Sales reps protest economy-driven benching

Last week, I discussed a relatively recent trend where companies are benching sales reps during these tough economic times. Everyone I spoke with agreed:  it is a bad strategy for containing costs until the economy turns around.

Over the past week, a number of sales professionals have sent me their opinions on this disturbing trend. Like last week, the consensus was overwhelmingly against the idea of benching sales reps—and not just because it takes away their ability to earn a living. In fact, most were more interested in talking about their important role in helping their companies survive the economic downturn.

“Sales reps are the eyes and ears of the company and need to be sensing the market all the time,” wrote Kurt Bradtmueller. “This time can be used to develop relationships and find other ways to add value. If you simply make a call to ask how things are, that’s probably good enough. The customer may feel like the sales rep is a fair weather friend if they simply ‘disappear’ during the downturn. Those who continue to nurture the relationship capitalize on the existing opportunities and will get the biggest rewards when the market returns.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Sales reps are not only the link between customer and corporation; they are the nurturer of business relationships and the watchful eye in any type of market. No client will feel like they are in good hands if their sales rep simply disappears when the times get tough. A good sales professional will stick with their clients and find new ways in which to help their business.

Another sales pro said this: “Professional sales people can, especially during the more difficult times, create an even stronger relationship. Sales people who focus on their customer’s business, rather than their own sales can absolutely stay employed, engaged, and be very effective.”

Sales reps are a vital resource to their clients and benching them will affect their own and their company’s well being. Keeping an eye on how customers’ businesses are faring is the best way to keep sales up in a down economy. Find out what they need, and send your sales professionals to give it to them.

3 thoughts on “Sales reps protest economy-driven benching”

  1. Kathleen,

    I’ve got mixed feelings about this.

    On one hand, you’re right about maintaining relationships with customers. That’s certainly important.

    On the other, I can’t see benching salesreps management could count on to bring in business–enough for that rep to be cash-flow positive.

    I’d be curious to know the performance history of those reps being benched.

  2. What’s interesting is that these sales reps are not being let go during these times, which leaves me to believe that they are not underperforming. As we all know, the easiest action to take is termination when we need to cut costs, but in this case.. they are benching.


  3. Kathleen,
    I’m not surprised sales representatives are complaining about being benchmarked because the whole process is very subjective and you know that salespeople like to surround themselves with smoke. I am concerned about the type of organisations your respondents work for, because there is nothing in the benchmarking process that would ever interfere with their work routines and/or relationship with their customers. Benchmarking sales performance is not only desirable in though times it is absolutely essential at all times. It is a process designed to help salespeople not to hinder them and here again I would isolate sales managers being the ones responsible for propagating this misperception among the selling community. Perhaps you and your followers would benefit from a wee peek at my blog ‘How to Develop Selling Capability and Performance’, it may help you get a better understanding of what benchmarking is all about.
    Kind regards
    David Quinn

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