One of the irreducible minimum requirements of business success is its ability to generate enough revenue from sales. Sufficient capital, good products and good business plan must be complemented by cash inflow from sales. Therefore, a strong sales force is an indispensable business resource.

Unfortunately, many small businesses have order takers rather than salespeople. To make matters worse, many of them are not aware that they don’t have salespeople who can effectively sell their products. Consequently, they survive on customers who already know what they want.

It is said that the difference between a salesperson and an order taker is similar to the difference between a vulture and an eagle. The eagles flies high in the sky and looks down for prey to devour while the vulture sits, perches on a tree and waits for animals to die or roams around looking for carcasses to scavenge.

In a similar manner, an order taker sits in the office and waits for a customer to come or call then processes the order according to the customer’s specification and delivers to get paid.

The salesperson, on the other hand, prospects and follows leads of people who may benefit from the products. They look for people with problems, diagnose them and offer their products as solutions. In other words, they sell value unlike order takers who talk mostly about products, price and quantities.

In brief, order takers are reactive — they wait for customers to come. They are passive — they don’t make effort to attract customers. They follow the customer’s instruction religiously. They answer customer questions very well, but do not engage them or give suggestions. An order taker uses price as the main bargaining tool.

Order takers can easily be replaced by technology. As a customer, if I know what I want, why go to the physical shop when I can order online on Jumia, OLX or Alibaba?

Salespersons are proactive. They look for prospective customers, do follow-up and ask for the sale. They advise the customer on what is good for them based on need analysis. They get information from the customer which enables them improve their offering. A salesperson uses value as the main bargaining tool.

If you desire to grow your sales you must have salespeople and not order takers. If you want to know whether what you have in your fold is a salesperson or an order taker, you just need to ask one question: do they influence the buyer?

Training your order takers to be salespeople is perhaps the best investment you can ever make for your enterprise.

This article first appeared in The Business Daily on October 9, 2017.

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