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Tough Call: The delivery dilemma

Your top salesperson persists in making delivery promises that your operations and delivery team can’t possibly meet. What would you do?


So far, 2021 is the year of keeping it between the ditches. Whether it’s product availability (or lack thereof), or unpredictable material pricing, or a team that’s working at 100% of capacity, each day is a case study in putting one foot in front of the other and putting out fire after fire. Having survived the Great Recession, you never thought you’d complain about too much business. You know that this too shall pass, so you and your team are doing all you can to make hay while the sun shines.

One thing about being so busy, is that weaknesses in your systems become glaringly apparent. There’s no place where it’s showing up more than in delivery scheduling. Here’s the situation:

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Jamie, your top salesperson, has attained that level by making sure his clients are taken care of. In normal times when there are breaks in the action, this was not a bad thing. If his client needed material delivered first thing the next morning, Jamie would promise it and your operations and delivery team would make it happen. If it didn’t, he’d make sure everyone knew he wasn’t happy.

As much as you’d like to keep Jamie happy, he’s not your only salesperson. And your operations and delivery team is limited as to how many loads can go out first thing in the morning. Jamie’s colleagues on the sales side understand the limitations, and they’ve been great about working with the systems you put in place for scheduling deliveries based on urgency. For Jamie however, all of his clients’ delivery needs are always urgent.

“I’m the number one salesperson for a reason,” he boasts. “My builders know that I’ll deliver for them. And when I make a promise, we need to be able to back it up. When my promises aren’t kept, that’s the day that we lose business to the competition. And I’m not about to let that happen.”

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You’ve explained to Jamie that he’s a member of a team, and everyone on the team has the same goal: to get our customers what they need, on time, and in full. When he refuses to manage his customers’ expectations, and just promises next morning deliveries, something’s gotta give.

Nate, your director of operations, is out of patience. “Jamie’s actions are hurting our company. We’re on the brink of losing customers and employees, because he’s making promises that we can’t possibly keep.”

Like many top salespeople, Jamie has always colored outside the lines. But this time, his actions have repercussions that could have lasting effects.

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What would you do?

– STAY THE COURSE. The last thing you want to do is limit Jamie’s sales. Let him do his thing, and work with your operations and delivery team to deliver on his promises.

– WARN JAMIE. Tell Jamie that making promises the team can’t keep is hurting the company and his customers. Either he follows the scheduling rules like everyone else, or he’ll lose accounts.

– FIX IT. This is the kind of situation that separates true leaders from mere bosses. Bring your team together on this, and get them to work together on a solution that makes sense.

– OUTSOURCE. If limited delivery capacity is slowing your sales, the obvious move is to outsource some of your deliveries during peak periods. The added cost will be well worth it.

What would you do?


If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.


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