If you work in distribution of a producer of industrial or capital goods, you know the situation: Business is highly cyclical, customers become more and more demanding and solutions more complex. For sales, this means that efficiency has to be increased using existing resources. But how can that succeed?
One lever that can be used is the internal sales force. The employees there rarely see themselves as sellers. They act more like classic administrative staff, accepting customer inquiries and processing incoming orders. But most of the time you have much more contact with customers than the salespeople. And just here lies the potential. In order to increase sales efficiency, it is necessary to train the employees of in-house sales in such a way that they figure out the possibilities of cross selling and follow-up orders in each customer discussion. This way, they prepare the field for their field sales colleagues.
The customer service staff can also make a valuable contribution to sales: they are perceived by customers as mere technicians whose recommendations are more likely to be trusted than the recommendations of proven salespersons. In addition, they are often on-site with the customer and learn first hand where the shoe pinches. With targeted training, they can also provide sales with valuable information.
Hans-Peter Lämmle has been managing companies with exactly this challenge for several years now and coaches their employees in this area.
Mr. Lämmle, is there a typical actual situation that you find in the companies?
Very often, our contracting companies have the following sales and service structure or just a few elements thereof: a cold acquisition team (field or call center), field sales force with the back office, project installation teams, a customer support hotline, a service department for ongoing maintenance or repairs with the associated back office.
Depending on the complexity of the product or service, up to all departments are involved in the support process. Here challenges arise at all customer contact points, which one can imagine.
Which friction losses are there between sales internal service and field service?
If the communication is right, it is wonderful work – however, because of technical challenges (e.g., customer database) or human challenges (e.g., departmental thinking), much information may be lost. We focus on our advice and the training at the customer contact points, the so-called Customer Journey – ie the “customer journey” by the respective company. Here, the customer glasses try to create the participants and develop solutions from the customer’s point of view.
What experiences have you had with the willingness of the employees from the individual areas to expand their field of activity to include sales work?
Once the enthusiasm for the product / service as well as the customer’s point of view has been awakened by all participants, the team spirit is sharpened again, the topic of selling is almost completely in the background. The goal is for employees to understand that everyone involved in the process is an important factor in the company’s success. As soon as this is supported and practiced by the executives, the challenges regarding the topic “one face to the customer” have already been largely solved. Until then, however, it is sometimes a long way to go, as there are many different cultures and characters working in companies that need to be understood and meaningfully connected.
What are the accomplishments of your training?
In order for the cultural theme to be understood and respected, we apply, among others, the 9Levels approach. The aim is not that all employees in the company after a training measure “tick” equally – it is rather about a common understanding that each division in terms of, for example, a multi-channel distribution strategy has an understanding of the other area and respects it. Specifically, we were able to achieve a significant increase in customer satisfaction and additional sales with almost all of our projects.
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