Everyone is in sales.
“I’m not sure why I’m in this training. I’m not in sales.”
Says the plant manager, truck fleet dispatcher, customer service rep, service department manager, IT employee, tech-research person. I hear this frequently as I prepare for sales workshops with teams. Inevitably, there will be several people that are required to attend the training for various reasons. Often, they are reluctant to attend as they don’t feel they are in sales.
Our view of “being in sales” comes from the silo mentality that occurs in business. We are hired to line up trucks, schedule production or load trucks. So, that’s what we do. We line up trucks and schedule production the best we can. The sales team are those folks who go visit customers and convince them to buy from us. “I’m not doing that!” they tell me emphatically.
After allowing them to vent their opinions, they need to be reassured that during the workshop, we are not going to try to “turn them into a salesperson”. However, it is important for them to understand what we do and how it affects the customer. We provide products and services to our customers. That is the absolute functional mechanics of what we do. We supply animal and crop production products: feed, fertilizer, tractors, grain storage, loans. We provide services: data management, agronomy consulting, grain trading. Without the actual physical product or service, we have no customer. This is the table stakes or ante to be in the market – well executed production and delivery of products and services.
Here’s the additional challenge in agribusiness. There are anywhere from 5-15 active competitors in every market, who are ready willing and able to supply similar products and services to our customers. If we don’t do a great job at the basics of providing our products and services at the right time, our customer simply moves on to the next supplier. The internet has increased that level of competition for any product that can be bought remotely.
What I’m trying to say is, your role is critical to sales success. To emphasize this point, I like to show a generic company organization chart. Most org charts have the CEO at the top, then boxes below that for VPs, department managers, and the employees in those departments under that. But no customer! So, I ask, “Where’s the customer? Where would you put the customer?” To help explain, I suggest one of the org charts below.
I understand the production manager, order entry person and
truck driver don’t have to go out and make sales calls on current customers. They don’t have to prospect for new customers by making cold calls. However, they play an extremely important part in the sale and the next sale. Most of us are in long-term selling situations. We want to sell producers or agribusinesses for the duration of our career. These org charts depict how to do that. In the equipment business, there is a saying that, “The salesperson sells the first tractor. Parts and Service sell next one”. As a company and as salespeople, we promise a lot to customers. You are the ones that help us deliver on those promises.
Customers are looking for a reason to buy from you. A more engaged sales and support staff can absolutely be that reason. Think about those businesses that are disconnected and don’t know what their internal departments are doing. Salespeople are promising delivery dates that aren’t met. Accounting is using promotions and finance terms that aren’t in line with the printed material. We force our customers to bare the burden of making us fix these issues. Instead, they just opt to shop somewhere else.
I see this situation as a huge opportunity for a salesperson. Lead your local team to be more connected when supplying your customers. It may be somewhat uncomfortable in the beginning. It won’t be easy. That’s why it’s both a challenge and an opportunity to differentiate in the market. Reaching out to have a discussion with a very busy dispatcher or accounting manager can seem daunting. Remember, the focus is on how we can be more effective at serving our customer – especially a customer who has many choices in the market.
If this blog helped you on your journey to being more effective in your selling, I ask you to share it with those who might also benefit from it.
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