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  • Writer's pictureWillem Lambrechts

The necessary -?- evil -?- called sales

Headline in Flemish financial newspaper "De Tijd" last Thursday : "Gents Teamleader neemt gas terug in buitenlandse expansie". Translated : Ghent-based Teamleader slows down international expansion". Teamleader, so-called specialist in sme-software, shuts down its sales offices in Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Milan, because "too expensive". Founder and CEO Jeroen De Wit states "client support already returned to Ghent in 2017, marketing followed in 2018". Then he added : "Centralisation of sales in Ghent has 2 advantages : it saves on overhead costs and allows for more flexibility". If you want to know the details, I invite you to read the article.

I am absolutely astonished by his statement. First of all : where is the prospect and (hopefully) the client in his vision? Is (s)he very happy with this decision? Is (s)he looking forward to some sort of a remote relationship with an ever changing sales rep who is supposed (dixit the website) to listen and to understand the client's business and related issues? Second : sales is an overhead and more flexible when managed centrally out of the Ghent office. Really? Does the customer have the same idea?

It is quite amazing that for some reason a lot of company owners/managers consider sales representatives as an evil, sometimes necessary for opening doors in the beginning. Once the initial contacts have been established however, they quickly become an overhead. Talented and skilled engineers are worth the money, talented and skilled sales reps however,...well....

Well Jeroen, let me tell you this : you are about to commit an enormous error. Your local sales staff is at least as important and valuable as are your engineers and developers. If they prove to be a cost rather than a profit center, something may be wrong with your financial model, possibly with their sales performance (and that again can have different causes) or maybe with the quality of your product and/or service.

I know a company that did exactly the same 6 years ago. They got rid of most of their local European sales offices. The negative impact on sales and revenues was not very visible in the first 2 years. Then numbers started going south ... Another 2 years later they started building an international sales team again...It is still growing as the numbers grow...They realized that sales is an absolutely necessary good. They are the company's human interface with their prospects and customers, more important than any electronic interface. Their input forms the basis for strategic decision making in engineering, product management, sales. and customer service.

I happily refer to the statement on your website : Traditional sales often underwhelms. Pushy salespeople trying to sell a product to those who don’t really need it... it just puts them off. That’s why we do it differently; we actively listen to potential customers’ needs and understand their pain points. As every customer is unique, we draw energy from each interaction.

Will you do that remotely from a screen in Ghent, Jeroen?

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