Activity: taking your eye off the ball

Carolyn is thinking of leaving her job in workplace recruitment – her job is to help clients find the right people for their organisations.

She has been in this job for three years and until recently she has enjoyed it. However, in recent months she has been under pressure from her supervisor regarding her sales performance. Carolyn doesn’t know what to do, the tactics that once worked are no longer producing outcomes and some of her best customers are no longer ringing.

By accident she meets the managing director of her organisation, Julie, at a lunch bar and Julie invites Carolyn to join her as they eat their sandwiches. When Julie asks Carolyn about her work – Carolyn feels an outpouring of emotion; she tells her MD that she is thinking of leaving, that she is under pressure and that her supervisor is no longer happy with her performance [why did I say all that she thinks]. She listens patiently, appears empathetic, asks a few questions and Carolyn starts to calm down.

Julie asks; “Carolyn, what is your strategy to get your sales back on track?” Carolyn explains that she hasn’t got a strategy.

Julie asks; “what has your supervisor recommended?”

Carolyn replies that the supervisor said, “Work harder and sell more.”

Julie reflected for a few moments on this comment. “mmm – perhaps not a lot of help. I was in a similar situation myself, once. What happened was I worked real hard got lots of customers and spent all my time looking after my loyal customers: so much so that I forgot to get new customers. Then, I lost two big customers – bang-bang – one customer sold his business: the new owners already had a relationship with another recruitment company and didn’t want to change and the other one was where my contact left, and her replacement wanted to change everything to make her own mark. My sales just evaporated overnight, and I was desperate.”

“What did you do?” Asked Carolyn

Well, said Julie, I explained the situation to a colleague, he was a kind of mentor and then I went back to doing what got me the customers in the first place I went looking for new customers. I went to visit some of the people I suspected might want to do business with me and then I started building lists of prospects and calling on them; eventually my sales figures recovered. And I learnt a big lesson; keep populating your salespipeline.”

Carolyn thanked Julie and said now she had the beginning of a plan.

Then Julie said, “make a list of suspects, craft a sales script that is tailored to them, what benefits you can provide, then give them a call sound them out. Carolyn – start with your sales script it helps reduce anxiety. Keep it real short and to the point. One thing that worked for me was when I asked people for help. I would say ‘I am trying to find this chap a job and I was hoping you could help me’ and then if they didn’t have any vacancies I would ask ‘have you any suggestions that might help me find this chap a job’ and then I would ask ‘May I call you back next time I have someone good’. My script took 45 seconds. Follow up every call with a short note thanking them for listening and attach a brochure… and look anytime you need someone to talk to please just knock on my door.”

As they walked back from the lunch bar to the office Julie [the MD] asked, “Do you think other staff are in the same situation as you are?”


This activity highlights a number of important lessons – consider and discuss each of the following:

  • Acquiring customers to keep the salespipeline populated is an ongoing task
  • If you have all your eggs in one basket watch the basket carefully
  • Different salespipeline tasks [attract, retain, enhance] require different sales tactics.
  • Seek advice from those more experienced [they have probably made the same mistakes]
  • Salespeople need nurturing – if you were a sales manager – how could you keep your team on track to achieve their objectives?

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