In a March 2012 blog post, Seth Godin noted the difference between the perception and the reality among professionals regarding their allocation of time in operating their business. He used professional photographers to illustrate his point that managing time and resources involves trade-offs, but it certainly extends to entrepreneurs and leaders in any field.
The Internet has made it possible for an individual to learn new skills and to try his hand at many tasks that otherwise might be delegated or outsourced.
But merely having the opportunity doesn’t make pursuing it the highest and best use of one’s time.
Take radio advertising salespeople who are tasked with writing their advertisers’ copy, common in small and medium markets, and not uncommon in larger markets. Some salespeople are also competent ad writers; they’ve studied the art of advertising, read the masters, taken copywriting courses, etc. They’re able to write effective ad copy and do so regularly.
But at what cost? Is there a trade-off?
Seth Godin asks: are you doing the work you were born to do?
Time spent writing (often preceded by time spent in research) is time not invested in prospecting, presenting, and ultimately selling new advertising accounts. Selling is what pays the bills.
Copywriting, certainly an essential part of the service we offer to our advertisers, may be a means to that end. If writing commercials is part of what fuels the salesperson’s passion and effectiveness, then the additional investment of time and effort may well be justified.
But if a salesperson’s time is more productively spent doing sales work other than writing ad copy, it’s incumbent upon management to provide a copywriter who can do the job at least as well, and hopefully better than the salesperson.
We might take a cue from our brethren at the newspaper. Newspaper ad reps typically do not design their own ads. They gather information from their advertisers and pass it along to full-time graphic designers, typesetters, or advertising compositors, who are tasked with the actual creation of their clients’ newspaper ads. Been this way for a long, long time.
Yes, it will cost some bucks to find and keep one or more good copywriters on staff. But what’s the true (if hidden) cost of having your salespeople do it?
And speaking of hidden costs, this last paragraph caught my eye:
One thing to consider: finding and retaining a great salesperson is more difficult than you might think, since a great salesperson might very well contribute even more value than you do.
Radio station owners and managers might want to copy that paragraph and post it where it will remind them of the importance of supporting their salespeople.
Managers who undervalue their salespeople can easily undermine their efforts, whether deliberately or as an unintended consequence of inappropriate behavior.
Often the realization of this comes too late, after a dependable salesperson has jumped ship out of frustration or disillusionment at the lack of management support.
Sometimes it’s innocuous, a matter of simple neglect. Things seem to be running smoothly, so why bother to invite feedback from salespeople regarding any problems they might be having, when none appear above the surface? An automobile owner might just as well ask: Why bother to invest in regular lube-oil-filter changes and preventative maintenance, when the car seems to be running just fine? This approach appears to work well…until the engine (or salesperson) finally blows a gasket.
Other times, the reason may be something more disturbing, e.g., the company failing to meets its own financial obligations, especially in the local marketplace. Nothing like calling on a good client and being asked, “When’s your boss going to pay his bill?”
The fiduciary relationship between salesperson and employer is typically one of direct proportion, certainly where the compensation is commission-based. For every order the salesperson brings in, the company receives the larger share. (In radio, depending on the market size, the station usually retains $80-90 of every $100 dollars in net billing.)
Great companies, the ones that consistently attract and retain exceptional managers and salespeople, are built on principles and values, some of which at least, money can’t buy.