The Strategic Sales Rep. vs. The Order-Taker


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Thoiughts on Selling by Alan Walsh, Huntington Consultancy Founder & CEO

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The Strategic Sales Rep. vs. The Order-Taker

  1. 1. The Strategic Sales Rep. vs. the Order-TakerThoughts on Selling by Alan Walsh, Huntington Consultancy Founder & CEODespite the growth of the internet, much business-to-business selling is still done face-to-face. Manysales can only be done in this manner; especially when custom build-to-order products are involved.Someone must make contact, set up appointments, go out to places of business, and sell. People whoexcel at this are valuable assets. But some sales reps., even though they bring in orders, don’t trulygrasp how to maximize their effectiveness.For simplicity sake, I classify these less-than-optimum sales reps. as “Order-Takers”. Their moresuccessful counterparts I classify as “Strategic SalesReps.”So what’s the difference?The order-taker is just looking for that next sale. Once they get it, they move on and focus somewhereelse. The client may not hear from them again until they’re hungry for another sale. Even auto dealers –long known for “sell ‘em & forget ‘em” tactics – have largely figured out that this is not a very smartapproach. Order-takers might produce impressive results for a time, but clients will eventually tire oftheir short-sightedness, self-centeredness, and lack of availability. Order-takers also tend to burn outquickly because they have to practically start at ground zero rebuilding relationships each time they tryto make that next sale. These are the sales reps. who tend to earn labels such as “hustler”; and theydon’t represent their employers well.The strategic sales rep. looks beyond the immediate moment to develop a relationship with the client.They seek to become an indispensable partner of the client and establish a long-term flow of business.They invest time with the client, even though an immediate sale likely won’t occur. They makethemselves readily available to answer questions. They spend time helping the client brainstorm, eventhough the idea being considered might end up being abandoned. They take time to educate. Theyensure the client is satisfied.Huntington ConsultancyHuntington Beach,
  2. 2. Strategic selling is a learned talent. Young sales reps. tend to be too impatient and rough-hewn to trulygrasp it until they’re seasoned by more experienced seniors. A smart sales manager will spend time inthe field developing these skills in their sales staff while helping them build those client relationships.Strategic selling takes a good sense of judgment. Sometimes a sales rep. and their manager might spendmonths on a potential client before seeing the reward for their efforts. On the other hand, some clientsaren’t worth the effort for a variety of reasons. Part of the learning process is being able to distinguishbetween the two and cut one’s losses on the weak prospects. One doesn’t want to be too hasty –or-waste valuable time & resources either. This is where seasoned seniors can help the young developtheir senses. Of course, all sales reps. run into situations where the potential client has a long-termrelationship with another vendor. While there may be little near-term hope of making a sale, that long-term relationship might at some point turn sour; in which case the sales rep. wants to be “Johnny-on-the-spot”; offering a ready alternative. A judicious periodic investment of time might reap big rewards.Again, this is where seasoning and judgment come into play.Price is important in business, but relationships count for a great deal too. The object as a sales rep. isto make yourself an integral part of the client’s operations; almost as if you’re part of their company.You want to be a vendor who consistently delivers, anticipates the client’s needs, and is there when theyneed you. When something goes wrong, you’re there to help make it right.Businesses today are more and more concerned with keeping their inventories to a minimum by seekingvendors who can deliver quickly and reliably. They also want consistent quality and support. Building astrategic relationship with the client will help you plug yourself into that #1 vendor role.There are cases where a skilled strategic sales rep. will build a sizable client & commission base, andthen go into “early retirement” mode; at which time they digress into being a mere order-taker. Oncethey hit their commission “comfort-level”, their motivation to grow ebbs. The smart sales manager willwatch for such situations and shift the game to keep them motivated.Although it’s more difficult, even the internet seller should attempt to develop strategic relationshipswith their customers. Anything that can personalize the relationship and get the customer to think ofyour firm first when a need arises will serve you well. You must draw a fine between being too passive,waiting for them to come to you, and being too brash with your attempts to reach out. Many internet“reach-out” strategies are perceived as just being annoying; and thus counter-productive.