Sales Training Solutions 2023: Part 2

Transform Order-takers Into Authorities

Sales teams are challenged with producing results but also building relationships. The former is much tougher without the latter. However, in today’s post-Covid era, I’ve found that we are creating many more “order takers” than consultative authorities. Let’s take a look at why that is and what you can do about it with your teams.

What is a Sales Order Taker?

We all know the difference between someone who takes your fast food order versus someone who cares for you at a full-service restaurant, right? Fast-food order takers rely on you knowing what you want and asking for it. The interaction is very transactional. With a full-service waitperson, they will take time to ask what you want, present options and opinions, and ensure that you fully enjoy your experience. That interaction is relational.

In sales, we have the same dynamic. Some salespeople will simply wait for the phone to ring or email to come in. And when it does, the onus is on the customer to know what they want and request it. This salesperson sees their job as taking the order and making sure it is fulfilled with little or no follow-up nor presentation of other solutions for consideration. Transactional.

In the training I do, we are creating consultative authorities. These salespeople take time to learn about their customers’ needs, tailor solutions that meet those needs, and look for opportunities to further help with additional solutions. Relational!

But the problem I see these days is that there are far more order-takers than authorities. Why is that?

Covid-era Created More Sales Order Takers

When people were sent home for months during the Covid-era, they were left to their own devices as salespeople. They had little or no daily supervision, limited or no training, no personal connection to customers, and distant leadership. That created an atmosphere of selling-and-reporting rather than relationship-building. There was not enough “caring and feeding” of associates by team leaders so salespeople were left scorecarding their activities:
“How many customers/prospects did you contact?
“What was the result?”
“How much income did you produce?”
“What are your goals for next week?”

Covid shifted the paradigm back to a reactive one that was focused simply on putting wins on the board. People relied heavily on technology…texting, video calls, communication services like Slack, Teams, etc. And what was lost was the interpersonal communication between management and their direct reports, associates and their customers.

Why You Need Sales Authorities Now

The Covid era is over. There are no limitations on how your employees can interact with customers except those they put on themselves. Are they taking the easy route…firing off a text or email rather than calling? Are they passively avoiding in-person meetings by not even asking for them? As their leader, you need to set them on a different path because clients are demanding it.

Now that things are back to normal, clients are once again requiring that you earn their business. It’s not enough that you have the business already. You can lose it at any time (and I’ve been approached by many companies that have). So your team needs to build strong relationships that demonstrate a knowledge of your customers’ industry, business needs, and challenges.

And here’s what I recommend as a good start (future posts will have more tactics to employ):

Start with In-Person Meetings

This new generation of salespeople is so dialed in with technology that they are eschewing one of the most important and relationship-building tools…a face-to-face meeting. As their leader, you need to encourage…even require…that they meet with customers in person regularly. This is a major step in earning and/or keeping a client’s business. Here’s why:

  1. It Demonstrates Caring: In taking the time to meet one-on-one with a client, you are saying that the client is very important and you are putting aside all other work you could be doing to focus on their needs.
  2. You Can’t See Body Language on a Phone Call: This is a simple yet critical point. Being able to assess how a customer reacts to your recommendations needs to include their body language. So much can be said without words, right?
  3. You BOTH Aren’t Distracted: An in-person meeting eliminates a lot of distractions…text message alerts, emails, phone calls, people coming in while you’re on a Zoom call, etc. These distractions are reduced for your client, too. It means you can both focus and get to the real issues/challenges that you are there to solve.

Resolving Pushback from Your Employees

Let’s face it…when it comes to in-person meetings, your employees have had it easy for a few years. They couldn’t do them! But that era is over. However, when you ask them to include face-to-face meetings in their activities, you may get pushback. Pay attention to it! There are a few things to learn here.

First, who is pushing back? As I’ve noted in past posts, you have A, B, and C players on a sales team. Those who embrace the idea of scheduling in-person meetings and get right to it…they are are your A players. Those who hesitate only because they feel they aren’t equipped to conduct a full meeting are your B players (and I’ll say more about them below). And then there are those who begin a barrage of excuses as to why they can’t do in-person meetings. “My clients don’t like to meet.” “Our schedules never work for that.” “I’m more effective on the phone.” “There’s so much wasted time getting to and from them…I can use that time more productively.”  You’ll hear it all…and it will come from your C players. Be wary!

Second…they want help. Back to your B players…what they are saying is they need leadership and training to conduct a productive meeting. Give it to them…or get it for them. This will show you care about their development and success. And it will ensure that you can confidently send them to a client meeting knowing that they have the skills to lead it effectively.

We don’t need more order takers! Use the tips above as you develop consultative authorities that will create meaningful (and profitable!) client relationships. In my next three posts in this series, I will provide more ways you can do that.