“American business has just forgotten the importance of selling.” Barry Goldwater
Tel sell, or telephone sales, can be a great way to increase sales and selling efficiency in your distributorship.
Simply put, tel sell is a selling method where the customer order is placed over the phone (or via email or online ordering). This saves time and travel for the route sales team by eliminating the need to physically call on the account.
There are several considerations to a tel sell program: choosing the right accounts, training the new staff and providing excellent customer service. If done poorly a tel sell program will cost you customers. If done right, tel sell can increase sales and selling efficiency. Let’s focus on how to do it right.
In this article, we’ll review a tel sell process that you can implement in your distributorship. The tel sell program works best when you have a formal, structured and well thought out selling plan. To create this plan, follow the Tel Sell Best Practices.
The Tel Sell Best Practices:
- The Economics of Tel Sell
- Provide a High(er) Level of Service
- Identify Tel Sell accounts using 80/20 analysis
- Keep a Personal Touch
The Economics of Tel Sell
Not all customers are created equal. Many accounts that you sell to are financial losers. The cost to sell, deliver and service these accounts far exceeds the gross profit on the sale.
Tel Sell provides an opportunity to reduce the costs of servicing these accounts so that you can be profitable on the sales.
For example, an in-house tel sell person might make $40k in salary and benefits and will call on 30 accounts a day. An outside sales rep makes $80k in salary and benefits and can visit 15 accounts per day. Tel sell provides an opportunity for twice the number of sales calls at half the cost.
Further, tel sell accounts are generally lower sales volume outlets. By shifting these sales calls in-house, this frees up time for the route sales rep to spend more time at higher volume customers. It’s a win win.
Provide a High Level of Service
Some distributors shy away from Tel Sell, concerned that it will provide a lower level of service to the customer.
The worry goes like this: If a sales person doesn’t call on the account, it will be impossible to identify and correct problems. Further, without a physical presence in the account, there’s no way to build a relationship with the customer which leads to increased sales.
These are valid concerns.
The key to a successful tel sell program is to provide a continued high level of service to the customer. In many cases, a tel sell program can provide an even higher level of service, with more time attention and follow up for the account.
Think about it this way: a typical route sales person may call on 15 or 20 accounts per day. With travel, delays, and all the small tasks that need to be done, how much time do they really get to sell?
A dedicated tel sell person has no such distractions. They set up a sales call schedule that is convenient for the customer. Plenty of time is given for the customer to ask questions and the tel sell rep to provide answers.
An in-house tel sell person is also better positioned to provide information to the retailer on the spot. Being in front of a computer, the rep can send needed reports or sales materials, and quickly answer any questions.
Overall, tel sell can be a much more effective selling process for you and the customer.
Identify Tell Sell Accounts: Use 80/20 Analysis
The process to select tel sell accounts is a mixture of art and science.
An 80/20 analysis provides a good starting point to identify candidates. Run a customer sales report for the last 12 months, sort it high to low, and analyze the bottom 20% of accounts.
From this list, review which ones are new accounts, seasonals or up-and-comers – those accounts that have the potential to sell more if given more in-person attention.
Ask questions: Are there customers that never have time to see a sales rep? Are there accounts that have asked about online sales or e-commerce options?
Use the numbers, and use your common sense when selecting accounts for tel sell. You may be surprised that some accounts would prefer to be on tel sell. In this case, give them what they want.
Keep a Personal Touch
A tel sell program should include regular visits to the account. This provides an opportunity for the tel sell person to see the retail account, meet the owner or decision maker in person, and continue to build the relationship.
The meetings should be set on a schedule and frequency that works for you and the customer – monthly, quarterly, annually, etc. Think of this like a meeting with your banker, insurance broker or key vendor – you don’t need to see these guys all the time, but a face to face check in once or twice a year is good for everyone.
Wrap Up + Action Items
A tel sell program is a great way to increase sales and selling efficiency in your distributorship. If done properly, the tel sell method can save time and resources for your sales team, while continuing to provide a high level of service to your customers.
Run the numbers in your business – the cost of route sales vs. in-house sales – and see if the tel sell economics make sense for you. Analyze your account base for tel sell candidates. Keep a personal touch with your tel sell customers, and make regular face to face meetings.
Tel sell can provide a win-win in your distribution business: higher sales, lower costs, and happier customers.