too many organizations… do little more than a half-way minimum job of preparing their “storm-troops”… to be highly competent --- even fearless --- in representing their organization -- to both current customers --- and target prospects.
Note: This story’s chapters -- are still unfolding….
Starting four years ago, this Sales Leader focused …with his customer contact team -- on developing numerous dimensions of “sales competency” --- and standards…including developing Referrals, which included teaching customers about his organization’s capabilities….for customers’ proactive development of Referrals…for his organization…!
When Covid-19 hit, his Sales Team did not… radically change their customer and prospect contact schedule….or their goals.
One of his Sales Reps – is an “expert” in Promotional Products. His Sales Team works to make sure that though they have numerous core competencies -- that customers need, expert Promotional Products guidance …and sourcing-- are part of what is known…that they offer.
Through reliable and authentic personal contact and attention to customers and target prospects during Covid-19, customers had come to more intimately appreciate his organization. New accounts have continued to be gained. Referrals have continued to be received, followed-up, and converted.
And then… the unexpected happened….
A loyal, caring customer…. Referred one of their treasured…Fortune 500 customer relationships… to his company.
This Sales Leader, through excellent questioning dialogue, learned that this major, target prospect --- needed “Promotional Products” --- for their employees…..located throughout much of the U.S.
This project was to recognize this target prospect’s employees --- for how important they are --- while many of those employees are quarantined at home, often working under stressful, sometimes isolated, depressing conditions.
By any measure, this was a strategic project --- for this target prospect…with complexity and demands --- that were significant. (We’re not allowed to give the name of that target prospect – so let’s just say --- everything needed for this project --- required the total commitment of this Sales Leader’s organization…including… his turning over the majority of development and management of this Project --- to his Promotional Products Sales Leader….while personally staying close…to ensure that all needed resources, preparations… execution…and support -- were in place.)
Turning over such a project -- to an associate…when this project… and subsequent projects -- are multiple-six figures….requires… “everyone to be all-in…all-hands-on-deck….”
Subsequent windfalls: Filming of the project’s assembly, in their plant, allowed them to ask permission -- from their Fortune 500 customer -- to place that film on their website. Not only did this Fortune 500 company say “Yes, of course” …but…their customer took a copy of that film, and put it up, internally, for their employees to see how much a new supplier --- cared about them.
Promotional Product Projects – are probably needing to occur --- in 1000’s of companies across our country, as employees are privately performing important work, often from home, while dealing with adverse personal conditions --- that their employers can only speculate about.
Such a new customer --- was only able to be properly served --- when needed…by an organization who was improving their competencies --- before they were needed…from experienced Sales Leadership.
Such a new customer --- also changed how this organization sees itself…in terms of its future potential.
Is our great industry…or… our organization… setting our standards… and goals….too low…?
“…Value creation is a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary activity… no individual will have all the necessary knowledge, relevant mental models, or insights…Value creation begins when someone has an insight about how to solve an unmet need…and is motivated to turn that insight into a product or service. I call these people…champions… because the term captures the spirit of what is required….”……Harvard Business Review, November-December, 2020, Innovation for Impact, p. 124,