Shaking the Tree

It is always a good idea to change territories, customers, etc. Why?

1. Initially, to even out the number and size of the accounts that each rep is responsible for. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity. And remember – the sign of a fair settlement is that neither party is entirely happy with the results.
2. Comfort is the enemy of a good sales team. It inevitably leads to sloth. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to shake things up, and on a regular basis. It forces you to snap out of comfort zones, to grow, and to really think again. Change should be constant – an endless refinement of the engine.
3. If your reps have physical territories or repeat customers, over time there is a tendency to offer discounts before the customer asks for them – a variation of Helsinki Syndrome. The rep begins to identify more with their long-term customers than with their organization, shaving margin to “stay friends”. Shrinking margins – especially self-inflicted shrinkage – are death.

If you happen to run a call center (sales, service, or support), once a quarter or so, make everyone change desks. You can either randomly assign the new seating or (my preference) choose who sits next to who based on each employee's development stage. Here's the reasoning:

  • You have one rep who is consistently the best on the phone. Why not put everyone on the team next to them, one at a time, so that a little of their competence rubs off? 
  • Call center reps who sit next to each other too long have a tendency to get chatty. Don't get me wrong - you want some chatter, because congruity is part of your culture - but not to the point that it gets in the way of work. 
  • Every rep does things slightly different, and every rep has different areas of expertise. By exposing your reps to everyone else on the team, you help to 'homogenize' the call process and prevent knowledge 'pocketing'. 
  • Moving reps around helps to prevent the development of cliques (remember those from high school? remember how badly they sucked?), which inevitably lead to conflict. 
  • Anyone who complains about sitting under an air vent, not sitting next to a window, sitting next to someone who is a loud talker, sitting in the cube that smells funny, etc., you officially get an equal shot at every seat in the house. For awhile. 
  • Excitement. Call center life is dull, dull, dull. Anything different is good. 
  • Bonus: When people change desks, they clean. Everything. That means that the rep who's been using that outdated price list that's been up on their cube wall so long that it's grown a beard throws it away and asks to copy someone else's updated price list. It also means that people re-evaluate what's really important, because who wants to move junk? Ditto those old salad dressing pouches and dusty memos.

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