Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

As sales leader, you encourage your team to develop strong customer relationships. Because this takes time, you counsel them about perseverance, commitment and accountability, and enlighten them that they will know that preference has been earned when they are invited to participate in more strategic discussions like new product development meetings.

Like most sales professionals, your team is highly self-motivated, with each member consistently demonstrating initiative. They understand that the trust relationship they have built with each customer can only be sustained if your organization delivers on the promises made by your sales team, on behalf of the organization. They also recognize that their accountability for preserving these enduring relationships rests with promptly solving problems to ensure customer satisfaction.

But are they aware of the limits of their accountability? Which issues are so significant that they require urgent senior leadership involvement?  Do they know when to pull the fire alarm?
Encountering issues like the following can paralyze a sales person who typically knows how to get things done:
  • Consistently poor service that is causing customers to leave;
  • Learning that there’s pressure on the shop floor to ship inferior or dangerous products;
  • Hearing that the customer service phone queue now persistently exceeds targeted response time;
  • Discovering that promises to customers are being broken due to serious core values violations, i.e. lying, bribery, dumping of effluents, “cooking books,” etc.
Make clear to your team that customer problems are to be promptly addressed, including those that exceed their accountability and competency to resolve. To avoid a paralysis that might occur if a problem surpasses their capability or responsibility to address, provide examples of significant issues they may face that would require them to pull the fire alarm and immediately notify you. Help them understand which issues you expect them to help resolve and which should raise the alarm.
How clear is your direction to your sales team
about customer problem resolution?
How do they know when it’s time to immediately notify you?