The Helsinki (Sales) Syndrome

One of the truisms about sales in any business is this: After a certain period of time, sales representatives begin to offer discounts before Customers ask for them. At first, I thought that this had to do with having a stable of regular Customers - people that the sales representative began to think of as friends - but it turned out to be true when I managed call centers with one-off Customers, as well.

For obvious reasons, you don’t want sales representatives to proactively offer discounts. It’s the Customer’s job to ask for a discount, not the sales representative’s place to throw it out there. To keep this from happening, there are several things that you can do. I recommend using more than one:
  • Constantly check each sales representative’s numbers. Challenge them on each discount given. Remember: You can’t expect performance if you don’t measure results. 
  • Regularly shift territories. Quarterly, annually - the shortest interval that you think your business allows. This way, if a sales representative is getting too close to the Customers in a given territory, they have a whole new group of Customers often enough that the effect is minimized. 
  • Shift sales representative’s duties regularly so that they only spend a certain amount of time directly interacting with Customers. This may be a regular shift from inside to outside sales, to scheduled sales training, cross-training time with the marketing staff, the product development staff, etc.

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