Direction unknown – Roadblocks/Solutions

Company needs to regain strategic focus
A distributor of industrial components faced a rapidly changing marketplace. Competition was becoming more aggressive as small competitors merged and offered advantages the company was unable to match. The firm lost two of its largest accounts, significantly affecting cashflow.
Morale was declining throughout the company. People who left were not replaced, adding additional work and increasing the stress level of those who remained. To provide at least minimum coverage in every area, some employees were moved into positions for which they were not suited and did not like.
The company’s sales representatives were very technically competent and had the knowledge and experience to offer solutions to the customers. Yet the pressures they faced from their buyers convinced them the only way they could compete was by lowering prices. As a result, the company was losing profit margins along with market share.
The leaders of company were not perceived as being in control of the company’s future. A second problem was the failure of the veteran sales reps to update their sales approach.
The leader’s first actions should be to develop a vision, prepare a strategic plan for the company, and share both with his people. The people must regain their confidence in the future of the company and the security of knowing their jobs are not in jeopardy. Until the employees know that the company is operating by plan rather than reacting in desperation, they will question and resist every move and directive – if not depart for employment elsewhere.
While all areas of the company do affect customer satisfaction, the sales team is the front line and responsible for bringing in business. The ability of those sales reps to build relationships with both existing and prospective buyers is crucial to counteract the barrage of new competitors. Professional selling skills must be honed so the reps become expert at selling the value being added to their product lines.
Each sales rep must have a written plan directing the activities that will bring him or her the desired results. The niche they fill must be identified so they know where to prioritize their time. Every aspect of their sales effort should be sharpened and focused. This requires training. But it requires the ongoing direction and support from the leaders as well.
“Roadblocks” is provided by The Performance Group inc, a Brookfield training and consulting firm. Small Business Times readers who would like to see a “roadblock” address in this column can contact the company at 784-2922, or via e-mail at
June 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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