Remember when we called it “The Information Superhighway?”
The internet has revolutionized the way we live, as well as the way we do business but, for all of its advantages, the internet has atrophied the skills of our salespeople. This problem became apparent last week while I was chatting with one of our dealer’s salesmen. It was a gorgeous day in Manhattan, so the streets were jammed but the store was empty. One of the guys, an industry veteran, was bemoaning the lack of business. “How am I supposed to make a living?” he complained. I looked around the sales floor which was entirely empty except for two salespeople, both of whom were web-surfing, and replied “Well, why don’t you call some of your “Regulars,” ask them how they’re enjoying their systems and invite them to check out some of your newest product arrivals?”
From the look on his face, you’d swear I asked the guy to lend me money.
“I don’t have time for that,” he shrieked. I pointed out that the store was empty and he was, in fact, doing nothing. “I don’t want to hassle my customers,” he countered, “Besides, the owner sends out e-mail blasts whenever something new arrives.”
Where do I begin? First of all, salesmen aren’t “Hassling” their customers by placing the occasional call. Good salesmen in every industry constantly work their regulars and, so long as they’re not continually pushing for sales and asking for money, customers appreciate the personal attention. More worrisome is the comment about e-mail blasts. We’re quickly becoming a world wherein any sort of spoken communication is being replaced by e-mail. Whatever you think about this from a social interaction standpoint, it’s a terrible business decision.
Much as e-mails are an indispensable means of communicating detailed information to large groups, they’re NOT a replacement for phone calls. We know that e-mails are only opened by a small percentage of recipients, even fewer actually read them and a still smaller group takes action. On the other hand, phone calls have a very high rate of success. The downside? Whereas hundreds of clients can be reached with a single blast, phone calls are time- and labor-intensive, as each client must be phoned individually; in other words, phoning one’s customers requires effort and, sadly, I see fewer and fewer salespeople willing to expend that sort of effort. Of course, they have no problem complaining about not making money.
If you think this is an indictment of AV salesmen, you’re wrong. It’s an indictment of their superiors! This sort of behavior couldn’t exist were it not tolerated by store owners. When I worked at Harvey in the early ‘90s, salesmen were required to make regular phone calls, usually with some sort of “Call to action” to intrigue our customers. And it worked! I want to say that most of the guys added 10-15% to their income during the slow Summer months and, since the store was “Dead,” we didn’t ignore a single customer. Thing is, if my Store Manager hadn’t forced me, I wouldn’t have made a single call! I wouldn’t have made that extra money, either.
The moral of the story: Bosses, plan a series of meaningful messages and make your salespeople execute. You’ll all be happier!
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