The Home of the RV Industry on the Internet
    December 2003 Volume 29 - Number 5    



Order taker or sales professional?

Bob Zagami


About the Author:
Bob Zagami is an international author and lecturer with over 30 years of sales and marketing experience. Bob is a recognized expert in the document management industry. He has studied the RV industry as a hobby for twenty years and has owned several motorhomes and trailers.

Bob is available for consulting services, seminars, and writing assignments. You can reach him at 978-461-2143 or via e-mail (

RV America
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I was recently asked to accompany a supplier company on a few sales calls in Indiana to consult with them and evaluate the lack of activity from those who had previously represented this company to the RV manufacturing community.

The company and the product are not significant here, and I would obviously never disclose my consulting clients in print, especially when using the experience (with their permission) to highlight a sales problem that may be affecting other companies with similar distribution and representation arrangements.

Frustration had built up with the manufacturer and the company that was supposed to be selling their products, but the results clearly showed they were either not showing the product, could not relate the benefits of the product to specific customer requirements, or were simply order takers just waiting for somebody to pick up the telephone and buy something. One thing was very clear, they were not sales professionals and they were not doing what they were getting paid to do.

It is one thing to present the product, show the solution, and challenge for the business … that’s exciting and it should be happening every day in Indiana and elsewhere in the RV industry. I can’t think of anything better than being a young sales rep just getting started in the RV industry and having Indiana as my territory. I’m going to request that if I get a second shot and a new life when this trip is over … what a goldmine of opportunity!

The product manufactured by this company does not sell itself, in fact most products don’t. You have to understand what the product does and who could benefit from its use. It’s a value-added product, not a cost reduction product. As such, if the sales reps can not show the manufacturer that they can sell more units with this feature on their product, then they will never sell it at all because it costs more than the current systems being used by most people in the industry.

I know it is more work, and obviously more work than some companies and order takers are willing to perform to get their paycheck … but isn’t that what sales is all about. Find a problem and present a solution. Find a way to improve your prospects bottom line. You can do that by reducing a piece part cost, or incorporating value-added features that will enhance the overall interest in the product and present consumers with features that they feel are absolutely essential to enjoy the RV lifestyle as we know it today.

Order takers are a dime a dozen. No heavy lifting, in late and out early, and they should be embarrassed to carry a business card that has the word "sales" anywhere on it. If you have order takers, then call them customer service representatives because they sure are not selling anything.

It was quite evident that the supplier’s product was just not being represented in the way that it had to be in order to be of interest to a manufacturer. What was needed was a professional sales presentation that would validate the higher cost of the product by enhancing the overall value of the RV and thus making it attractive to a wider range of consumers who would buy the finished product that will increase total sales and bottom line profits.

One of our sales calls produced a completely different set of circumstances than what the company had previously experienced with several RV manufacturers. The call was set up with the key decision makers in the company. Order takers don’t talk to decision makers. First, they don’t know how to get to them, and if or when they do, they don’t know what to say that justifies the higher cost of a product that produces better bottom line results than a lower cost product that actually increases the overall cost of the RV through inordinately high product failure rates or expensive warranty repair costs … both of which also cost the manufacturer customer confidence and loyalty, and may drive them to a different company the next time they buy an RV.

Once in front of key decision makers there has to be respect for both companies, which is what we found during our call. The supplier company was fully prepared to demonstrate their product and explain the value that it brings to the overall RVing experience. The manufacturing company could see that it was something different, something of value, and it certainly addressed a need that has been expressed by many RVers over the years.

Perhaps even more important was the dialog between both companies. It was very comfortable and professional. The reason for this was the quality of the people in the room, and the mutual respect for each other’s reason for being there in the first place.

Many times it will be the manufacturer who actually presents an uncomfortable environment for either an order taker or a sales professional because all they want to look at is a lower cost of doing business. While this is certainly important, they fail to realize that there is nothing wrong with paying more money for new or better products that may increase the cost of manufacturing, but still produce a more acceptable product that the consumer wants. When this happens, overall profits go up because the company sells more, makes them better, makes them faster, and produces a more reliable end product that enhances the true customer experience.

Many times it will be the supplier sales rep that actually makes the meeting worthless. If they are just taking up space and time and not showing any value-added for a product or service, then the manufacturer is not going to buy anything. If this type of relationship is prolonged, then the manufacturer will eventually stop meeting with the person, thus depriving the company they represent of any future business because the manufacturer sees no value in talking to them.

The objective of any sales call is to determine if the prospect has any problems or concerns that could be addressed with the products or services offered by a sales rep. An order taker has no hope, they simply ask for business, or write business that is handed to them, but they never develop business opportunities that will sustain and build a relationship over time.

The next objective is to advance the conversation and continue discussions to refine the problem, identify and present a solution, demonstrate a clear return on investment and improvements to the current way they are doing business … the result is a win-win situation for all concerned.

The supplier company will have proved the value of their product or service and argued their case successfully. The manufacturing company saw true value and profit improvement in the solution being proposed and has validated it within the company and made the critical decision to change the way they were doing business and incorporated the new product or service into their production process.

Once the changes are made and new RV’s are being shipped with enhanced features that change the customer perception of the product; sales increase, profits increase, and a relationship is established because everybody understood their role in the process, and worked together to accomplish a goal.

Like many other things today, the role of the sales rep is changing. They must become a sales professional and work toward developing partnerships and not sales calls. They must clearly understand the prospects business and be able to communicate effectively to understand problems or areas of concern that may present opportunities for success.

Order takers are history … or should be. They waste time and produce no value-added to the sales experience.

Customers expect more from the sales people that call on them, or they just won’t see them. The biggest complaint we get today from sales people is that prospects won’t see them and they can’t get appointments. And they are right. Customers are getting smarter and sales people are not responding or changing to this dynamic. Therefore, their prospects and customers are just not going to waste anymore time with them.

Sales people who can change, or who have already changed, and adapted to the new world order of sales, will be extremely successful. They are the ones who understand that there must be a reason for somebody to see them and they will find out what that reason is. They are the ones who will be able to uncover problems and concerns and present believable solutions. They are the ones who understand how to show a return on investment and are capable of selling solutions and not products. Solutions solve problems and demand a higher cost that shows a payback. Anybody can sell products, especially if all they want to do is keep cutting prices. That’s not selling, that’s order taking. And it’s not going to work.

Are you selling or taking orders? Think about it.

Good luck and good selling.

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