Selling Versus Order Taking

Sixteen years ago, my wife and I phoned the local Century 21 office, spoke to the agent. His name was Jerry. We asked Jerry to show us some homes – three homes we had already found on We scheduled the date and time, saw three homes and chose the first one that we saw together and made the offer that evening which was accepted. Jerry drew up the paperwork and we closed soon thereafter. This process repeated itself three years ago with new agents and new firms.

What selling did any of them do? None.

Jerry just happened to answer the phone that day and made the easiest commission in his life. While I can’t speak to Jerry’s sales ability – I saw none. He did nothing to prevent the sale as I saw in our prior real estate agent. And again the same process played out three years later.

I recently had a conversation with a regional executive at one of the "too big to fail" banks whose commercial sales teams' prospecting method was waiting for whoever walked in the door and asked for help. With these paltry sales tactics, is it any wonder that the banks seem to only grow by merger & acquisition?

While you may be sitting there asking yourself, what’s the big deal? We should all be so lucky to get those deals every once in a while. The issue is that it happens much more frequently than sales reps are willing to admit. Managers too are unwilling to look deeper as to the nature of those deals – who initiated them and how? What was the genesis that brought the sale to close?

Let me give you a few examples. Let’s say you have an existing account that you are responsible for selling into and growing revenues. Your account could be any multinational corporation like Johnson & Johnson or Cisco that is acquiring company after company (large and small) or that company could be in a high growth mode adding location after location, hiring person after person. With each situation, your account integrates the new company or properties and orders your companies’ services. Given that your company has serviced this client well, how much actual selling was done for these additional orders? What did you do to that compelled them to buy?

The truth is the real selling likely happened long ago when the initial contract was signed. These new orders have little to do with the salesperson’s current efforts and everything to do with the client’s initiative and execution efforts to which your company had zero influence. The execution of your service and delivery team has earned your company the sale more than the sales team.

So before you applaud your sales team for making all these sales, consider the real reasons that the company bought and what influence – if any – your sales team had. If anything, your service and delivery teams should be applauded and congratulated for building the clients’ confidence.

After all, if you don’t take care of the customer someone else will.