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Effort to Sell by Educating
Increasing the Value of the Sale
Manufacturers are to be complimented for their continued, and successful efforts to improve the presentation of their products so that the purchaser can easily gather more information as they make a selection. From the package, to instructions, to displays, and information on their website, a manufacturer is doing their best to present their product in the best possible light. All of this is done so that the purchaser, whether it is an individual or the purchasing agent for a corporation, will be enticed to select one manufacturer's products over the competition. And as you see the new product presentations each year from manufacturers, we would probably all agree that there is no lack of creativity.
In addition to increased sales, you may see their efforts as a means to accomplish another goal. Perhaps, you also see this as an effort to replace, or become less dependent on the sales representative of the office supply dealer. If the manufacturer is thinking the quality, and quantity of office supply sales representatives has decreased, this creative marketing can assist the manufacturer in making up the difference.
Whatever your viewpoint of the reasons for their efforts, this same type of creative efforts manufacturers have used can also be used in your business to gain that same edge. Of course, there are several crucial ingredients: you, your employees, and a program to educate them. Notice first that we are suggesting an education program instead of a training program. We are not trying to make a play on words, but instead we offer an example of a 'trained' delivery person employee who, upon being asked a question by your customer, says, "You'll have to ask your sales person. I just deliver the stuff." The same type of example can also be applied to most any instant of an employee's interaction with a customer.
Training employees seems to lead to employees who have "stock answers" to questions as compared to educated employees providing customers not just with answers, but with solutions. Educating your employees provides you with at least three ways of separating yourself from your competition.
The first advantage is that you will now have employees who are feeling fulfilled as individuals because they are making a difference. If you remember while you were in school, studying the teachings of Abraham Maslow, three of the five basic human needs dealt with self esteem, the esteem of others, and the ability to give to others. Having employees who achieve these basic needs leads to less employee turnover according to a study by the Harvard Business School.
The second advantage you have is that customers now look to your company for solutions instead of just products. Experience has shown that by providing this additional information and service, your customer is less likely to shop you for price. Add to this an incentive pay program, and you have employees who are working for the betterment and increased profitability of your company.
From the experiences of this writer, when you educate all employees - from the sales manager to the shipping department clerk - with regard to the products and services you sell, as well as with regard to how your business exists financially, the employees can better understand what it takes for your company to make a dollar.
Some of the most successful businesses we have seen are those who share with their employees, a simplified financial statement each month. It is to the employees and employers advantage that this information is shared so that everyone has an idea as to the real net profit percentage of an office supply dealer. Without this information, most employees have the misconception that your business is making far more than it actually is. It is probably equally surprising if the owner of the business knew how much his employees thought the business was making.
The third point in our list of advantages is the sales increase because more of your employees see their job as a part of the selling process. As the late Jack Rice, an industry educator, always said, "Around customers, everybody sells."
In addition to the incentive plan, the success of this idea is dependent upon your inviting employees to be creative. Perhaps one of your employees will suggest a product fair in which your buyer, or the manufacturer's representatives spend time with all of your staff, sharing the features and benefits of their various items.
Utilizing this technique, all of your employees as they come into contact with a customer, will have the chance to assist as the customer looks for new and better ways to manage their business. Your employees may see something or hear a comment which will allow them the opportunity to interject an idea for a product or service.
Another example of creative thinking comes from the office supply dealer with a substantial walk in trade. By asking questions and identifying the customers from nearby businesses, they offered a $20 gift certificate when one of their sales staff was invited to the customer's offices for a guided tour. In addition to learning more about the customer and building a relationship, the salesperson took note of the many products used in the office which were available through the office supply store.
The salesperson could then make arrangements to make regular sales calls if there was enough business to warrant, or at least when the customer came into the store, they could be given extra attention and introduced to products which they had not previously purchased from the dealer.
Again, the best dealers we have found were those who modestly stated they were not the smartest people, but they were able to hire people who were allowed to try their creativity.
Perhaps it is like the group who were in charge of the building of the Sistine Chapel. They had selected a painter; his name was Michelangelo. There was much discussion as to how the ceiling should be painted, and without asking the painter what he thought, one of the group said, "You know, beige would be nice".
The question is to ask if we are directing our employees how to do the job, all the while when the Michelangelo of the office supply sales force is standing there before us.
This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.