No matter what your company does, no matter what each of your employees does, no matter what their title, they are all in sales. Let me repeat that: Everyone in your company is a sales rep.
Unless each employee thinks of themselves as a sales rep, you are losing more sales than you even know about.
The other side of that equation is that everyone, and I mean, everyone, your employees come in contact with is a potential buyer.
With that knowledge, you might want to change the way everybody on your staff deals with everyone they come in contact with. Let me give you an example: You are an accounting firm. I call to try to sell you newspaper advertising. The young, inexperienced person, probably getting minimum wage, answers the phone. She's abrupt, maybe even rude. She believes her job is to screen calls and protect her boss. Without even consulting anyone, she tells me that her firm is not interesting in advertising right before tax season. She says the firm is too busy. When I press on, she suggests that I call after tax season. But hold on. I was offering a special section to run before tax season, to try to drive business to accounting firms before April 15. But she was rude and told me the firm was "too busy."
This is wrong on so many counts.
First, if she's arrogant and nasty to me now, how would she treat me if I were a client? I probably would not be interested in finding out. If I need accounting services or even if someone in editorial asks me to suggest someone they can quote in a story, this firm will not be on my list. So already, they've lost out twice - once with a potential a client and a second time on free publicity.
Second, there are few businesses that really have "too much business" - especially in this economy. If her boss heard the conversation, his eyes would roll. "Too much business?"
OK, there are a few instances, where a company actually has "too much business." Take the example of the deli that does special meals or platters for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, or Thanksgiving. They have a limited staff, limited capacity and limited time. Unless they hire on additional staff, they can only produce a certain amount of meals that meet their high standards. If they take more than that, there's a chance that their quality might drop or they might make mistakes. In that case, there is a real limit to what they can handle. And they indeed might have to turn away orders that come in too late to accommodate them.
But the accounting firm isn't that way. If the firm all of sudden got an additional wave of business, they have other options. In many cases, they can get the clients extensions. All of a sudden, there is more time to do the work. In the additional time, they could also bring in more employees to do the work. So your sales person/receptionist lost the sale and she didn't even know it.
Here's another. One of your junior accountants is at a cocktail party. Someone asks what she does. She explains her job. But then she starts talking about how the firm really messed up the taxes for a big account.
Here we go again. One of your sales people who didn't really know she's in sales did everything she could to scare business away. Do I really want a firm to handle my business when they just made a mess out of someone else's problems? I doubt it.
Let's try for another.
The UPS is making a pick up at the accounting firm. Meanwhile, the boss has spotted some really dumb work by one of the more junior accountants. The boss has had it and starts yelling at the top of his lungs. But he doesn't realize or doesn't care that he has an audience of more than his employees. The UPS man is listening to and watching everything.
The UPS man is a taxpayer. Maybe he is thinking of starting a small business. He's going to need an accountant. You can be sure, after this performance, he'll find his accounting expertise some place else. Now you know that we'll all in sales, how do you make sure that your employees are selling your firm rather than unselling it?
• Make sure they understand what you do.
• Make sure they treat everyone as if they were the firm's largest client - with kindness and respect. That includes that kid who delivers your takeout lunches.
• Make sure they know enough to know what they don't know. And have the intelligence to ask questions.
• Make sure they know they can tell a caller or a visitor: "I don't know the answer to that, but I'll find out and get right back to you."
• Make sure if they have problems with the business, they talk to a supervisor to solve them in the business.
• Be sure you communicate well to your employees. Let them know what's really going on so facts are not replaced by wild rumors like "sales are down. It looks like they'll have to lay off half the staff."
• Make sure they understand the concept that in addition to everything else they do, they are selling or unselling the company in everything they do.
Ron Ostroff has been a reporter, editor, publisher, newspaper owner and advertising account executive. He does marketing, public relations and media consulting. He lives in Edison. Contact him at (732) 690-2318 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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