I recently asked a group of managers and salespeople about their Territory Managers. Specifically, I asked them to share their thoughts on service, relevance, and relationships. Do businesses still need a TM? How is the role changing? Are they satisfied with their TM’s quality of service? After all, we’re in the era of “Do more with less” in which improving information accessibility calls in to question the efficiency of the position. The following quotes are taken from this conversation. I have removed product brand names for the sake of anonymity:
“I am from a time when the TM came by every week to make sure things were going well and to update us on new happenings. The past few years it has gotten to where the TM shows up maybe two or three times a year. I always liked getting the personal touch.”
“I often wonder if TMs get picky with their “favorites” and neglect others. Or, if they feel confident that guys won’t jump ship simply because he’s been a dealer for so long. Possibly taking for granted that you’ll stick around.”
“Sounds like a theme. I’ve started selling other stuff other than Brand X because I feel there is no loyalty or support from them. They say there is at dealer meetings, but the reality is bleak. We’re on our third TM in about four years.”
“I haven’t seen or spoken to a TM from anyone in probably 8 months or more.”
“I’d like them to understand the ins and outs and make suggestions on what we could do better. Sometimes it’s just nice to go to lunch and talk. So do we need them? Maybe not as much. I still prefer it though.”
“What do they add that you can’t do yourself or find on your own? Probably nothing.”
Any smart Territory Manager is going to determine the best use of his time with accounts partly based on the 80/20 Rule (although it’s more likely 95/5). But this feedback is strong language. Even more so because the people I spoke with are not working for or owning low-volume businesses. They’re established high-volume accounts. And as they shared, many are beginning to move their purchases to suppliers who demonstrate a greater level of high-touch service.
So why isn’t anyone showing up to maintain relationships and grow these accounts?
Have TMs and their bosses become so enamored with Challenger Sales theories that they’ve forgotten rule #1: Before you get fancy be consistent–showing up and bringing relevant content.
Have TMs become so overburdened with internal initiatives that they’ve forgotten rule #2: The most important perspective is your customer’s perspective.
Have TMs become too quick to defer a customer request to another channel (“Here’s the phone number for our Warranty department”), thereby making it more difficult for their customers to do business and breaking rule #3: Ease-of-use has a massive impact on loyalty.
Or have TMs simply become complacent…especially if they’re coming off of a couple of years of strong sales growth? Pride comes before the fall.
I’d be irresponsible to say that the comments I’ve shared reflect the general state of TM performance. I know many committed and professional B2B salespeople who do a fantastic job each day. It’s not an easy job. I am sharing them as a simple reminder that the most basic skill–simply showing up and showing a vested interest in your customer’s success–has a greater impact on sales than one might think.