Sales Stewardship and the Kingdom Course of Your Company
Stewardship of the sales part of a business starts when we begin to recognize that the ability to sell (to connect, build trust, and support the decision process) is a gift. For many businesses, that gifted individual or team is the lifeblood of growth and the one who establishes the customer relationship. But there is a problem. That gifted team or individual doesn't stick around long enough to reach their highest potential - they're leaving at 3 times the national average.
The sales team is both a part of your stewardship and an expression of it to new customers. If this role doesn't get the right kind of care then it fails to express your Kingdom values within the company and with new customers. It's a make-or-break focus for leaders who want to create and sustain impact. Job one in this area has to be keeping good salespeople on the team, and living out your values with them.
Why do we keep chasing away salespeople?
In business, it's a statistical fact that we chase away salespeople. The average tenure for a salesperson is 18-20 months. High performance doesn't really start until a salesperson sticks it out for 24 months. Finding and keeping good salespeople is a big challenge for many businesses.
The sales turnover rate is 35%!
The cost of replacing a salesperson tops $100,000 when you add lost sales momentum, training, and time costs.
Three reasons why you lose good salespeople
1. They tend to break or resist the systems that businesses put in place.
It's easy to see salespeople as locust-eating, homemade camel hair-wearing, break-the-system challengers. Yes, kind of like that John the Baptist guy who is out there challenging people to change their ways, and behaving differently than anyone else. Like John, they even challenge the highest authorities in a company with their opinions.
In this sense, businesses experience a pattern that is similar to what occurs in many churches. We chase away those who are the divergent ones. In church, it can be those who have that evangelistic, missional, or prophetic edge. We're just more comfortable with shepherds and teachers than those who are wired a little more like a John the Baptist locust-eater who just doesn't fit in that well.
2. They have a different vocabulary, goals, and culture than anyone else in the company.
Salespeople are focused on a singular goal that is different than anyone else in the company, and in most cases, they are a revenue center, instead of a cost center. Marketing, customer service, and operations are mostly cost centers.
Because they are different than the rest of the company, they can end up being treated as an income-producing commodity. When the internal focus is only on performance, the health of the salesperson can be ignored.
Too often, their voice is ignored.
3. Salespeople live in a world characterized by challenge.
Challenge is a part of life in sales. The challenges include their own quotas or goals, the challenge of getting connected to decision-makers who are guarded by a small army of blockers, and the competitive challenge of standing out in a team.
Not only is challenge something that the salesperson experiences personally, it is also what they must do with prospects in the process of helping them make good decisions. In any kind of consultative sale, they must challenge preconceptions and flawed decision processes to actually help people.
In the same way that we balance support and challenge in the work with a customer, we must do the same with sales. Every salesperson needs the right balance of support and challenge. That's part of sales stewardship. Too much challenge and too little support and you've sent a salesperson on their way. Too much support and too little challenge can damage the confidence that is required to be effective in sales.
"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17 (NIV)
How can you practice stewardship in sales?
If you view your role in business as someone who stewards the gifts and opportunities that God gives you, then applying the principles of stewardship has to apply to sales, too.
Your sales team is an asset that you probably cannot grow or sustain your business without. And that team will determine the kind of relationships that are established with your customers.
They set the course for how those relationships will develop and if they will be sustained. You can always lose a client with poor service or execution, but you'll lose them for sure if you start the relationship out in a way that is not sustainable. Salespeople should also be protecting your business from poor-fit customers, and helping those customers realize they'd be better served elsewhere.
The starting point for sales stewardship is to recognize the gift
Becoming aware of a gift is always the first step in stewardship. Check the parable of the talents and you'll see that they had to receive the gift before they could do something with it.
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property." Matthew 25:14 (NIV)
When we begin to view the salesperson as a gifted individual, who is also a gift to your company, we stop seeing them only as a means of production who creates customers.
Honoring the talent and the uniqueness of salespeople changes the culture of the company, and allows us to see the way that this team can also steward the relationships with prospects who actually need help to understand what they need to buy and fit the right solution to their need.
We teach salespeople to steward customer relationships by shepherding them first.
The way salespeople are treated will translate directly into the way that customers are treated. If your values align with real care for salespeople, then that stewardship will be passed on to prospects.