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What sales manager hasn’t had to deal with the following situation? A potential advertising client calls the radio station and requests information or offer documents and just happens to mention sending a query by email several days previously, but, unfortunately, still hasn’t received a response.
This is when the search for the guilty party starts. Who took the original request and then failed to process it? It usually turns out that the back office forwarded the request in the proper form to the sales rep or colleague allegedly responsible, but the person in question simply didn’t have the time to reply to the query.
No one on the team was purposely negligent or consciously wasting a sales opportunity. But, naturally, the situation was not processed satisfactorily. How many potential new customers have already been lost in this way? Which queries on the website, front desk, by phone or mail have indeed been “registered” by the station, but never lead to a trusting customer relationship?
Even if sales teams are always inherently interested in new sales and should thus work with an emphasis on service, it could still be worth taking a much closer look at the relationship between the back office and the sales force and the workflows between these departments and colleagues
Who has what tasks?
Many back-office employees see their jobs as manning the phone, forwarding email queries to sales reps, writing up offers when requested, analyzing market research reports, counting plans, processing data and similar tasks. Basically: having the back of the much “more important” sales reps.
This outdated perception and division of labor, however, suppress the employees’ development potential and waste sales opportunities for the sales team and the radio station. In this day and age, it should be possible to develop the full potential of all members of the sales team. A lack of skilled workers, high customer expectations, and pushing sales targets rules out any other strategy. The back office is part of the sales team and makes a very active contribution to its work.
However, before this can happen, the environment must often first be created and mutual perceptions and expectations clarified and adjusted. Experience shows that sales reps who have been in business for a long time often think they are the only ones who know how to make a sale. They would even view any involvement of the back office with “their” customers as meddling. And, consequently, some back-office employees probably fear that they will get in the way of the sales team, are a bother to customers or might not be able to manage their other tasks.
It is thus the sale manager’s job to make it clear that everyone on the team is equally responsible for customer satisfaction and sales. Perhaps to varying degrees. But in such a way that every team member in the position they hold can have a positive effect and that together it is possible to achieve more sales. This is an attitude we should all foster and demand.
In the example above, when the request was forwarded or while forwarding it to the sales rep, the respective back-office employee could have conducted a friendly conversation with the interested potential customer, cleared up the customer’s initial questions and provided information about the next steps. In this way, potential customers feel they are taken seriously and appreciated from the outset. Even if the back office is not able to answer every question, this is not a problem at this juncture of the customer journey. The interested potential customer now knows that a reply will soon be forthcoming. And, in-house, the back-office team in the next step can clear up what the next steps should be. Does the responsible colleague on the sales team have time to contact the customer at short notice? Or should the back office be the point of contact for now?
These internal arrangements should take place daily, e.g., in a short morning meeting, regardless of whether virtually or in person. The use of a shared CRM system should be a given anyway.
Improve upselling opportunities
The back office should not only be actively involved in processing leads. There are incredible opportunities specifically in the area of upselling when colleagues and assistants in scheduling or media service use their often vast store of knowledge about advertisers and their own undertakings to sell additional products and services. Here are just a few examples:
- Scheduling is familiar with all the customer’s campaigns and immediately recognizes if just a few additional bookings would move the advertising company into the next discount level. Campaign management can make this the topic of the next call to the customer and propose suitable new offers.
- The assistant to the sales rep has found out from the customer’s assistant that the usual contact at the branch is currently difficult to reach because of a remodeling of the branch office. The sales rep’s assistant can use this information to offer help on a possible advertising campaign for the reopening.
- The media service prepared a branch analysis for a member of the sales team and discovered that a certain advertising product/package is particularly effective for this branch. All team members should be given this information at the latest at the next sales meeting to also be able to offer the corresponding product/package to other customers in the same branch.
Precisely because the back office can contribute so much to mutual success and to customer satisfaction, they should also share in the radio station’s/broadcaster’s commission and bonus system. Everyone in the sales department works on the common (sales) targets, and everyone profits from them. There is no limit to what form this can take. A good system clearly reveals the value of every single member of the team as a whole.
Anyone who puts together or restructures a sales team in this way is also positioned better to meet the challenges posed by a lack of skilled workers. In my experience, there is greater fluctuation among the sales reps at radio stations than in the back office. A back office that is independent and actively and productively involved in sales can at least absorb part of this deficit. And sales reps feel they are in good hands and supported when they know they have a great back-office team to rely on that is working toward to same goals.
Yours, Andrea Anders
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