Stop worrying about your commissions

Recently I was doing a little business with a large Microsoft distributor – a sale that required a license agreement.

Initially, the deal couldn’t be finalized because I use a PO Box for my business address. Trouble is, they “don’t allow” license agreements with a business that uses a PO Box.

Irony: That I can easily send money directly from my bank to the Caymans (or pretty much anywhere) from my iPhone, but heaven forbid that I receive paper business mail to a PO Box housed in a United States government building. But I digress.

When I provided a street address (one that cannot receive USPS mail – which the distributor/manufacturer will likely attempt to use for mail if history repeats), the salesperson’s autoresponder email came back to say he would be out for the next four days. It’s always nice to know when my rep is not going to be around and I appreciate the effort to inform, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the fulfillment of my order. We’ll get back to that.

Follow up

My reply included the requested info and a comment about PO Box use by rural businesses. The response? An automated order fulfillment email from the manufacturer. I received nothing from the distributor who fulfilled the sale or the salesperson. Salespeople – This is a missed opportunity to follow up and learn more about your new customer. It is not me encouraging you to deliver a prefab sales pitch.

The PO Box thing annoys both because my business uses one and because it’s patently stupid to decline to accept them. A fair number of businesses that I’ve interacted with over the years have claimed they can’t accept a PO Box as my company’s official business address.

Their party line is “companies who use a PO Box are more likely to commit fraud and PO Boxes are not secure“.

When I give them my “suite number” at the local UPS Store as my physical business address, I can see how that completely eliminates the possibility of fraud. As for “not secure”, given that a PO Box is in a Federal building under multiple locks and keys, it’s probably less secure than a street-side box that you can drive up to and whack with a ball bat.

Sarcasm aside, this isn’t about PO Boxes. They’re simply a good example of an excuse.

Excuse vs. Reason – What’s the difference?

The words uttered by a salesperson that most frustrate a customer tend to be excuses rather than reasons.

“Your salesperson is out of town till Tuesday” may be true, but it’s an excuse because that absence has nothing to do with order fulfillment/delivery. Fulfillment is a process owned by the business (not the salesperson) and is completed for the customer’s benefit, not the salesperson’s.

Can the salesperson pay attention/follow up to make sure nothing goes wrong? If they’re smart, yes. Should the process be dependent on the salesperson not being out of town? No way.

Some might say that “It’s his order, his relationship, he has to personally handle anything related to the sale in order to earn his commission.”

They’re wrong because they’re worried about the wrong thing. While you may not get the commission from Mary’s sale by helping her client when they call or email, the commission from her sale helps your employer as much as your sales do. Not helping that customer doesn’t hurt Mary, it hurts your employer.

Stop worrying about ownership and commission. Notice that I didn’t say stop worrying about commissions (plural) – I mean stop worrying about each individual one as if they are some combination of birthright and sovereignty.

Worry about the right thing

So what should you worry about? Helping your customers eliminate their worries. Make their lives easier.

Do so and you’ll have more and better customers who stick around. You’ll get more referrals. You might end up training/managing a group and get a commission from their sales. Then you get to focus on training them to take better care of the customer.

Never forget that the reason to make the sale is to get/keep a customer. Not the reverse.

Get customers and ignore them? No. Get, cultivate, care for and keep them.