Consider a fork lift dealer. Customers can find all the specifications of any forklift online. The performance of various fuel options (diesel, electric, natural gas), lifting capabilities, turning ratios and the like. The dealership sends customized trigger emails out to customers based on options selected by the telephone sales representative in the customer relationship management system, and options the customer can select online. Alerts are pushed out via text, phone call, chat or email, again, customer choice. When it is time to consider a new machine, or the customer has growth plans, the telephone salesperson alerts a field sales representative who has a considerably larger territory, and rarely visits a customer unless they are in the market for a new machine. When the field salesperson arrives, the customer has already educated themselves online, and the discussions are less on the features of a new machine than on productivity (how much can I move in an hour?), safety (what can you do to prevent accidents?) and cost-per-hour (fuel usage, maintenance costs and resale value). The machines themselves are really a commodity, and the differentiation between supplier products is minor.
What does this dealer offer? A product or a service? Which is more important to building customer loyalty and repeat sales? Is the telephone sales representative part of the sales channel or communication channel or both? Where would you locate this telephone sales representative, in the sales department, “service factory” or the marketing department?
The telephone salesperson in the example above, spends most of her time in the first three consulting elements of our sales model, DISCOVER/DESIGN/DEMONSTRATE than in the fourth and fifth sales steps, CLOSING and CHECKING. Technology enables the telephone sales rep to cover a broad territory, and yet technology provides her with the tools to deepen and broaden the relationship. The customer interacts with the dealer on mobile and desktop platforms. The National Center for Biotechnological Information shows average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. However, the telephone salesperson in this example, has at least four quality ten-minute relationship building phone conversations a year – and more when data warrants it. The dealer relies on technology for the large service component of its offering, but the telephone sales rep supplies the high touch, and crucially, the relationship.
As customers and selling organizations in business-to-business weave themselves more tightly together using technology, the role of telephone salesperson becomes primarily relationship building. Less educating is required, with so much information online. Less data transmission is needed, data flows seamlessly back to the customer. Rather, the telephone rep tailors these channels based on stated customer preferences, and uses dialogue to focus on upcoming events which may impact the relationship – opportunities the customer may exploit, and strategies customers may pursue. The telephone rep is part of the service delivery, a dash marketing, and future-focused on the next sales opportunity.