How Much Are Empty Chairs Costing Your Company?

Last week I attended a trade show with one of my clients in the horticultural industry in Columbus, Ohio.

I watched a man, across the floor, sitting at his company’s booth for the day and a half I was there, barely moving, with a sign that just read:

Wanted: Sales Manager

Yes – that’s an actual photo.

He barely looked up from his computer as thousands of potential customers walked by, and perhaps hundreds of worthy sales professionals.

Hardly anybody stopped to talk to him. Half the time, both chairs were empty.

As you can see from the photo, the booth consisted of a single round cocktail table and two chairs, a handful of brochures, and a standard sign provided by the trade show organizers. Out of hundreds of booths, this company had the most sparse booth at the entire tradeshow.

I bet you guess what I did next.

Color me a little perplexed by the situation, but I couldn’t help myself. I approached the man to learn a little more about him and the company he worked with.

He told me he was the VP of Sales. He said their company did about 20M in annual revenue, but sales were sluggish as of the past couple of years. Hmm. I wonder why?

Now, let’s think about this for a minute.

The company made an investment to rent a booth. They flew him down there, and they rented a hotel. I’m assuming he was using a company-purchased laptop. They printed a few brochures, and I’m guessing at the last minute they also believed it might be worth trying to find a sales manager.

This reality here is a company with an approach like this is likely doomed regardless, and no sales manager or biz development manager is going to fix their problems. But the more significant, more pressing issue is something we can all relate to, and it’s something I’m always harping on.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a B2B manufacturer, a retailer (offline or online), major brand, non-profit, or any other type of organization.

Do you know your people are putting their best foot forward when it comes to representing you and your company in the face of your customers and prospects?

I’d be willing to bet that senior leadership got a fantastic review of the hustling and bustling action at their booth and the success of the trade show. Maybe he already got commitment to attend again next year!

But who’s watching? Remember, we can’t confuse micromanagement with management.

Do you remember the time I told you about the manufacturing client answered the question, “Do you do X?” or “Can you help us with Y?” incorrectly over 80% of the time in a two-week period. Well, it’s a lot like this company and their trade show booth.

It could be a lot like your sales team, or the folks who greet customers when they enter your store, or the team answer the phones.

Just because they’re working, doesn’t mean they’re not sleeping on the job.

Your Weekly Challenge: Pick one area of your business and run a little test this week.

When was the last time you audited your customer-facing teams? Or your sales process?

Or your customer service procedures?

Have someone check in on your team at the trade show you just spent a bundle of cash to send your team to.

Try calling your company and asking the “Do you do X?” or “Can you help us with Y?” question.

This might mean visiting one of your stores. It might mean making a purchase or filling out a quote request on a website. You may send in a service request and see how long it takes to get a response.

Remember – you can’t expect what you can’t inspect. There’s a reason I talk so much about measuring as much activity as you can, and not just rely on stories/reports from your people.

You can’t be there for every transaction.

You can’t be there for every meeting.

You can’t listen in on every call.

You can’t attend every trade show.

And frankly, it would be exhausting to do so. But (and this is a BIG but), you can put measures into place.

And you can be pretty sure that if your people can’t be bothered to put in the minimal effort to ensure their successes and efforts are measured, that they’re not putting in much effort with your prospects or clients, either.

The point is this, don’t just assume everyone is doing what you expect them to do.

You might find sales a little sluggish with no idea why. It could be the empty chairs…

Best,
Noah