Are You an Order Taker or Sales Advisor?

© 2006 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2006
Author: Scott O’Neill
Page 74

Are You an Order Taker or Sales Advisor?
By Scott O’Neill

My wife and I recently decided to do some upgrades by adding some decorative shutters and refinishing the floors. Most of the companies I called were less than detailed in their answers to our inquiries, and many just didn’t seem or want to give any detail at all. Instead, they offered us price sheets as if the product would sell itself.

The product that sells itself? Perhaps an iPod would qualify, but it’s unlikely that there are many such products when it comes to home improvements.

Being in the role of a consumer reminded me of the importance of differentiating myself when I’m in my sales shoes. When selling, I can be an order taker, or I can be a sales advisor.

Let’s break down some of the different attributes of each:

Order Taker
Starts with “Can I help you?”
Offers what the customer wants, regardless of whether that is what the customer needs
Provides price lists
Satisfied with any sale
Reads product information from sheets to the customer
Boiler-plate approach to each sale: “Everyone is the same to me.”

Sales Advisor
Starts with “How can I help you?”
Asks questions to determine what the customer really needs
Explains the differences in products
Satisfied only with the right sale
Knows product information inherently
Adapts to each client’s needs, assesses their situation, and delivers relevant information

Wants vs. Needs

There’s a critical difference between wants and needs. For example, I just had a customer last week named Mary, who initially wanted a beautiful carriage door with all stain-grade wood. After asking several questions, I learned some critical details.

1. Her garage door didn’t face the street.
2. Her home was regularly exposed to harsh weather.
3. She provided maintenance for absolutely nothing.
4. She had no plans of ever doing so.

I suggested that she likely doesn’t need a wood door, let alone a custom one. Moreover, Mary would be very disappointed after the sale if she were forced to maintain her door.

A Lesson Learned

I learned this lesson about eight years ago. I sold a set of paint-grade wood carriage-style doors that had about three hours of daily direct sun exposure. The customer planned on painting the doors white, so I never thought it was critical to emphasize maintenance in that kind of case. But about 18 months later, that same customer called with a complaint that cracks were developing on the door’s face.

Upon inspecting the doors, I found that they indeed had some surface cracks. I explained that, with some wood filler and minor sanding, priming, and painting, the doors would be good as new. But explaining that after the fact proved to be a disappointment. They just never expected that kind of maintenance, nor that fast, and I could see it in their faces.

Since then, I’ve significantly changed my approach to selling any custom wood door. I’m now cautious about any custom-faced door since certain materials can interact in many different ways with varying weather conditions.

Customized Solutions

Being in the Bay area of San Francisco, we have microclimates throughout the region that can vary from extremely hot and dry to very damp and cold, and temperatures can range from the 50s to the 90s in the same area on the same day. Such conditions have taught me to provide the kind of advice that a true sales advisor offers, rather than simply giving answers that the customer wants.

All of us face the responsibility of helping each client in each market, giving solid, professional advice to each customer. In the end, we strive to give the customer both what they want and what they need. When discussing door options, probe to clarify what they really need. Doing so can make a huge difference in having a truly satisfied client base.

It also makes a huge difference in your reputation as a professional garage door salesperson. Anyone can be an order taker. Wouldn’t you rather be a sales advisor?

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