At times the relationship between the home office and field sales is like a Cold War. An Communications Iron Curtain is drawn.
The threat of hostility exists- “You’re fired for not performing!”- “I quit because you’ve built a wall around us, restricting our independence!” Regardless of which “side” someone is on in the relationship, the thinking is the same- “They are the problem because philosophically they don’t “get it” when it comes to understanding us. We’re not going to do anything to thaw the relationship until they make up for past transgressions.” This sales cold war is a productivity killer.
The major cause of the Sales-Home Office Cold War is lack of trust. The big difference between the historical Cold War and the home office/ field sales relationship is the home office and field sales are on the same side. Thus, two groups on the same team are struggling against each other trying to grow the business.
Interestingly, the lack of trust is more of a perception issue. “Out of sight, out of mind” therefore translates to “blind insanity”. The home office is paranoid that the salespeople are golfing and drinking three- martini lunches. They don’t trust field sales is “doing their job”.
The more amazing belief from management’s perspective is that some members of their field sales team do not know how to sell. The “fix” is to require reporting on account activity to force better sales habits. This creates some good fictional writing on the part of field sales, except for the top performers who are excused from this exercise because- ahem- they are top performers. Or they quit and go somewhere else when forced to comply with the nanny-exercises.
On the flip-side, field sales does not trust the intentions of management when management requires field reports. The thinking is management will hound sales into making unrealistic sales projections (forecasts or “budgets”). Then management beats on field sales to bring home the coerced commitments.
Ironically, field sales does not feel management listens to them when field sales does provide management with field updates. The reports are labored over, sent in, and nothing happens.
While we don’t advocate a silver bullet mentality (one thing that does it all) for any problem or solution, we do think that the Field Sales- Home Office Cold War can go through a substantial warming trend via Mutual Action Planning. Mutual Action Planning helps tear down the walls of the home office- field sales cold war by creating real business activity instead of assuming inactivity. Over time, the repeated iterations, candid conversations, and team accomplishments created by Mutual Action Planning become a habit. This habit eventually creates something more important: trust in the relationship.
The objective of Mutual Action Planning is not to force salespeople to conform or to change sales behavior. It’s to create a collaborative management- field sales growth culture. Mutual Action Planning provides the strategic means and tools to dynamically engage field sales with management to ensure that the activities executed by the team are in line with management’s strategic vision. At the same time, management commits to providing the team with the necessary resources to execute the mission. Through Mutual Action Planning, communications continuously flows, verifying that each party’s actions are in line with the objectives and agreements. Finally, it provides for necessary contingency plans due to assumptions that proved to be wrong, unforeseen threats, or unexpected opportunities.
In plain language, Mutual Action Planning gets management and the ground forces operating from the same playbook on the same page with the same game objective in mind. Mutual Action Planning does not tear down the Iron Curtain between field sales and the home office. It erodes it, until finally the Iron Curtain is dissolved and forgotten.