Another title for this column could have been “Surviving supporting sales pros.” With all due respect to people who work in the sales profession, some of them require more tech support than they rightly deserve.

If the level I and II support people in your shop are spending an inordinate amount of time supporting the sales staff, it’s time to intervene. Here are some tips to help you spend less time supporting your sales force so they can spend more time selling.

Hardware cheat sheets and labels
My first and favorite tip for supporting sales people is the cheat sheet. This one is a favorite with the road warriors I have known. They live out of hotels 40 percent of the year. When it comes to their computers, they don’t want to think. So I label their equipment and give them cheat sheets.

  • Labels—Before a new salesperson hits the road, I offer to create tape-and-paper labels for every cord or connection that might need to be attached to the computer. The labels are single digits (1-9), printed in a 48-point size—because you never know how weak the lighting might be in the hotel.
  • Cheat Sheets—For the cheat sheet, I take a picture of the back of the laptop and drop it into a Word document. I place the same 48-point numerals on top of the image to indicate where each item should connect. I supplement the graphical representation with a text-based legend. Never underestimate how many times people will reread a tip like “1=Put the plug from the electrical power supply here.”

Training slide shows
Salespeople are notorious for scheduling themselves for internal training classes and then canceling at the last minute. However, they do love their PowerPoint presentations. The next time you want to tell your salespeople about a new VPN login procedure or remind them how to synchronize their e-mail folders for offline viewing, put your instructions in a PowerPoint slide show.

With some encouragement from you, the sales manager will put your slide show on the agenda for the weekly sales meeting. E-mail a copy of the slide show to the sales team so they can run it on their own time.

Even if you don’t “do” PowerPoint, your nontechnical sales representatives will appreciate it if you take time to help them by documenting technical processes in a language they can understand.

Travel tips
When flying, never check the laptop. Any questions?

If it hasn’t happened yet, mark the calendar. Here’s a preview for you from my own experience:
“The monitor on my laptop is broken,” the salesperson began.
“You mean it doesn’t come on? It’s a blank screen?”
“No, it’s broken like there’s a hole in it.”

Long story short, the salesperson was running late for the plane and checked the laptop in its soft carrying case. It was damaged beyond repair.

Get it in writing
That event prompted the IT director, along with the human resources manager, to establish a written policy outlining the “correct and appropriate” use of company computers. When the company said, “you’ll pay for any you break,” we saw a sudden and permanent drop in the number of trashed sales laptops.

Even if you could find a mobile computer case that’s guaranteed safe for baggage check on an airplane, I’m not sure letting your sales pros check their laptops is a good idea. It’s not that I distrust airline workers or my fellow fliers, you understand. I just don’t like strangers handling computers from my shop.

What are you selling?

How much time do you spend supporting a sales department? To share your tips or your gripes, post a note below or write to Jeff.