As a counter sales person, when a customer walks through the door, you are generally the person they are looking for. The customer wants to place an order and expects you–the counter sales person–to take care of him. Although this encounter is usually brief, let’s examine what the customer’s overall expectations may be. What do customers expect of counter sales professionals? Since customer’s perceived value of you as a supplier drive their expectations, knowing the answer to this question is important to meeting expectations and building relationship equity.
CEO Strategist research indicates customers have the following expectations of counter sales personnel:
o Product and application knowledge in order to efficiently answer questions.
o An understanding of the customer’s business in order to make good buying recommendations and to ask intelligent questions to learn about his or her needs and interests, problems and types of customers they serve.
o Provide accurate pricing, inventory and timely service.
o Keep customers informed about new products, special promotions and company policies affecting the business relationship.
o Provide timely follow-up to customer questions, timely solutions to problems and timely complaint handling to ensure customer satisfaction.
o Demonstrate a service attitude that proves the customer’s business is valued.
o Possess a sales mentality to help match the right products and the right services to customer needs. This will provide your clients with choices of accurate information about the features, the benefits and the value of each.
The Rest of the Story
As the counter sales person you are definitely on the front line. Yet, everyone in your company also plays a role. Accounting, human resources, warehouse personnel, truck drivers, administration, information technology and even your receptionist, if you have one, are part of the service excellence formula. Why, because people from every one of these functions touch the customer in some form or fashion.
Purchasing plays a particularly important role. The purchasing department must be knowledgeable about every manufacturer and each product line, and aged and dead inventory must be kept at a minimum. Remember, the right product at the right time is a key expectation of the customer. Purchasing and inventory management play a key role in meeting customer expectations.
Counter Responsibilities–Juggling and Multi-Tasking
You are a frontline warrior who makes real time face to face contact with the customer. First and foremost, you are a salesperson. That deserves repeating. First and foremost, you are a salesperson. As a result, helping the customer buy is a key responsibility. But keep in mind that in the customer’s eyes, you are also the service person. You are their lifeline, their support structure and their solution to all problems. That translates into them wanting immediate attention to their needs. This can include pricing, problem solving, recommendations and even sometimes just someone to listen to their issues and/or problems. You will check stock, write orders, pick and pack and even invoice and collect on occasions. Indeed, you are –“director of first impressions,” so don’t underestimate your value or your impact on developing customer relationship equity. Frankly, you play a crucial role, which means you need technical knowledge, product knowledge, industry knowledge, leadership skills, and most importantly, people skills. You must be able to recognize opportunities to help the customer through suggestive selling, defining your value proposition and offering a choice.
Your knowledge, professionalism and people skills will lead to respect, which is the only platform able to support your efforts in building relationship equity. Look around, how is the counter organized? Are you always searching for product literature and flyers and promos, or is everything common to your customer base at your fingertips? What about your merchandising efforts? What does your storefront look like? Do you have shelf talkers?
The job of the front line counter sales person is not always clearly defined, but by nature it encompasses many responsibilities including:
o Sales–serving the customers at the counter or on the phone
o Up-selling and suggestive selling–giving the customer a choice
o Merchandising–maintaining stocked shelves and displays
o Order filling–picking, packing and pulling product for customers
o Administrative tasks–for returns, credits, lost sales, etc.
o Receiving and other warehouse duties
o Education–learning product lines/applications, including features, benefits, warranties and limitations, plus training and sales meetings
o Company policy–understanding policy for credit and product return/exchange
On top of all this, a counter sales person is often expected to support field sales by taking their calls for customer service issues, product inquiries and numerous other requests, and, they’re often subjected to disgruntled field sales representatives.
“Many counter sales persons keep their RED CAPE under the counter at their fingertips.”
The counter sales person plays a pivotal role in sales success. They are a key link to the customer; a crucial ingredient in the service excellence formula. Don’t underestimate their impact on customer relationships, sales growth and profitability. Customers have higher expectations of counter sales people as their face-to-face contact than anyone else in the company. They want to get the right product, at the right time, at the right price. They also want to talk to knowledgeable total solution providers who do more than just write orders and handle complaints.