I wanted a new sofa for our outdoor porch.  I shopped around until I found the perfect fit and match for the rest of the patio furnishings.  I saw the sofa online and then called the store to see if they had it there to go “see and touch.”    The salesman told me “If you come in right now, I can schedule delivery in 4 days.”   I dropped everything and raced to the store.

Once he wrote the order up, he sheepishly said, “Oops, sorry, turns out the earliest delivery is now 3 weeks out.”    What?  I tell him, “I am having a get together at my house in ten days.  I cannot wait 3 weeks.”  Sorry no can do, he tells me.  This is what his computer is telling him.  I ask him if he might call someone to see if they can do better.  He told me he has done that before to no avail.   

So, we walked out of the store!   On the way home, (I was not driving) I pulled up the sofa online again;  the website said I would have it in 5 days!  What the heck?  I called customer service to confirm what I was seeing was accurate, considering what the store salesman told me.  The store delivery was to be 3 weeks but online I got it in 5 days, for the exact same item, from the same warehouse!

That salesman lost whatever commission he may have earned.  I got annoyed with the store for the bait and switch.   How does that work in your company?  Can customers order online or via telephone more effectively than in the brick and mortar or face to face with sales?

I also have recently heard several firsthand accounts of successful salespeople making and/or exceeding goals only to have the company instantly change the comp plan so as not to pay the earned commission.  In two of those cases, the salesperson promptly left and pursued a more promising opportunity.

Do salespeople lose out because their companies prefer not to pay them commissions?  Or does the left hand of a company not know what the right is offering?  Or both?

It may add a few bucks to the bottom line to eliminate the middleman (the salesperson) but it looks very bad to the customer when dealing with a barely knowledgeable sale person (if one can even be found).  Companies talk about shortages in finding good help and in particular good salespeople, but I suspect some of that talk has more to do with how some companies poorly manage the people they have.

Competitive advantages lie in how a company’s cultural norms translate into customer experiences.

Turnover in salespeople is costly – training expenses, lost sales when customer sales contact consistency is lost, and declining employee attitudes.  All translate to customer experience.  Be sure you know what customers experience from your organization, and what impacts that experience, before integrity ‘outages’ become commonplace.

For those companies who truly value their people, and have good systems in place that encourage employee action on behalf of customers, they may be gaining a significant competitive advantage.  Time to tell that story with quantified competitive advantages.

We know from recent double blind market research studies that meeting promised delivery dates ranks very high with customers.  Is meeting promises at the top of your customers’ buying criteria?  Double blind research will tell you (and we can help with that).  If it is, are your salespeople empowered to make that happen?  Or are they hamstrung by a computer system?

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