Editor's Note: This is the first article in a three-part series in which Len Rashkin will discuss ways to increase allied sales to improve profitability.
In our business, the customer base is a potential pot of gold, if you know how to fill that pot. I have always preached at conventions and in my articles over many years (too many) that it is a crime not to work at building your allied sales and services within your dedicated, proven account base. You know the decision-makers, you know something about their companies, you know their credit histories and their past ordering records. You have made a substantial investment in time and money to sell these accounts, so it is only fitting to serve them with additional products and services.
The costs involved in getting a new client are much greater than the cost of generating additional sales within your existing customer group. So my question is, "why are you not promoting and spending more time with expanding sales from within, rather than spending a fortune looking for new sales?" I am not suggesting that you cut back on soliciting new customers, but rather, that you look at the potential reward, and the ease, of generating new sales from your already-captured audience who trust and have confidence in you and your company.
I think the answer to that question may be that you do not believe you have the expertise nor the understanding needed to train your route drivers and telephone customer service/order department. Secondly, you may feel that you do not have the time to train your drivers to become sales route drivers and your telephone "order-takers" to become sales order-takers who not only take your customers' orders, but also sell additional allied products, adding profits to your bottom line.
YOU must make the time! You have already spent endless hours and dollars selling new accounts through knocking on doors, telemarketing, referrals, yellow pages, Internet marketing, trade shows and anything else you could think of, and you've fought like Hell to save accounts that have been low-balled by a competitor.
One sales slogan totally describes the essence of all selling: "If you don't tell, you can't sell." Let's keep this in mind and see how it applies to generating added business from existing clients.
In many OCS provider companies, once the initial customer is sold, the salespeople pursue new-account sales for most of their selling days, and rarely keep servicing their old accounts. It becomes the responsibility of the route drivers, telephone account representatives and outside customer service representatives.
As an owner or senior manager of the operation, you have to make the following decisions:
First, you need to find the time to train your drivers and telephone account reps. The time required is not spent just in telling them what to do, but also in reinforcing their understanding through role-playing with management and others in their departments. Written tests will also become effective as they progress in their understanding of the allied sales selling process.
Your second decision is to make the monetary commitment to pay your staff for making the extra effort to sell new and additional products and services to your (and their) customers. If you are going to benefit from extra profits, you must share some of those profits with your staff if you really want an allied sales program to work in the long term. Incentives to your staff can come in the form of several such highly effective categories as real dollars, gifts, prizes, vacations, restaurant certificates and time off, among other rewards.
Lastly, recognition is very important in the incentive process, and you must make known to the entire staff those who go beyond expectations.
Besides rewarding individuals for terrific sales, you may want to form groups or teams that will work together to reach specified levels of sales. When you put a plan into action for rewarding the whole team, you should establish guidelines that set minimum sales goals for each person in the group that must be met in order to earn rewards for the entire team. This technique puts pressure on any individual who tries to coast along and not work hard to reach the team goal. There are times when team members get upset because one person may be holding all of the others up from getting their bonuses.
To administer recording progress toward these sales goals, create a commission form that is easy to read, fill out and understand. This form should include the following details:
» Name of driver or customer service order person;
» Date the promotion starts and ends;
» Description of the promotion, and the products being promoted;
» Account number and name of customers who purchased;
» What they purchased, and the number of units bought;
» Bonus to be awarded to the staff, along with total sales by number of units and dollars generated;
» An area on the bonus sheet for suggestions on improving the program as it progresses.
Here are a couple of rules for your staff:
» No commissions if the customer has purchased the same item in the past 12 months;
» If the customer places an order for a new product without being asked, no compensation is paid (honesty is going to be tested).
Next month, I will suggest the values assigned on your product mix in the form of commissions to be awarded to your selling team. Also we will get into some product promotions that can build confidence in your staff at the onset of the new effort to promote allied products.
If any of you have any promotions that you feel will help our readers, I will give you the credit, in used in my next articles. Send photos, too. Please contact me at (516) 241-4883 or email me at OCSconsultant@aol.com.
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and later merged it with Dell Coffee. He also founded the Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage & Products Association.