I hear this one lament over and over from fellow salespeople: “I did my job and sold it, and then the back end screwed it up.” Fulfillment issues. Has this happened to you? Doesn’t it drive you crazy?
Whose fault was it?
First, make sure the weak link isn’t you! You may be terrific in the field, and not so great on follow-up. You may make wonderful presentations, and make errors on your paperwork. If you aren’t squeaky clean on your process, when the time to comes to solve the problem, you may be considered part of that problem! Confirm everything you can in a bullet-pointed email to your customer, including your scheduled follow-up calls and dates. Make sure all relevant addresses and phone numbers are in that confirmation email. And make sure the same email goes to your fulfillment department whenever appropriate. (Fulfillment will appreciate the heads up!) If you’ve covered these bases, move on.
Second, don’t jump the gun. If the fulfillment department falls behind occasionally, or only when things are extremely busy, let it go. Or better yet, ask your manager how you can help the fulfillment go more smoothly during crunch time. Life gets easier for you AND fulfillment, and you’re recognized as willing to pitch in and help the team reach its goal.
How to tell management
If it’s time to address the issue, look at the big picture. The messenger of bad news is never received with open arms. Management is interested in facts and solutions, not counting up problems. If you present things well, you’ll supply both facts and solutions. Make the news as attractive as possible.
Discuss fulfillment problems when you and your boss are on good terms. If you discuss it when you’re missing quota, late on paperwork, or have been late or absent for a couple of days, it will sound like an excuse for your poor performance. On a day when you’ve delivered more than expected and the boss is beaming, mention your concerns. Then, send them in writing. Make your notes clear and without blame. Make sure you indicate with whom you’ve spoken in fulfillment, and what supporting paperwork has been sent to them and received from them.
Talking to fulfillment
If you deal directly with fulfillment, send an email confirming the contents of every phone call or meeting. Even if they don’t write back, and insist on calling, write a confirmation. You are creating a paper trail, which will allow you and the managers to identify where the communication breakdown or execution problem is. If there are frustrated customers, forward their emails to your manager and the fulfillment department. Keep everyone in the loop with the problems being faced by the customer, and offer to be part of the solution. Things will improve!