I recognize the ever growing popularity of the Online Sales Counselor role. I first saw it nearly ten years ago, and it continues with a slow and steady climb. It has always been my feeling, albeit unpopular, that the Online Sales Counselor role is a short-term solution at best, and at worst, a dependency drug we’re dealing to our sales teams.
I mean no disrespect to the many hard working Online Sales Counselors in the market. You’re answering a bazillion phone calls and emails a day. Your responsibilities and your contributions are real.
The issue lies with the reason the Online Sales Counselor role exists. In the beginning, I heard lots of arguments in support of the Online Sales Counselor. We might night have called it the same thing then, but the role was the same – an off-site contact for all Internet leads covering all or multiple communities.
Those in support of the role would cite ability and response issues with the sales team. They would say things like “The salespeople don’t respond fast enough” or “They don’t do email very well.” And truth be told, they were absolutely right. Even today, but even more so then, salespeople had little respect for Internet leads and rarely followed up with any level of urgency. They drafted poorly worded, short, and misspelled responses. It was bad and often still is.
The problem was and is real. However, the popular solution is near-sighted.
As a sales manager, you know the strengths of your sales team. You watch shop tapes, you spend time in their sales center, and you see them perform. There are salespeople that perform amazingly during an in-person demonstration, but fail when confronted with a phone conversation. As a manager in this situation, you train and coach on phone skills. You work with the salesperson so they recognize their opportunities, see the value in improvement, practice new techniques, and implement them.
Why then, do we hire someone to handle email communications of a sales nature? Would you hire someone else to answer the phone if you had that salesperson on your team with poor phone skills?
I’ve had many reject this argument quickly and cite the crucial value of the telephone in the sales process. That might have slowed me down a little ten years ago. However, is there anyone that denies that email and other electronic communication plays a crucial role in the sales process today? Does anyone think electronic communication will become less a part of the sale in the future?
Once again, to clarify, I’m not arguing the abilities or skills of the Online Sales Counselor. In fact, because the Online Sales Counselors have experienced so much practice with electronic communication, they’re halfway to being top-performing salespeople in tomorrow’s model home.
This is a complicated topic that I’ll continue to expand on in upcoming posts.
Technology’s impact on the daily lives of consumers and their buying behaviors will not decrease. If a salesperson is going to sell, they must be able to communicate with their buyer. We are doing a disservice to the buyer and the salesperson by providing this communication crutch.