Are Your Salespeople Order Takers or Professional Influencers?

“Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two – and only – two functions, marketing and innovation.  Marketing and innovation produce results, all the rest are costs.” -  Peter Drucker

In all walks of business, there are sales people. There are some sales-phobic folks, however, who believe that the word “sales” is a frightening four-letter word. So they cleverly avoid using the “s” word in job titles, preferring to use more “professional sounding,” euphemistic titles like Business Developer, Account Executive, Loan Officer, Marketing Consultant, Solutions Specialist, Estimator, and many, many others.

Whatever you call them, you have them, so let’s review the importance of their role.

If you can agree with Mr. Drucker’s quote above that creating a customer is a critical function, are there opportunities to improve the results of those who sell?  Today, I’m going to focus on the skill element of selling. Are selling skills more like riding a bicycle where once you learn, you never forget? Or are they like playing as a concert pianist where the skill is never completely mastered and requires constant practice and refinement?

To consider this fully, let’s examine the roles that your sales people might play in the process of creating one of your customers. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll only look at two possible roles: The Order Taker and The Professional Influencer.

The Order Taker

I continue to find that most people who have (or should have) the word sales on their business card fit into the Order Taker category. They’re provided with leads, they connect, they pitch, and then ask for the order. Sometimes they get it. Sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, they tend to follow the shampoo bottle instruction: Repeat if necessary. And sometimes enough lathering and rinsing will get results. But are your Order Takers selling hard or selling smart?

The Professional Influencer

These people are much harder to find than order takers. Their skills and overall approach to selling make them more valuable. Their influencing skills are tuned to the point where objections rarely occur. Professional Influencers understand the buying motives and behaviors of their prospects and the emotional aspects of decision making. What’s more, they actively use this insight to attract more customers, more often. They typically employ a process oriented approach to guide their prospect interactions. They have the ability to help prospects “discover” the right course of action without pitching unwanted products or services. The result is trust, respect, a mutually-beneficial relationship, sustainability, and more business.

Regardless of the title you have for those in your business who are responsible for creating customers, you might wish to consider each of the following questions:

  • Do my sales people behave more like order takers or professional influencers?
  • Have I provided my sales team with the opportunity to take a concert pianist’s approach of continual improvement to developing their influencing skills?
  • If my order takers could embrace a concert pianist’s approach, how many more customers could I create each month?  How many more would I retain each year?
  • Do I have a quantitative tool to evaluate each salesperson’s potential?  Strengths?  Weaknesses?
  • When I devote resources toward creating more customers, do I consider it a cost or an investment?

As either a “sales guy” or a “business development professional” myself, I would be remiss if I didn’t invite you to give me a call to discuss this further – either in general terms, or in terms of potential solutions for your organization in light of the specific challenges you face.

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