Behind the Scenes

By Heather Baldwin

If you’ve been a sales manager for longer than a week, you have no doubt heard requests for higher commissions, bigger cars, better laptops, brighter projectors – or maybe simply any projector at all. And no doubt you’ve had to break the news to your team that those items aren’t in the budget this year. For reps closing deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or more it can be tough to grasp that there aren’t enough funds for a faster computer. Where is all that money going?

At your next regional sales meeting, show them, suggests John Mackenzie, founder of The Writing Works, a company that specializes in writing and producing great meetings. For example, rather than telling reps that $35 million a year goes into product research and development, take them on a virtual tour of your R&D facilities. Use the power of video and compelling narration to show them the manpower, tools and time that go into the development of a single product. Find an exciting R&D project and give reps an insider’s look. Then reiterate that their sales are paying for these efforts.

You can do the same thing for other big-ticket expenditures. For example, if your company spends a lot on advertising you might want to schedule a presentation by your ad agency, says Mackenzie. You also could take the same virtual tour approach, he says, to show your reps what goes into the creation of an ad campaign. Mackenzie did just that when he worked with Merck several years ago. The company went behind the scenes at its advertising agency to show reps how its ad campaigns were created, even going so far as to put a camera in a conference room ceiling so reps could watch storyboards being moved around. Not only was it fascinating to watch the process, but it also gave reps an understanding of the time and effort – and thus the expense – required to create one ad. If possible, follow through to show how the ad later resulted in increased brand awareness or improved sales. Again, says Mackenzie, emphasize that it is the sales reps’ efforts paying for these things. Transform your bad budget news into a compelling visual presentation, he advises, and your reps will walk away better informed and more understanding.

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