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The most important phase of a sale is implementation

Posted by Philip Kreindler on 17-Aug-2015 10:17:00

The_most_important_phase_of_sales_is_implementationApparently the French like to buy their hand dishwashing liquid in large containers, 1.5 litres is quite usual. I confess I don’t do much dishwashing myself and I am no packaging expert but when my client handed me a 1.5 litre liquid container I thought it felt a bit flimsy. The French supermarket chain that was buying my clients hand dishwashing liquid felt the same. So they delisted the product.

Bad news spreads fast. My client was part of a group of companies who supplied a wide range of products to this large supermarket chain. This failure meant that every product from every company in the group was scrutinised and the reputation of the whole group was affected, making any attempt to introduce new lines much harder.

And it wasn’t even my clients’ fault! They had specified a better container from their supplier who had underperformed. But it shows just how important implementation is.

Under promise over deliver

Is what happened to my customer unusual? Sadly not. I had another example recently of almost exactly the same thing. My client won a very large contract to roll out a new generation of broadband telecommunication across a European country. But because one supplier failed to supply a component the roll out was delayed. Customers were disappointed and all sorts of people failed to meet their targets. Not surprisingly, my client got no further work from that customer. 

If I look at our recent research it’s clear that implementation and the way Sales Professionals handle it is a widespread problem. Despite promises made during the Sales Process less than a third (28%) of customers said Sales People kept in touch during implementation. Worse still, only 1 in 3 customers (30%) said vendors always delivered everything they promised and more than 1 in 10 (11%) said vendors never deliver everything they promised.

Are Sales People responsible for implementation?

Perhaps not ultimately, but there are things you can do to increase the chances of delivering the value proposition in full so your customers are happy and likely to buy from you again. 

These are the most common problems that I see along with my suggestions for avoiding them.

You have sold something you cannot deliver

Make sure you consult with all departments responsible for delivery before you submit your proposal to the customer. Without making your value proposition less attractive, try to promise a little less than you are actually able to deliver.

Production is not properly briefed

The information flow from Sales to Production is often poor and that is something you as a Sales Professional can do something about. As the Sales Process progresses you should keep production informed so they can plan resources. Once the sale is agreed there should be a formal handover to fully brief production on the customer’s expectations.

Production does not deliver against expectations

Keep in touch with production throughout the implementation process. Then, If problems do arise - and the more innovative the solution the more likely this is to happen - you should talk to the customer in advance. If they have plenty of notice of possible delays or changes to specification they can work around them. The worst scenario is to keep the customer in the dark, then tell them about delays or other problems when it’s too late.

Adapt KPIs

The people responsible for delivery, especially in manufacturing organisations, may not be particularly cooperative when it comes to dealing with the needs of a new customer. This is usually not because they don’t want to be helpful but they may have KPI’s and bonuses that are linked to machine hours and production volumes so anything new makes it harder to achieve their targets.

The organisation that is not customer focussed cannot sell effectively

Too many companies are held back by silo thinking, where departments do not communicate well with each other. In a commercial world where almost every organisation is part of a supply chain and every part of the chain has to be responsive there is no room for people who just want to get on with their job and not worry how it affects other people in the organisation.

Teamwork wins

Imagine how hard it would be to win a pitch against a company that has all departments, from Sales through Product Development to Production aligned to design and fully implement the strongest possible value proposition? Think how strong their recommendations would be. You need to be that company.

Ask yourself these questions

  • Do you always deliver what you promise, or maybe a little extra?

  • Do you check with the implementation team that they can deliver what you propose?

  • Do you make sure the implementation team is fully briefed before they start their work?

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