Balancing Sales with Creative: An Interview With Veteran Sales Coach Rick O'Malley

by: Ben Friedle

I had the chance to speak with veteran sales person and sales coach Rick O’Malley of Innerskil. I was curious how he viewed the challenge of keeping sales people and the team they represent working in the most productive way possible.

How do we resolve "The account manager set me up to fail" scenario where someone agreed to a deal that another someone has to do and do profitably?

If the account manager realizes that the scope of work is beyond current experience, and he or she does it anyway, push back from internal stakes must happen to make it clear that this is a problem. The account manager might have to face the customer for relief, if the new business is really not possible.  It is not the customer’s fault and you need to make a strong effort to accommodate, but the account manager needs to feel some pain. In the future, have a procedure that allows both parties to discuss scope of work immediately following discovery.

In times of scope creep--when sales and creative need to unite--what is a productive way to move forward?

Scope creep usually hurts profitability. Sales is responsible for managing customer expectations. Part of that is getting profitable business. Anyone can give away the product.  Good sales people sell the value of the product/service to the customer for a fair price. Sales also needs to deal with competitive issues, and needs to make the full situation clear to the creative side that winning the business might be a fight and they might have to stretch.

Each role cannot exist without the other, but they often find themselves at odds due to communication and client expectations. Have you seen a model for addressing this situation?

A strong, hands-on manager sometimes helps if they stay close and coach effectively. But there is always a risk for communication issues and everyone must own a piece of that.

In my experience, commission is seen as a negative by others because it doesn't make sales people "team players".  Thoughts?

I tell non-sales people that commissions are earned for actually selling something.  A sales person's income fluctuates all the time.  Most people don't like dealing with ups and downs in the income every month.  Sales people take that risk and deal with it to hopefully make a better income than those who play it safe in a more predictable position.

Can you tell us more about the commission structure as a rule of thumb?

I think the right income package for the sales person, built for the type of business you are running, keeps them in balance.  Base salary to keep them engaged with existing customers and bonus/commissions to go after the new stuff. Never forget gross margin profit goals/incentives for the sales person. If tied to the quality of the order, they will watch how carefully they negotiate.  Never pay a base salary that lets the sales person pay all their bills, just enough to almost squeak by on the very basics.

--Written by Ben Friedle

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