What Support Should I Give My Sales Force?

Honor and glory typically go to the soldiers on the front line.  In business, the front-line soldiers are your sales force.  Sales reps are in the field working with your customers, understanding their needs, developing solutions, selling your products and services.  Your sales reps drive revenue every day.

But, can they do it alone?  No.

Sales support teams are often overlooked.  In the military, they are comparable to the support units that manage supply lines, cook meals, evacuate the injured, and handle logistics. When they are effective, they are all but invisible.  When they are not, progress grinds to a halt.  In a sales organization, that results in incomplete proposals, inaccurate pricing models, little or no collateral, slow contract negotiation and poor execution.

Sales support teams are the lifeblood of your sales force.  They provide your sales reps with the tools, knowledge and logistics needed to succeed.  There are three primary sales support functions:  technical support, administrative support and marketing support.

Technical Support

Most often, your sales reps don’t have the depth of technical knowledge that your customers have.  Your sales rep’s strength is not necessarily in his or her depth of technical knowledge, but in his or her sales skills complemented by a veneer of technical knowledge.  When your customer wants or needs to get very technical, your sales rep may call for technical support from elsewhere in your organization.

Your technical support team may consist of technical sales reps, systems engineers, product engineers or design engineers. Some technical support team members may work with customers as a regular part of their job.  They accompany sales reps on customer calls and advise on the technical aspects of sales solutions.  Other technical support team members may have full-time responsibilities in other parts of your organization, such as manufacturing, production, product development or R&D.  They rarely interact with customers, but when they do, their voice is both powerful and respected.

When your customer needs to understand how your solution will address his or her needs at a technical level, you need to provide technical support to close the sale.

Administrative Support

Administrative sales support truly keeps your sales force efficient.  Without administrative support, your sales reps will spend more of their precious time in the office completing paperwork and less time selling to your customers.  Teamed with an effective sales rep, the cost of administrative support is inexpensive compared to having your rep in the office not out selling.

Sales administrators perform these functions: order entry, contract preparation and review, proposal development, proposal assembly, special bid pricing, logistics, management of loaner or demo programs, appointment scheduling, and legal review.  Not all sales administrators perform all functions by themselves.  Sometimes they coordinate or manage the back-office functions; sometimes they do the jobs themselves.  A lot depends on how much needs to be done, the volume of deals and the availability of specialized resources in your company.

Marketing Support

Marketing sales support personnel provide your sales team with the tools they need to sell your products and services.  They develop sales collateral, programs and tools.  Collateral includes:  presentations, white papers, and product specification sheets.  Programs include:  trade show events, incentive programs, loaner or demonstration programs, seminars, webinars and customer communications.  Tools include:  pricing models, business cards, letterhead, web sites, compensation plans and competitive assessments.  While these lists are not comprehensive, they give you an idea of the types of services marketing support teams provide.

Marketing support teams give your sales reps reasons to visit and re-visit your customers and prospects.  They develop sales messages which position your product in the market relative to competitors.  These messages also articulate how your products or services address your customers’ needs.

In addition to technical, administrative and marketing support, your sales force also demands and receives support from other parts of your organization such as:  IT, human resources, and finance.  Selling is truly a team effort.  All functions must work together to achieve your business goals.

For more information, contact Wallace Management Group at (203) 834-0143 or email David Wallace.

© 2009, David P. Wallace

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