Their’s but to do and die…

Do or die

Their’s but to do and die…

“Lord Raglan’s orders are that the cavalry should attack immediately,” said Captain Nolan.

“Attack sir! Attack what? What guns, sir? Where and what to do?” responded Lord Lucan.

In the Crimean War, the British cavalry were sent to attack the Russians situated at the far end of a valley. The Generals breakfasted on the overlooking hill, watching the scene unfold. The only problem with the glory of it all was that the cavalry were charging into a battery of cannon. Many of those that broke through were cut down by Cossack lancers waiting for them. The outcome of the battle, if we can call it that, was quite predictable. Lord Tennyson’s poemThe Charge of the Light Brigade, provides a sense of it and is well worth a read.

How often do we send our sales teams into the field armed with no more than small arms and guts? Catalogues and business cards, hope and bravery. Cannon fodder. Sales managers watch from the hill, planning the next sales conference for those that survive the fray. And marketing managers? Many have never felt the heat of battle. As a French General, watching from that hill in Crimea, observed: “It is magnificent – but it is not war!”

What can Sales expect in terms of support?

Here are 6 points to consider:

  1. Align behind Sales
    For starters, the entire business must be behind Sales. For those watching from the hill, consider that the rep is the closest to the battle. Sales, or the lack thereof, is the single biggest risk in any business. The entire business must therefore understand and define their roles in supporting the sales effort. The Sales or Marketing Director can facilitate in creating a sales-focused culture but ultimately it is the responsibility of the CEO.
  2. Brand
    Give the reps a flag that they can carry proudly into battle. The brand. Given that the unseen or intangible part of your brand is the most powerful part of your business, if you get the business aligned and behind Sales, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, then chances are that you have succeeded with 85% of the job at hand. The brand is their rallying call and strength.
  3. Effective marketing
    Marketing managers must understand field reality and, well, markets. They are not there to produce brochures and websites – design studios do that. Marketers are there to help choose the battlefields where the business has a good chance of success. Only an idiot or somebody with a death wish sends troops into battle with limited chance of success. And they must arm Sales and the business with a brand message that is crystal clear – its sound must resonate long before the rep knocks on the prospects door. Marketing must also provide the artillery for Sales. Too often, well-intentioned campaigns explode somewhere far off the target – always spectacular, but does it clear a path for the cavalry to gallop through?
  4. People & Structures
    Make sure that your sales structures are right and that each rep has a well-considered battle plan. Point them to the high ground that needs to be taken, make sure YOU know what they are up against, show them how to get there and make sure that the business is 100% behind them. Also, place the right reps onto the right battlefields. A foot soldier just doesn’t cut it in the cavalry and vice versa.
  5. Celebrate & Encourage
    Be there when they come back bloody-nosed. I do not know of any rep who sets out to fail. Turn “failure” into a win by helping the rep to learn from the experience. And when they win, even if it is a small skirmish, shout it out loud because, if your business is aligned behind Sales, it is a victory for all. In a deadly battle where every bit of ground gained is important, it is not just the kill that signals a victory – just getting an opportunity to pitch to a large account is a victory, a foothold.
  6. Respect
    Respect your reps, the good one’s are like gold. They are brave, passionate and professional. Throughout the day, they experience passion and pain, perhaps more so than anybody else in the business. They win, they lose and then an hour later they are up again for the next appointment, full of hope. There is far more than money at stake for them – it is about honour, their worth is on the scoreboard for all to see.

We ask our reps to ensure the continuity of our businesses. What do they ask for in return?

That we finish our breakfast, get off the hill and join the battle.

Gary Hendrickse
CEO Sherpa
July 2008

Contact Sherpa to find out how you can align your business behind Sales and develop a confident and winning business.

Sherpa Brand & Design Agency
admin@sherpa.co.za