Your sales force has a major impact on the success of your advertising
Every business spends time and money on marketing promotions and advertising, even if it is only signage or business cards. The objective is to make customers and potential customers aware of your company and its products and services. Most advertising also has the objective of inviting prospective buyers to approach
your company and either enquire or buy items. When the advertising succeeds and a customer engages with one of your salespeople, you should get value for your money spent on advertising by making a sale – but it does not always work out that way.
Prospective customers may not buy if the salespeople ignore them, if the product is not in stock, or not at the price advertised. Sometimes making the sale will depend on the salespersons product knowledge or their ability to really to a customer’s requirements. Are they able to match specific products to address customer needs or are they restricted to reciting (or reading) specifications and prices?
A lost sale
Some time ago I looked for a new device to heat a room in my home. There were many types of heaters and airconditioners to choose from. I had seen an advert for a type of heater that seemed to satisfy my needs and I had been attracted to the special price, so I visited the store. There was a display of the heaters on promotion near the entrance to the appliance store, with several neatly uniformed salespeople poised.
I explained what I needed and asked for advice – would the advertised device adequately heat the room I had in mind or were there better solutions? How would I determine what the relative running costs would be? About that point all the great advertising became so much wasted expenditure. The salespeople could not give
me any information on the size of heater I needed or comparative costs of running different systems. They could not even explain why some apparently similar
devices cost almost twice the cost of others. Their sales technique was to read the specifications on the packaging and emphasise that the heater was on
promotion and I should buy now. I walked out to the indifferent shrugs of the salespeople.
So no sale was made. And this from an organisation who says a key goal is to provide superb service! But while we can smile wryly at the all-too-frequent yawning gap between the vision and mission statements of a company and the activity at the coal face, something had gone badly wrong here. Good advertising and a great price attracted a potential first-time customer, but the salesperson was unable to provide the information the customer requested. Can you imagine walking into a motor car dealership and talking to salespeople who do not know the engine size or fuel consumption of the car they are trying to sell you?
What went wrong?
Possibly the blame lies with the supplier of the heaters for not providing sufficient information or training for the retail staff, or maybe the retailer is at fault
for not recruiting or training staff to be capable of translating needs into solutions. Perhaps the store should have clearly positioned itself as a supermarket, one where customers choose the products they need and don’t expect advice. Or it could be the salespeople themselves. Had they read up about heating? Asked questions? Were they so unprepared they had not even read a brochure, a specification sheet or the features on the packaging before I appeared?
A reality check is needed here. A high percentage of sales made by retailers and many business-to-business sales are routine transactions where the buyer knows what they want and the salesperson takes an order or directs them to the product. But if a selling organisation starts to regard this status as the norm they face two unfortunate consequences: One is that the buyer never gets exposure to alternatives or options in the range, which may be better for his needs than the product he buys.
The second is that the whole sales channel starts to get lazy, and becomes incapable of selling to any customer who does not specify exactly what they want.
Has it happened to your organisation? Have you allowed your salespeople to get lazy? Would they rather chat about sport than increase their product knowledge? It
may be worthwhile rethinking whether your salespeople can uncover needs and produce solutions. You don’t want me, and all the others like me to walk out of
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