Today’s telephone salesperson performs both marketing and sales functions. Because marketing traditionally owns the brand, and today the brand is the total customer experience, the salesperson not only creates part of the experience directly through dialog, he or she asks questions which help shape and customize future marketing communications. Together with a customer’s online behavior, the information obtained by the salesperson is used tailor the selling organization’s message to each customer’s unique needs. The marketing department of today’s business-to-business selling organization can work with the telephone sales group to prepare custom personalized messages which can be sent between telephone conversations, leveraging the relationship, and keeping the customer warm. In many organizations, the telephone salespeople also staff the chat function connected to the selling organization’s website, assisting existing customers, and supporting prospects in their journey to learn more about the selling organization.
I opened this series of blog posts with an example of a forklift dealer and asked the question, is the dealer selling a product or service or both? The dealer is selling a customer experience. This customer experience contains a product, a host of services to support the product, digital communications in several formats, and the human connection provided by the telephone sales rep. Twenty years ago, the selling organization would have been a forklift dealer, today the dealer is the customer’s “material handling partner.” Most of the value added is contained in the services which support the product, and the services flow seamlessly digitally from the customer to the dealer and back again. The telephone salesperson provides the human element, less managing the day-to-day (which technology does mostly on its own), but in catching and discussing problems before they become shop stoppers. Most critically, the telephone salesperson is tasked with keeping tabs on the customer’s opportunities and strategies, to fine tune the selling organizations future service and product offerings, and close those sales.
Since the release of the smart phone in June of 2007, I have seen a steady increase in the skill set necessary to be a good telephone salesperson in the business-to-business space. The consulting role enabled by technology, the blend of services and product, and the tailoring of marketing messaging have changed the job since the days of just smiling and dialing. Usually, the telephone sales rep is part of the “service factory”, and participates in the service delivery. In the case of our fork lift dealer, the telephone sales rep alerts the customer to potential preventive maintenance opportunities, and answers technical questions (or engages those within the dealership with this knowledge). To the customer, the telephone sales rep is much more a consultant than a sales rep, more a trusted advisor than a strict product advocate, more a partner than a vendor.
The distance between the telemarketer, and the business-to-business salesperson just keeps widening.