Any people working in sales here? I have a question.

I'm basically retired, but took on a job doing fundraising for a respected musical institution. I'm new to telephone selling and am perplexed by the logic behind sales organizations.

I call phone numbers of people who have patronized this organization in the past and have made donations to the organiation's operating fund, primarily to fund engaging the public. Thus, it's what they call "warm calling" rather than "cold calling."

There are various lists depending upon how much the patrons have given in the past, as well as how recently. 

Now, a relatively new person like me gets a list like "Donors from last year who gave less than $100" or "Donors who gave for years but didn't give last year." 

More experienced people, who I'm told are the company's best fundraisers (salespeople) get lists like "Reliable donors who gave $1200+ last year."

When I listen in on the calls the more experienced donors do, they are what we in my retail sales days would have called "lay downs." In other words, people who were ready to part with their cash and part with it easily. 

Obviously, they make the best commissions. 

Why wouldn't it be logical to put your best sellers on the hardest sells? I mean, if sales skills mean anything, that would appear to be the best allocation of resources. Give sellers like me the easy sales and use your high-powered sales people to sell the hard cases.

I feel kind of doomed to failure in a system like this, and I'm sure many sales organizations operate the same way.

To me, it would make more sense to merge all those lists into a single list, to let each salesperson get the leads on a random basis, and only THEN will you really know who your best salespeople are.

Anyone who is, or has been in sales here know a way to explain why sales organizations frequently operate this way?

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Because putting the best sellers on the easiest (biggest) donors guarantees that donation. The ones you need to deal with they will expect 1-3% success rate most likely.

Well, it might seem that way, but if someone is giving $1200 year after year, that hardly requires selling. Maybe if they decide not to donate or to donate less, you kick the account back to a hard seller to try to save it. I still think the best sales people belong on the hardest sales, not the easiest ones. 

Also, you can't really know who's the most talented seller without an even playing field where all the salespeople receive their leads randomly. 

Suppose you're at war, do you send the Marines in to take the unarmed village and the untested recruits to tackle the enemy's commandos? 

I just think the whole sales thing is totally warped.

I agree.

I am pretty much telling you verbatim what I heard from one of the DMs of the retail company I work for, and it seems to jive with the other places I have seen. They put the "best" (highest experienced) sellers on the most important/well established donors to ensure the donation and have the new guys cut their teeth on the rest of the pile until they deem them worthy of a bigger sale.

In the place I work at right now it is the same. On the busiest days/times of the week the company schedules the top sellers and the rest get the slow times because "the top seller will use the busy time to the highest effect". 

In my business, it has nothing to do with busy times, it has to do with lists of people like "People who gave four or more years ago but not since and who don't ever seem to answer their phone" (a list I might get) vs. "People who gave $1000 or more every year for the last  four years and are easy to get in touch with," (a list a "top seller" might get to work). 

It's crazy. It can't be justified logically. It also sets up a system whereby who a top seller is is basically a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It's topsy-turvy to almost every other sort of (non-sales) business. If I have a carpet cleaning company and I have two jobs today, one a very dirty carpet and the other one basically needing touch ups, would I send my most experienced guys to the latter job and my new hire to the tough job?

I've already outlasted many new hires and I've only been doing it for about 2.5 months. I briefly got a list of people who gave $100-$150 last year and was able to wrangle a respectable amount of sales from them. Not sure if I got it by mistake or because it was the only list available or if it was a test of some sort. Those I couldn't sell had very good reasons like unemployment, serious illness, etc. They feel an obligation to explain why they're not giving. I'm supposed to tell them we can set up monthly payments or defer the payment to a set date if it helps them, but it feels impolite to keep on trying to sell when someone has a very valid and worrying reason for not making a donation. Then, after that list ran out, I was given one consisting of people who may have made a donation at one time (a $1 keep the change donation counts) but not within the last four years, and of course I was totally unsuccessful.

Surely the 80-20 rule applies to this type of calling. 80% of business (or donations) comes from your top 20% customer base, hence the best sellers focus in on that 20%. 

As long as they compare rookies to other rookies performance wise, it's not really harmful to you that those high power guys get the easy work.  You are probably in the realm of "lets see who gets weeded out."

It stinks of unionism where the new guys work their butts off on shit work while the members with seniority get all the plum jobs. Works great for the union guys, not so well for the company they work for. 

I just don't see how a system like this benefits the company. 

I would focus on the 'easy sells' first, then the ever harder sells in series, till you get sick of it.

If one 'easy', could make up for 1200 'hards', surely you see my drift? 

Now the critical questions:

A) What is the success rate of 'easy' VS 'hard' sells?

B) What is the expected 'value' of an average success given a classification?

     Examples: (T(easysuccess)/T(easy)) x Ave$(easy)= Ev(easy)

                     (T(hardsuccess)/T(hard))  x Ave$(hard) = Ev(hard)

C) From these you would pick the options with the best return to focus on.

I hope this is right, it has been a while since I played with this. 

Consider for a moment that fundraising is a business like any other and the whole point of a business today is to maximize profit which means maximizing income. Giving what should be the easy sells to the experienced people gives the company the best possibility of getting every possible easy sell and some of those who are no longer easy sells. While giving the crap to the new people makes the newbies work their butts off and shows the bosses who might be able to handle the work.

Reverse it. Give the easy (and formerly easy sells) to the newbies who do okay but they will get less than the experienced people would have gotten. Give the experienced people the crap work and they will do better than the newbies but the likelihood of finding a easy/big sell is very small. The company loses more money (from failed easy sells) than it gains (from creating new sells) so the net result is loss.

The only way to change this would be to somehow show them that the reverse of their policy is not true. Even if the reverse scenario is a fiction created by someone in sales from way back and repeated with conviction until it sounds true (and it sounded true when I was told some version of this), there is still the problem of proving that it isn't true. Considering the problems we encounter when we try to point out the foibles of religion, I don't see that sales/fundraising policy changing any decade soon.

On the other hand, there's a third possibility. Merge all the lists and after a while you'll find out who REALLY are the best sales people instead of just assuming certain salespeople are the best. Maybe not on a permanent basis, but maybe every three months have a few "free for all" days just to quickly sort out who can really produce. 

I think a lot of the "hot" salespeople just write up most of the sales from donors who give out of habit anyway and may have gotten a little lazy. A little direct competition wouldn't hurt and might shake things up a bit revealing some real new talent sooner rather than later. It might also reveal that some of the old pros may have lost their edge by not really having to sell very hard.

I'm not sure if the tone of my previous post came through as intended - I think the policies are somewhere between poor and downright bad, depending upon the company and boss.

As for other possibilities: but that only works if those in charge remember that the salespeople are people. I stopped applying for such jobs because I could no longer handle that attitude. Telemarketing (including fundraising) will continue to be at the forefront or robotic phone calls so the companies don't have to deal with salespeople as much.

Have you run into the issue of old lists that don't get updated and the company's refusal to do any updating since that takes time/money? If it's not a sale, don't update. That was another thing that drove me up a wall.


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