Account executives generally think of their role as one that generates revenue and gross profit. This assumption is mostly – but not entirely – correct. Sales professionals can also make a serious contribution to cost containment if they pay attention to it.
The problem is, however, that they rarely give enough thought to what happens to a project once they hand it off – or drop it off – until someone downstream squawks. Here are some ways that sales can influence future (often avoidable) costs.
More robust discovery and discussion with the client prevents callbacks, engineering questions, design delays, and miscommunication about client expectations. No, this job isn’t “just like the last one.” Interview shortcuts can be costly. Sales professionals should:
- Follow a checklist
- Document what was discussed
- Verify functionality expectations with the client
If they don’t, they’re not only forfeiting available margin, but they also make themselves and the company look bad.
Too often, sales reps do more of a “drive-by” than a “walk-through” site survey. They may rely on old drawings, take the client’s word for inventory or condition of owner‐furnished equipment (OFE), do site surveys without the client, or fail to document the survey with information and annotated photos. Ultimately, they (or someone else) have to go back to finish the job, leading to added time and costs. A sales pro will engage the client and even point out site challenges that are likely to increase the estimate to come.
Scopes of Work
Work scopes that are sloppy, incomplete, or aimed only inwardly at the engineers do several things – and all of them are bad. Scopes need to be written to and for the client to validate performance and functionality expectations, and other project considerations. They need to be accurate and thorough, not only to make sure the client “bought what you sold” and to avoid the threat of scope creep, but to set the stage for possible change orders that may arise.
If there are constraints, concerns, or sensitivities attached to the job, discuss this with engineering rather than manipulate information to produce the estimate you want – especially when you know it can’t be fulfilled. Don’t blindside the folks downstream. They are on your side; they’re not the competition or the enemy.
The sales pro pays attention to both clients during each of the above steps: the external client and the internal client. He or she knows that it takes about $100 more revenue to add another $10 of profit, but only takes $10 in savings to add another $10 in profit. Most people can only do one of those; savvy salespeople can do both.
For more information about these subjects, or to get help in putting them to work, contact Navigate Management Consulting at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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