Can Overhead Mean Profit?

I was chatting with a friend the other day and he told me about some layoffs that were going on at his place. Many of the people being cut were what we euphemistically used to call the “non-revenue generating portion of our staff.” You might term them overhead. You know – sales assistants, secretaries, accountants – the people to whom direct revenue isn’t attributed. I told my friend that I think it was an incredibly short-sighted move and in an effort to help your business not make the same sort of error, here’s why I feel that way.

First and foremost, there is a decent amount of research that tells is that salespeople – the people who bring in the fuel that drives your business’ engine – spend only about a third of their time (36%) actually selling. You know – meeting or connecting with clients either in person or virtually. 64% of their time is spent on non-sales activity, and a good chunk of that is with administrative tasks (25%) and service tasks (16%). A great sales assistant can take over much of those tasks, freeing the salesperson up to do what only they can do. Is it cost-effective? If a salesperson is making $200,000 a year and you can boost their output, making them worth $50,000 more, then you’ve paid for the assistant, right?

The same can be said of other support people. A smart accountant or lawyer can help boost profits, even if they do nothing more than find a way to say “yes” in making deals happen. That’s not always the case – I’ve worked with internal lawyers who were a bigger impediment to business than a crappy marketplace. If there is an internal awareness of revenue goals and a commitment by everyone to making deals happen, there is no such thing as “overhead.”

Selling has changed, no matter your business. Focusing on customers’ needs, not trying to sell them products they don’t want or need, and being a trusted advisor are the key ingredients in sales (and revenue) success. The more people your company can put to that task on behalf of your clients, the better. Make sense?

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