Sales People or Order Takers

How well do your sales staff stack up?


Over a weekend, I went “computer shopping” with my son and as a result was exposed to a vast number of salespeople all selling pretty much the same thing, just like other retailers and businesses out there in the world, who have to make sales to stay afloat.

Clearly computers have moved to near commodity status, as it seemed tome that almost all the sales staff assumed that price was the key criteria and that our mission in driving all over the city on a Saturday was to collect numerous price quotes.

At the end of a long day, I could clearly understand why direct buying from DELL COMPUTERS was so popular.

My son however wants a specific combination of features and a special sound card to handle music composition direct from key board to computer screen. None of these fitted the various “Specials” advertised,so we started by visiting those retailers with the special packages and then asked for the changes / other options we needed.

Not being experts,we had to explain each time what we wanted the equipment for to enable the salesperson to prepare a quote, which they all seemed quite happy to do.

So instead of actually buying a computer we ended up with a whole lot of quotes. During the week my son mulled them over and decided to buy from the salesperson who offered him a special “Box” and an extra fan to keep the whole thing cool and working effectively.

Yes – he was the cheapest for the basic computer and special sound card,by about $7. But he was also the only one to explain why the fancy box would add value to the purchase. We had looked at the boxes in other stores, but had no idea they did anything except look good.

As a marketing person, what astounded me were the minimal efforts these salespeople put into converting our serious enquiry and quotation into a sale!

No one asked us for our names or for a phone number or e-mail address, or attempted to explain why what they had to offer would work better than what others had suggested.

No one attempted in any way to close the deal by throwing in some sweetener or other – free pack of CD’s would have done it. Evens some credible, friendly advice, that we were unlikely to see anything more than a couple of dollars difference in prices andcould save our time by buying immediately from them.

It would have worked as there was next to no difference between six retailers.In general, friendly, helpful staff but “Order-takers”.

Not even that, these guys were “Quotation Givers” ...

They certainly couldn’t be called salesmen.That did not stop the queues at the checkout of customers who clearly must have known what they wanted and found the price satisfactory. So the business owners were probably quite happy with the results, little realising that they could have added a decent percentage of those who walked out with quotes, to the check outline!

This experience set me thinking about the differences between true salespeople and order-takers and what you as a business person should asking yourself about your sales staff to see which ones are the real salespeople.


The key word is “extra” sales that have come as a result of their active participation in the process. Not the result of them saying “Can I help you?” to someone who has come in to the store solely as a result of your expensive advert which offered a special on which you make no margin.A “Quote Giver” lets this valuable and expensive prospect get away after wasting his time providing a written quote.(We received six for one order). No sale!

An “Order Taker” assists the customer to buy the special offer and anything else the customer specifically asks for.Advertising made the sale not the order taker.A “Salesperson” in the same store, recognises that the advert is there to bring potential customers to the store, not to do his sales job.

He or she knows that there is no profit in the special offer, without supporting sales of add-ons or the sale of something else that better suits the customer at a decent profit.And doesn’t let them get away without either a sale or a promise to come back, or their name and phone number.If your staff are not making Extra sales, then they are order takers!

”Would you like fries with that?” is not a difficult concept.

McDonalds has 17 year-olds doing it every day and it makes Billions. At Harvey Norman’s, so I am told, it is expected in some departments that sales staff sell add-ons with at least 50% of purchases.


Good salesmen know that they don’t sell products; they sell solutions to problems or customer benefits. So they ask questions and get interested in what the customer wants to do with the product. An order taker asks the customer what they want; a salesperson finds out what they need and then sells the product that best solves the need. Customers may think a particular product will do what they want but end up disappointed. Customers are often wrong. A good sales person helps the customer to get what they actually need not what they thought they needed. The more questions asked the better chance of fitting the product to the customer.


Real salespeople and their managers do their homework.They know they will have customers who have read all the specials in the Saturday paper and visit all the stores. So they prepare by having answers to explain or devalue the opposition, while offering alternatives and providing equal o rbetter offers, without their customer having to shop around.Salespeople have a copy of the competitor’s advert and show it to the customers, while they explain why a visit to yet another shop would be a waste of time for them. I could have saved 3 hours!


It sounds confrontational, but if your sales staff don’t at least ask the customer when they want to actually get the product / make a decision, they don’t know if they have alive customer or not. It also offers the opportunity to offer incentives to buy now including the fact that they won’t have to visit any more stores. Example. A years extra warranty on the Computer for half price. A special case worth $50 for $20.etc.


Most quotes, unless they are for a major business and likely prospect, are a waste of time for salespeople. In my computer buying expedition, six quotes and one order. Five wasted their time.The smart salespeople first devalue the “quote process” by pointing out the minimal differences in price and the loss of the customer’s valuable leisure time, spent for little reward.Then they offer to refund the difference if the customer finds a better price for the same products after he has purchased.Not one of six stores even suggested it!


If you don’t the chances are that you have only order takers working for you.Why? Simply because good salespeople are valuable and create extra profits for their employers. They go to where they are recognised and rewarded.


Order Takers and Quote Givers are very often good salespeople with bad management.How do you shape up? If you are a business owner or salesperson or sales manager, it is worth recognising the characteristics of good sales people and building their operating methods into your business and culture, no matter what product or service you are selling.If you are serious about capturing the extra sales then I suggest you have a look at the my article “Creating a Sales Supportive Culture in your Business”.So take action – you could have some super sales people on your team already and you didn’t recognise them!

Ian Godbold

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