Improve sales communication through management of informal and internal communication channels.
Who owns the know-how? So much of any company’s value is tied up in the knowledge carried around in people’s heads. Customer facing staff are depositories for a huge treasury of know-how wealth. There is a significant opportunity to increase sales performance in most organisations by developing, managing, and preserving the tacit know-how that otherwise evaporates.
When sales staff leave they take their know how with them. It is almost completely lost to their former employer. Even when an orderly handover is effected, the transfer of information is superficial and incomplete. A literal brain dump is still science fiction.
Many people don't know what they know until they have need of the knowledge, and successors can’t know what questions to ask until they have experienced their new responsibilities or position for a few months.
A healthy flow of informal internal communication fosters wider ownership of the unwritten know-how. Collective ownership of the knowledge increases organisational resilience. Changes cause less disruption. Vagaries of the market and competitive initiatives have less impact on headway. Outstanding results are easier to achieve.
Businesses can increase sales performance by improving their internal communication grapevine. This should be a required element of performance management. Better sales communication amongst team members will increase results. Asking the question, ‘what actions will improve internal communications?’ will lead to many answers however, few have the time to implement the ideas.
Appointing an internal communications officer or even a full time manager may be a worthwhile investment. Just as real grapevines need a lot of tender care and attention to thrive, a company’s informal information mechanism is more like a living plant than a reliable piece of machinery.
Let’s consider what such a manager might do. Discovering the true reasons that customers buy would be a good starting point. Salespeople ought to know but most don’t. After a sale, how often do organisations or individuals take the trouble to find out what really made the difference? Marketing staff do some of this work to produce case studies yet the publishable story may not be the one that tells the truth about your success.
A grapevine manager would dig out the real reasons and pass the word. He or she may even be able to keep in touch with key customers to determine the ongoing benefits they obtain from what you sell them.
Keeping track of mistakes could be another duty. No one wants to draw attention to their mistakes so many go unsung. An internal communication manager could collect the stories while providing anonymity for the perpetrators. This way awareness of what didn't work and what can go wrong will be more widely disseminated and staff will make better use of collective experience.
No one ever writes down the stories and intelligence that an organisation acquires in the course of becoming successful. It is invaluable material that evaporates as a things evolve. Inevitably the same old lessons have to be re learnt.
Giving someone responsibility for recording corporate history as it happens would preserve the intelligence. This person would have the time to capture all the important learning, providing he or she didn't have too many other duties.
Grapevine managers would need to be exceptional communicators. Important skills would be questioning, listening, analysis, coaching, and presenting. To do the job properly the person would need to be part of the management team, but disconnected from the need to achieve short-term results. They could also be tasked with developing the organisation’s creativity.
Problems could be subjected to organised brainstorming sessions where team members from different groups are brought together into a think tank.
Most companies have a hierarchy of people at different skill levels. Some are beginners who have lots of enthusiasm but little skill. Then their are solid performers who consistently achieve what is asked of them. At the top are those who have completely mastered what they do.
Businesses can increase sales performance if the more accomplished senior people act as a coach or mentor for some of those with less experience or less developed skills.
Traditionally, the creation of this type of knowledge transfer programme would fit within a human resources remit; however, HR staff are often too busy managing recruitment and ensuring compliance with legislation. An internal communication manager could ensure that the wealth of experience and know-how held by employees is deliberately disseminated through a formal coach and mentor programme.
Communication across functions and departments is vital for a company grapevines to remain healthy. Organising events to help break down artificial barriers could also fall into the remit of a dedicated manager.
Beer busts are Californian IT company tradition. On Friday afternoons, around 5pm, everyone in the company gathers in one room to gossip. Snacks and drinks help create a relaxed party atmosphere. Sometimes company executives will make short, informal presentations to update everyone on what is happening.
The reasons that people fail with an assignments usually fall into three categories. Either they didn't understand what had to be done, or they didn’t know how to do the tasks involved, or they had other priorities that took precedence. Better sales communication improves things on all fronts. When people succeed, the company succeeds.
Article by Clive Miller
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