Sales staff... Love 'em? Hate 'em? Both at the same time?
While absolutely critical to any organisation, their unwavering confidence often makes them a target for everyone outside the "sales circle". Ask others in your company what they think of the sales guys and they'll no doubt take the opportunity to throw in a few quick jabs:
- Their shirt buttons are open just a little too far for some reason.
- He has a Tissot Chrono hanging from each of his wrists! He claims he needs to keep track of multiple time-zones...
- Are his daily shoe-shines covered by the company??
- The warrior-like roar of closing a deal scared the absolute s#it out of me when I was trying to figure out why my bank rec wouldn't line up!
Yes, these are all meant as light-hearted digs, and in general staff will then unanimously agree that in actual fact the sales team are very good at what they do, essential to the business, and need the shiny shoes and expensive watches to close the deals.
There is however a real issue with sales staff which is often overlooked, and that's when they're allowed to enter the warehouse.
You've been here before.
One of your warehouse staff is picking an order. They need 3 x Widget 101, however they get to the location and there's only 2 on the shelf. They do a quick search around nearby locations for the missing item to no avail. Next, they advise their manager who in-turn advise their customer-support team to contact the client and let them know only 2 remain, and could they accept a refund for the 3rd? This gets approved, a refund is made, and the stock levels in the system are updated to reflect the change. The order is shipped out.
Later that afternoon, the same picker is walking down the aisle looking for another product, and happens to notice the missing item, sitting on the shelf by itself, in the exact same location where it was missing earlier... What?
It sounds blazingly silly in hindsight, but this is a common issue that warehouses experience when they allow sales staff to walk their floors.
What happened here is that a new sales guy, James, wanted to introduce a client to Widget 101. The demo unit he'd been given was scratched and scuffed from various demos and seeing this client had the potential to buy 1000's, presenting anything less than a shiny new "out-of-the-box" device would be crazy. He hadn't been given a new device to show, so, for just this one time on his way to the demo he'd quickly popped into the warehouse, grabbed a new one off the shelf, and 2 hours later put it back exactly where it was. How could this be considered bad practice?
Warehouse Management System and Inventory System inaccuracies are born through allowing processes like the above to occur. Unbeknown to James, the unit he's now put back on the shelf doesn't exist anywhere in a stock system, and as a result is unlikely to ever be shipped to a client until a full stock-take is performed in 9 months time. At a sale-price of $300, he's just lost the company the $300 they refunded the client, plus approximately $150 in time wasted by staff. Plus, when they find the item again, another hour will be spent trying to work out where it came from.
So, what to do?
Firstly, ban sales staff from entering the warehouse. Sound brutal? It is, and for good reason. If you want to prevent James and his team taking things off the shelves whenever they please then prevent them from having the opportunity entirely by preventing access to the warehouse.
Instead, get them to place an outbound order, just like everyone else. Give your sales staff the ability to create orders for themselves at $0 price, and then have it follow your standard processes in which your warehouse staff pick the stock and the system is decremented. Likewise, when/if they bring it back, it can be re-entered into the order as an inbound purchase order. This also gives the added bonus of having a complete track on everything a staff member has borrowed for demos!
Remember that this situation also occurs in 3PLs. As a 3PL operator it's quite common to have one of your clients' sales staff randomly appear to "quickly grab something" they need on their way to visit a client. Despite their pleas' to grab it off the shelf themselves, ensure that they follow process and lodge an order for the stock so your own staff can pick it and bring it out to them. If you're using a cloud-based system with a client-portal, then the sales staff member can do this on their mobile phone, from their car, parked outside your warehouse :)