This article was written by Dennis Wright, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor
I looked at the Branch Visit Report and scanned the several Daily Call Sheets that accompanied it, and then asked my sales rep about a particular retailer… his answer: “I was unable to talk with him; he was away on vacation”. The next question: what had he learned when he visited the store… his response: “he’ll be back in a week”. I probably invited that one, but the silence that followed that statement was deafening.
What could my rep have done when he was in that store / what should he have done when he was there? Reload. As I mentioned in an article last month there are four levels in selling and overlooking or ignoring them is the equivalent of failing to take advantage of opportunity. Not something that successful sales people often do.
Let me put this situation though in proper context; we were selling retail financing programs (financing for customers) to a wide variety of businesses and our sales model was based largely on cold calling, which can be very effective if it’s done right.
Consider this; sales people (let’s call them Level 1) at most retail businesses, if not occupied, are generally happy to chat for a few minutes while waiting for the next customer… and they’re an excellent source through which to determine what’s going on there at that business. In this particular case my sales rep, after learning the owner was away, should have asked a sales person there - after some get-acquainted small talk of course - who the business was using for customer financing, and from their perspective how that source was performing and what program changes if any they’d like to see made.
The administrative staff (2) could have provided helpful information as well; facts about the store or stores, who the decision makers were, the best time to find the owner in the store and / or perhaps even schedule an appointment with the owner at a future date.
Talking with management (3) might have yielded information about sales volumes, the economics of the arrangements in place and how those arrangements were presently viewed… and management is also a good source through which to determine how the service provider is performing and what program changes if any ought to be made.
Of course the owner is the final stop (we’ll call him Level 4) and when that meeting takes place the information gathered earlier at one or more of the other levels would have enabled him to “personalize” his sales presentation thereby making it much more effective; insuring that it addressed the businesses needs and most if not all their wants.
Would this strategy work for you… you bet it would! Whether you’re selling goods or services taking extra time for conversation - whether it’s at Level 1, 2 or 3 - to gather information and to some extent selling yourself, your company and depending on circumstances your product or program (the three stages in selling) will indeed pay off. Doing so may even create interest and support within that business before you ever have the opportunity to meet with the owner, and a little inside help never hurts.