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5-MINUTE SALES COACH: Could you be replaced by an app when serving customers?

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By Bill McCrary
Published Feb. 29, 2016

Almost every facet of daily life, including work life, has been touched by technology: from scheduling orders to tracking deliveries; forecasting production requirements to ordering raw materials; documenting services to tallying billable hours.

Much of the time, these new technologies bring welcome improvements to our productivity and efficiency. But I’d bet there are more than a few salespeople out there who have wondered, could I be replaced by an app?

Well, maybe.

It depends on what you bring to the table. What value do you add to the buyer-seller relationship beyond the transactional aspects of doing business?

From the customer’s perspective, interactions with salespeople fall along a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum, customers feel like they’re dealing with a clerk—someone who shows up, gets the order, and then disappears. At the other end of the spectrum, they feel like they’re dealing with a trusted adviser—someone who understands their needs and goals and provides insight and help in satisfying them.

Now, using that spectrum, where would your customers put their interactions with you? Unfortunately, for too many salespeople, it’s near the “clerk” end. These salespeople (and hopefully, you’re not one of them) show up on schedule, get an order, and add little, if any, value beyond occasionally taking the buyer to lunch or bringing donuts for the staff.

You could argue that there’s a certain efficiency to the “clerk” approach, and you might be right. I’d argue back that computers, software, apps, etc., are awfully efficient, too—and they don’t need to be paid a commission.

I strongly encourage those of you in “clerk” mode to change what you represent to your customers and clients. Bring something to your relationships that they will truly appreciate and value, or you could become a relic sooner than you think.

How can you add value to your relationships? Try to think of what you can do to help your customers increase revenues, decrease costs, or operate more efficiently.

• Is there a way to change how you interact with your customers to make it easier for them to do business with you?

• Can you be a source of knowledge (such as market analyses or industry trend information) that will help your customers make better production, inventory, or sales forecasts?

• Can you introduce your customers to experts (perhaps other employees within your company) who can provide technical, financial, or logistical information that could help your customer improve internal systems (and ultimately production, revenue, and the bottom line)?

If you’re having trouble coming up with ways to add value to your customer relationships, perhaps you don’t know your customers as well as you should. If you saw my previous column, you learned about the importance of doing your research on new prospects—well, that goes double for your existing customers!

If a chunk of programming code can match the level of support and service you’re currently giving your clients, well, you might be in trouble. Find ways to make yourself a trusted and indispensable source of knowledge, resources, and guidance for your customers—as of yet, there’s no app for that.

Bill McCrary, a coach and trainer, founded Strategic Partner in 1997 after a 20-year corporate career with Fortune 500 companies Georgia-Pacific and Wyeth Labs. Strategic Partner, a sales force development company, is an authorized licensee of Sandler Training. Sandler is a sales and sales management company with 275 training centers worldwide. You can contact McCrary at 803-771-0800, or

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