Your Sales Team: Order Takers or Salespeople? First Clue…

Is your sales team made up of order takers or salespeople?

The answer is the difference between growth and profits vs stagnation and decline.

Order takers not only cost you accounts but they drive up your costs. As a generalization when team members are only bringing back the low-hanging fruit, these are the accounts that tend to be smaller, are harder to satisfy and churn faster.

Some teams “bop along the surface.” They skim across the top scooping what is within sight and easy reach. Order takers. Others, they are scanning the horizon and diving deep for opportunities. They make the extra effort to find and create new accounts. They are salespeople.

But how do you know?

Let me share with you what is often my first big fat clue as to whether I am dealing with a group of order-takers or salespeople.

The first step to crafting great sales scripts that sell or being prepared for that first meeting or discovery call is preparation. Think we can all agree on that. So to begin a training or coaching intervention a “pile of words” has to be created. This is simply a collection of the top verbiage, examples and stories that sales reps should have at their fingertips to prospect and close sales well.

A “pile of words” is going to include the top benefits, credibility statements, questions, statistics, examples, stories, before and after’s and specifics that salespeople use to go wider and deeper. They are not just skimming the surface, they are prepared to participate in the art of selling. They are prepared to help their prospects make the best decisions by communicating information that stimulates thinking and clarifying options.

So as a sales manager, if you ask your team to relate the benefits accounts get from working with you, the best questions they ask, how they communicate the credibility and expertise of your firm, what examples they use to illustrate the value you bring, the account names they drop in each vertical, and the statistics they cite…. what do you get back?

If all you hear is a ticking clock… you have a team of order-takers.

If all you hear are surface generalities such as “save money,” “do a great job” and not much else… you have a team of order-takers. Your team is emulating the sales technique of the homeless person they pass in the morning asking “Can you spare a dollar for me today?” Reality is that they are not working with much else.

If you can think of a lot of success stories, examples, things to say and specifics that are not being mentioned, that is a big fat clue that your team is just skimming the surface taking the easy orders.

Most of the time quantum leaps in sales productivity come not from the “fresh idea” or “new strategy” but from simply using the information you are sitting on that is being ignored. Many many times I see sales teams with great things to crow about that are not mentioning them at all. If that is your team, a lot of new accounts are slipping through your fingers needlessly.

So what do you do if you wake up in the middle of the night to the nightmare of being surrounded by order-takers draining your blood?

Well first of all create an environment where people share information. Get everybody’s top stuff on paper. Then sales management should add to this. If there are meaningful benefits, specifics, examples, questions and statistics that are not on your sales team’s radar, add them to the pile.

Second, you get what you inspect. So periodically ask team members to relate their pitch to you. Sit in on conversations and meetings. Recognize the good you hear, be direct about what is missing and needs to improve. Let them know that someone is paying attention and they can’t just skate.

Third, recognize that if salespeople can’t articulate it, it doesn’t exist. If you ask how people handle common scenarios and you get stutters, hemming and hawing, “It depends” and “every situation is different,” you know you are dealing with someone who is totally unprepared. Your BS detection meter should be hitting the red zone.

Fourth, recognize that adults do not change behaviors or learn new skills easily. Those that have been skimming the top for years do not suddenly learn or use the skills to sell wider and deeper. That transition will be very hard. A few will get it quickly and make the change without a lot of help. Many will transition only with proper structure, sales management and supervision. Many will not be able to change their behaviors and you will have to make a decision.

So? Do you have order-takers or salespeople?

If you need help, reach out.