At sales meetings, I like to hand out Double Stuff Oreos and watch people enjoy them. At least half the group wants to know where the milk is! I enjoy seeing how people eat them. Some eat them whole, and others pull them apart and eat the cream first. After they have enjoyed their cookies, I ask, “What makes an Oreo an Oreo?”
The most common answer I hear is, “It’s the good stuff in the middle.” And that’s exactly right. Without the good stuff in the middle, you have two plain chocolate wafers that are nothing to get excited about. It’s the cream that makes Oreos special.
That’s what your salesforce’s job is – to be the good stuff in the middle between your company and your customers.
A sales rep’s job is to bring the people who perform the products or services you provide together with the people who need those products or services. That makes sales reps the good stuff in the middle.
But what happens if the stuff in the middle is no good?
Have you ever gotten hold of a stale Oreo? I have, and it was… ick! The cream was dry, hard, and brittle, so it didn’t “glue” the two wafers together. It didn’t melt in my mouth, and it didn’t taste good. It made the wafers easy to pull apart, and the cream didn’t stick to either one of them. It broke up into pieces and fell apart, and some of it fell on the floor. I certainly didn’t want another one. Two wafers without the cream in the middle are no good! Without the cream there, holding them together, the wafers lie there by themselves, nothing special to eat and not connected at all.
Are your sales reps stale Oreos?
Two halves who need each other but can’t get together – that’s your company and your customers if your sales reps are not cultivating relationships with the employees whose job it is to deliver whatever they’re selling.
A good sales rep knows that he/she has two kinds of customers: internal and external. They must have good relationships with the key players in your organization, as well as your customer’s. To be the good stuff in the middle – and hold your business together – your sales reps must have good relationships on both sides.
Too many times, sales reps spend time building relationships in the field, only to come back to the office and expect to find customer service, marketing, operations, or even HR jumping to serve them. But they can’t expect that if they worked as hard to cultivate relationships with their internal customers – your employees – as much as with external customers, or the people who buy what they sell.
There are times when a sales rep needs to ask for a favor or go outside of the normal chain of command to meet a customer’s needs. If there are no well-established internal relationships, that sales rep is relying on luck alone to get things done, which often results in dissatisfied customers whose expectations are not met… or two wafers who need each other, but can’t get together because the good stuff in the middle is missing.
Ask yourself these questions:
1) Do our customers see my people as the good stuff or liaison in the middle? Or do they see us as a hindrance to getting answers or solving problems?
2) Do our employees look forward to our sales reps’ presence, or do they avoid them?
3) Do our sales reps make people feel better about themselves? Do they display a positive attitude, can-do spirit?
4) Am I encouraging my reps to build and nurture internal relationships? If so, how?
5) Do I budget money for building internal relationships with things such as lunches, events, or other team-building activities with other departments?
6) Do my sales reps see the internal members of our company as their customer? Or do they think our employees need to see them as customers?