Selling for Entrepreneurs

Cooperation Between Sales and Production

Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures

There is often a communications void between sales and production. The two teams are inter-related and need to work together in order to provide the customer with the best possible product.

Too often when I visit small businesses, I find distance between the sales team and production.

I often hear sales teams complain that production makes errors and gives grief every time sales needs something with short notice.

Complaints from production are similar, the sales team gives them work informally and with little notice and they make errors in creating production requests.

With larger companies, these problems are usually less due to more formal production systems. The close relationship between sales and production in smaller businesses can be a great advantage, however, if they understand that they are on the same team.

There should be meetings taking place within your company that include managers of production and sales. These meetings should occur regularly and be open for discussion.

Any potential issues or upcoming 'surprises' should be discussed during this meeting. In addition, certain protocol should be established prior to or during these meetings. Protocol should include how production is planned and how a request for a task should be made. This will reduce some of the informality and eliminate room for frustration and excuses.

In addition to supervisory meetings, you should spend time talking with both the production team and the sales team about the importance of the other team and why cooperation is essential.

For example, the production team needs to understand the role of the sales force and how they provide work. The sales team needs to understand the physicality of the production team's job and the importance of a reliable team. Both sides should be encouraged to communicate and offer words of encouragement when things are going well.

From a senior management prospective, you want to be sure that your sales force's goals are in line with the company's best interests. Your sales team needs to earn commissions only when it is in the best interest of the company. The sales force should not be able to sell a product or put strains on production that result in negative profit margins.

Sounds simple, but if the sales team can pass the cost onto production; the product will look profitable and production will appear to be underperforming. As a result, you want to make sure that you have a proper sales approval process that includes pricing models and sign-offs from various departments including production.

The production team also needs to feel comfortable relaying information back to the sales force. If there are to be delays or unanticipated defects, the sooner this information reaches the sales force the better. If production is apprehensive about communicating with sales, defects or sub-par products may reach the customer. The customer is far better off hearing these issues first from the sales representatives. In addition, the production team can provide valuable feedback regarding the product that can greatly enhance the overall quality or cost.

For example, production might have trouble dealing with a certain component or material. By communicating this issue, there may be a substitute that is more cost effective or of a higher quality. If production feels that sales is the enemy, these issues are not likely to be resolved.

Ultimately, everyone in your company is on the same team.

Everyone should have the same goals and the same desire for the firm's success. This needs to be constantly hammered home at company get-togethers and it should be embedded into your company's culture. Posting signs around the office or issuing a newsletter can be informal ways to remind everyone the importance of teamwork.

By understanding the necessity of teamwork, you employees will also realize the detriment of not working together.

Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.

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