Sales Impact: Business Partner or Order Taker?

There is a fine line between being an order taker and being a business partner/sales consultant with your clients. Or is there?

If you are an order taker, and your role is sales, your days are numbered. With online ordering and call centers becoming more accessible and user friendly, the cost of being an order taker alone just doesn’t pay off.

We need effective service representatives available to take orders and service customers 24/7. Customers expect that in today’s economy. In fact, the most effective service representatives ensure that customers are aware of opportunities that they otherwise may have missed, such as savings through bundling or upselling, and new products that might be a good fit. Customers expect service representatives to uncover potential needs and communicate appreciation for their trust and business.

So don’t get me wrong — service reps deliver salesmanship, just as sales reps deliver service. But don’t let this overlap confuse you about the priority of your chosen profession: sales.


If your approach to sales success is order taking, there is no way you will incrementally grow your business. Think about it. Attrition is a fact of business. And sales. Practices are sold, allegiances change, services or exclusives are altered or discontinued, companies are sold or merged, products are discontinued, effective competition enters the space, new products may cannibalize current products, etc. NOTHING remains constant. Hence, if you are not upselling or cross-selling, you will be challenged to just need le up to last year’s sales. There is no possibility you’ll gain ground and generate new revenue.

The focus of call-center life has changed. Roles have shifted. Companies have inbound order takers, outbound harvesters, qualifiers, team sellers, customer consultants who “work the account” based on opportunities, and a myriad of other focuses in between. Many times roles are based on go-to-market strategies, product offerings or employee preference and experience. Compensation is generally commensurate with the specific role and expectations delivered.

In sales, there is no way an order taker is as valuable financially as an employee who hunts for incremental business. I do not take the word “hunt” lightly. Most of us have been fortunate enough to be around when a new service or product introduction was wildly successful, and we benefited from what I would call a “layup.” Nice to have, but infrequent in our possession.

The reality is, we are in business to generate incremental sales. Incremental sales don’t just happen. To be effective, you must have a sales strategy in place (supported by specific actionable objectives and tactics) and a sales process to execute and evaluate. And did I mention accountability?

How are you generating the incremental sales required in your position? There are only two ways to do this: You either open new accounts or sell more products and services to your current accounts. It’s that simple. I will grow my account base from _____ to _____, and I will grow my current average account from $_____ to $_____. Unless you are part of a startup, your growth will come from the combination of those two objectives, while protecting your core business.

If you have an objective plan, you will be able to answer the following questions with respect to new account acquisition: How many accounts will you lose this year? (If you are new to your role, ask a colleague what the average account attrition has been.) How many new accounts will you need to generate this year? What does the average new account deliver? Who is your prioritized target account? What characteristics does this type of account have?

And you will be able to answer these questions with respect to increasing your average revenue per account: How are you going to increase your dollar-per-account average? How many new products or services will I need to introduce each month? What is this account NOT using of ours that would help its bottom line, increase efficiency, and benefit patient compliance or health outcomes?

Having a plan and then delivering on it is another skill altogether. A skill that requires a defined and consistently executed sales process. A defined sales process that allows you to critically self-evaluate and tweak, to enhance performance and results. Not sure if you are delivering on a defined sales process? I can assure you if your opening statement in any office is “Just checking in,” “What else can I get for you?” “How’s your inventory?” “In the neighborhood,” “Just dropping off our specials,” or “How’s everyone doing?” then your approach needs a refresh.

Those comments scream order taker. In other words, “I’m winging it and lack value”.

Are you delivering the expected incremental sales in your territory? If not, you may be more order taker than business partner. What line are you walking on the order taker/business partner/sales consultant continuum? The choice is yours.

MENTOR September 2016;7(09):10–11.

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