Friday, August 17, 2007

How to build a trusting relationship with your sales force

Many reference managers seem to suffer from overly protective sales reps who don't want anyone to call their accounts, fearing they'll destroy their years of careful nurturing. Other sales reps may just never return your calls, and you hate them for it.

Rather than antagonizing with sales reps, try to understand their perspective. Unlike most marketing professionals, sales reps' salaries (and ultimately jobs) are directly linked to the revenue they create for the company. This is hard, because there are a lot of factors account managers cannot control: contacts change jobs, budgets are cut and competitors offer dumping prices. So they try to control the parts that they can: access to their customers.

Instead of blaming the sales reps, make it easy for them to work with you, provide immediate value and most importantly build a trust relationship. Here are some things you may want to consider:
  1. Be respectful of the sales reps time. Keep emails and phone calls short and to the point.
  2. Tell them in advance what you're planning to do.
  3. Copy them on each email you send to a customer so they know what's going on.
  4. If you're planning to do something out of the ordinary with a customer, discuss it with them first.
  5. When you talk to a customer, send them a brief email with a summary of your conversation. (You should write that summary for your notes anyway, so you won't need a lot of time to do this.)
  6. Be there when a rep needs your help, for example when trying to convince your finance department to grant a discount for a reference customer.
  7. If you hear that a customer contact left, the phone number changed or that a company is looking for an additional product in your space, let them know. It saves them time and potentially makes them money. And money makes friends.
It takes a while to get your sales reps accustomed to working with you, but once you build a trusting relationship, your sales force will become a powerful ally.

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