Aug. 17/24; Volume 30/Number 5
By Bryan White
Flooring accessory and supply distributors are ideally qualified to help customers maximize productivity and efficiency while minimizing downtime and costs. They serve as a one-stop resource, represent a broad range of product lines from multiple manufacturers, provide value-added services and technical expertise, and recommend solutions to meet specific needs.
While there are many moving parts to a successful distributor, one of the most overlooked job functions is counter sales. Customers rely on counter sales personnel for information, suggestions about products, substitution products, application help and expertise, new product information, new services and promotional opportunities for cost savings.
These services have become increasingly important because customers now expect and demand competent counter salespeople. Companies have to commit to the fulfillment of this service demand. Those that can do so will have a significant advantage over the competition.
It sounds simple, so why doesn’t every distributor make this a priority? Most counter sales personnel are busy handling customer walk-ins and inbound calls while trying to build relationships with their customers. But we also want them to help with various warehouse responsibilities, work with outside sales on numerous issues, and of course upsell.
This requires specific skills that are dependent upon product knowledge, communication, effective listening and sales training. Even the best counter sales reps will struggle when the inbound burden becomes too great and they do not have the time to dedicate to the customer, exploring options and identifying her needs and interests. They’re forced into a situation where they barely have enough time to keep up with the inbound traffic.
The lack of understanding of the primary function of counter sales can be problematic. Counter sales are the life-blood of any successful accessory and supply distributorship and is the first step to increasing sales, growing market share and increasing profitability. So, to be effective, companies need to invest.
First, counter sales personnel need to be compensated in accordance with their contribution to the organization—performance metrics and the ability to measure productivity are a must. You must then have an adequate amount of staff to handle all inbound traffic. Once this is in place, investment in training for your best counter sales reps, and segmenting roles and responsibilities are key (staff responsible for inbound traffic, inside sales and trained counter personnel). In order to effectively move the needle, counter sales personnel need to be trained in the following:
- Upselling techniques
- Suggestive selling techniques
- Outcall training
- Product training
- Communication and questioning skills
- Needs-satisfaction selling (including features and benefits training, value propositioning and value-added selling, promotional selling, new product and new source introductory selling, and service and warranty selling)
If done properly, the results may surprise you. Counter sales could begin to generate opportunistic sales, growth and increased market share. But keep in mind that this success is dependent upon management’s willingness to allocate the resources and provide support for this type of proactive selling.