How to Enable Your Sales Team While Controlling Costs

September 4, 2018 Matt Pollock

Jenny is a B2B sales associate. She's on the road a lot and she doesn't want to get caught without the proper marketing collateral for her meetings. To make sure she has what she needs at all times, she orders high volumes of materials from the company store and keeps them in her trunk.

Todd is also in sales. He attends a lot of trade shows and wants to make sure he has the hottest premium items available for giveaway at each show. So, when a new item comes out, he orders all of the stock out of the company store.

Then there's Chuck. Chuck accidentally entered the wrong quantity in his last order of brochures from the company store—and he now has ten times as many as he needed.

Then there's Chuck. Chuck accidentally entered the wrong quantity in his last order of brochures from the company store—and he now has ten times as many as he needed.

While these characters are fictional, their stories are not. 

Managing the use of sales collateral can be a challenge, to say the least. Sales reps often inadvertently misuse company stores—from hoarding products in the trunks of their cars to the more wasteful instances like over-ordering literature that goes stale in a non-controlled storage practice. I've even seen a sales rep accidentally add too many zeros to his order—an entire pallet of materials was delivered to the client's office.

And you can't necessarily blame the field sales team. Sales people devise solutions that fit their needs based upon gaps in the current corporate process. Sellers want to be sure they are armed with sales sheets and giveaways at all times. Many have used this need as a justification for having a trunk load of literature serving as an on-demand mobile warehouse. But these four-wheeled storage facilities tend to have serious obsolescence problems and may be putting your organization at risk for compliance-related concerns.

It’s a challenge for the marketer: how do we provide or allow access to collateral while controlling costs to manage and support a high-performance team? Here are a few best practices:

  • Provide your sales force with a sense of confidence that the materials they order will arrive in time for their meetings and events.
  • Make the order experience easy and simple to use.
  • Put both back-office solutions—technology and people—in place to review and approve unusual orders or ship methods to control for mistakes.

The most efficient and effective way to follow these best practices is with an online portal that keeps your sales reps—both inside and outside—on the same page when ordering. Through this portal, you not only allow your team to work together, but you set in place limitations that prevent misuse.

Harnessing the Power of the Portal

Think of a sales portal like your own little ecommerce store. The portal centralizes all items available for "purchase," as well as all customer information (whether the customer is a sales associate or one of your actual customers). The portal also keeps track of all orders and order tracking, so you don't have to search through your email or stacks of paperwork to find information on a given order. In sum, it's a central location that allows for better management of your sales enablement materials. 

A good sales portal also allows you to create a hierarchy of approval to limit orders by time and value. This managerial approval chain puts necessary gates into the ordering process, fulfilling collateral in a judicious manner. You can limit shipping options by cost, specify allowed quantities, and set up budgetary limits by sales rep to control cost. You can even limit which collateral is available to which rep or team.

The biggest advantages of using a sales portal include:

  • Maintaining control of your inventory and fulfillment while still enabling sales to drive business.
  • Empowering the field team to order 24x7 via the web using a mobile device or desktop, and giving partners the ability to order and personalize materials that follow your branding.
  • Streamlining your fulfillment of products, collateral, premiums and personalized documents.
  • Expediting distribution with convenient ordering, tracking and inventory management.
  • Reducing waste, lowering inventory and only printing what you need, when you need it.

Let's go back to Todd and his trade shows for a moment. Whether it's golf balls or portable device chargers, we can't blame Todd for trying to rush in and scoop up all of the hottest premium items. But it is a problem for marketing and the rest of the sales team when the popular items sell out to one person. With a sales portal, marketing can assign limits on these popular items by sales person—according to quantity or budget. For example, Todd might be limited to 100 logo-emblazoned mugs in a given timeframe. You can also assign limits by sales groups, such as top-tier producers to mid-level and newbies.

Having a problem with obsolescence? The portal can help with that, too. If you know that the marketing team will be updating a document in the near future, you can limit orders of the existing document until the new version is released (Jenny doesn’t need a trunk full of materials that will soon be outdated).

All of this helps to reduce cost, prevent misuse and limit mistakes like Chuck's unintentional over-ordering collateral. 

Proactive Sales Enablement

What I’m talking about here is more than just offering support, and it’s more than just reigning in the sales team. A sales portal also allows you to proactively enable the sales team by distributing items as you see fit. Got a new sell sheet? You can send some to Jenny for her next meetings. Send Todd a few of your new golf shirts so he can be the first to test them out. You can ensure your sales team is getting the materials they need in timely fashion. In my experience, proactively providing materials to the sales team helps to keep your offerings top of mind, resulting in more use of the materials you work so hard to provide.

At the end of the day, the sales teams are getting the collateral they need to help them drive business. Marketing is able to effectively manage collateral to control costs and improve use. This is how it all works together to create an efficient system to the benefit of the entire organization.  

Learn more about nexTouch, the custom fulfillment portal we offer at Harte Hanks.

About the Author

Matt Pollock

As Vice President of Solution Sales at Harte Hanks, Matt uses his 20 years of experience in fulfillment operations to manage and evaluate fulfillment operations and market solutions. He is responsible for business strategy and consulting, and developing strategic plans for multi-site distribution of literature and product sample programs. Matt's expertise extends to unit management, digital printing and print-on-demand, small package shipping and all aspects of warehouse and fulfillment operations.

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