Dear Aunty B,
I retrenched a salesperson six months ago, and on the way out the door we had a nasty blue. He has since gone to another company and has been poaching some of our clients.
I think there is some vindictiveness in his actions. I have checked with our lawyer and apparently we do not have grounds for action.
I encourage my salespeople to “own” the relationship with individual clients. Should I change my attitude towards this? And is there anything else I can do to stop people leaving in the future and stealing clients?
Dear Highly Annoyed,
Why on earth did you retrench such a gun sales star? Whatever you do in this downturn, keep your top sales people. You must get that cash coming in the door because the next financial year is going to be very rocky.
Look, this is always a dilemma in running a business. Should your salesperson own the relationship with the client? Yes your salespeople need incredibly strong relationships with clients, especially in these difficult times because your competitors are sizing them up right this second and working out how to pinch them.
But you must make your salespeople understand the relationship with the client is with the company, not the individual sales person. Thus the salesperson does not own the client, the company does.
The way to do this is to emphasise to the salesperson that it is the company, relationships and products and services that have got the deal, not their skill in picking the right restaurant for the deal clinching lunch.
You and your senior people also need to stay in regular contact with the client. Don’t forget; dealing with you is partially why they are choosing you to do business and not a faceless global multinational.
Also make sure you are hiring people who are going to “buy in” to the success of the business. Always check their resumes and search for signs that they are not kangaroo sales people, hopping from one job to the next every year.
One warning: Don’t take this as an excuse to start to micro-manage your salespeople, which is also a danger when you are stressed about results.
Your Aunty B.