Five Signs That You Are an Order-Taker

Order-taker is a derogatory term used to describe a person who has a sales title and job description but does no actual selling. Here are five telltale signs that indicate that a person is really an order-taker and not a salesperson.

You Don’t Do Any Prospecting

The first sign that you are an order-taker is a serious lack of prospecting activity. Order-takers don’t embrace the fact that the value that they create for their organization and their clients begins with opening the relationships that open opportunities.

Order-takers talk a good game. They know someone at such-and-such company. They met someone at a party; it’s sure to work out as a deal. Someone’s brother works as a supplier to the big dream client. It sounds too good to be true—because it isn’t true.

Order-takers avoid prospecting like the plague. They buy the hype that there are easier ways to build a pipeline because they desperately need to believe it. It means they can keep the lie that they are really a salesperson and that they can succeed without prospecting.

You Love and Embrace the RFP Process

Real salespeople struggle with the RFP process. In an attempt to create a level playing field (something that salespeople know isn’t likely to benefit either them or their clients), the RFP process eliminates the salesperson’s ability to create the value that they create for their dream clients.

Order-takers love the RFP process. They feel like a real opportunities, and they provides a lot of work that makes the order-taker look and feel busy. But instead of prospecting and creating real opportunities, these so-called opportunities find their way to the order-takers desk, allowing them to avoid prospecting.

You Try Desperately To Take Credit for Other People’s Work

Because they have too few real prospects in their own pipeline, order-takers try to insert themselves into other deals. They work on clients who are already being pursued by inside sales or by their operations team members.

These opportunities don’t need their attention, and in some cases their involvement only makes things worse. But their involvement gives them something to talk about and something to put on their sales reports.

Order-takers want to make a contribution. They just don’t want to do the real and difficult work that is sales.

You Are Great In Front of Clients and Can’t Wait to Present

Order-takers believe that they are great in front of prospective clients. They believe that because they are personally likable, that this translates to effectiveness in and of itself. It doesn’t.

Order-takers aren’t tremendous value-creators because they don’t have enough appointments to get better at making sales calls. They don’t have the business acumen to really diagnose their dream client’s needs, and they don’t follow an effective sales process.

When an order-taker is fortunate enough to find themselves face-to-face with prospective clients, they present. They believe that by telling their prospective client what their company does, they can make an effective and compelling case. They can’t. It doesn’t work.

You Work On Renewing Existing Client Accounts

Existing clients will need to have their contracts renewed. And there is no reason to win an account if you aren’t going to do everything in your power to work on increasing and improving your wallet share and retaining the client.

But sales is about the acquisition of new clients, not just the maintenance and renewal of existing clients.

Order-takers make way too much of renewals, pretending to themselves and to everyone else that renewals are time-consuming and complicated affairs that need their direct attention.

These are all telltale signs that the person in question is an order-taker—not a salesperson. Salespeople don’t wait for deals to walk themselves in; they go out and make it rain.


What are the major differences between order-takers and salespeople?

Can an order-taker bridge the gap and become a professional salesperson? How?

What are the challenges for a sales organization in allowing people who sit in the position of a salesperson to behave as order-takers?

What are the dangers to a sales organization that allows order-takers to call on their dream clients?

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  • Harvey Gardner

    If you can’t wakeup in a city where you don’t know anyone and by the end of the day have a prospect, you’re not a salesman.  Order takers cannot or will not prospect.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      The words you speak are true, Harvey!

  • Todd Ortman

    You really hit the bullseye here, and sadly it describes a pretty large percentage of those who call themselves sales professionals. So, what do you do with these people? I think most are in such a state of denial that coaching them through it is very difficult, to say the least. It would be great to get more insight in how to be more effective in driving higher performance from our salespeople.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I agree, Todd. It’s difficult to move them forward when they refuse to embrace the more challenging–and critical–aspects of selling. Lots of order-takers are good people, but they are in the wrong role. It’s best if you can find them another position where they can make a contribution. 

      • Joe Surprenant6

        Couldn’t agree more.  These people would best serve a company in a client services or customer services/support role.  Thanks for posting.

  • Flávia Siösteen

    It was a joy reading this, I have some good examples if you ever need for a case-study :)

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Flavia! 

  • Doug Rice

    Agreed.  You’re not a salesperson just because someone buys something from you.  The phrase “order-taker” makes me think of what they say when you pull through a fast food drive-thru, “Hello, welcome to _______, can I take your order?”  Few would refer to these service associates as sales professionals (though they can be with the right approach).  An order-taker operates with the expectation that the order is going to be placed.  A salesperson creates that expectation.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I’ll talk to you when I am ready for the 740li, Doug!

  • Jmeunier

    I would agree with some of the sentiments here, however, I do not agree with your position on being great in front of a client. I think in establishing a true relationship and becoming a partner as opposed to being a “vendor” or “order taker” you have to be great in front of the client and your enthusiasm about your solution/service (whatever that may be) if coupled with trying to truly understand how your solution can benefit that client makes you not just a “salesperson” but a trusted resource to your client.

    I also disagree about renewing exsisting clients. If you are worth your salt as a sales professional and NOT an “order taker” than you work to consistently maintan the accounts that brought in your revenue initally, further expand the market share you have within that client base, and again, position yourself as a partner so far ingrained in the way “x” client does business that it is almost impossible for someone to come in the door behind you to kick you out.

    Jennifer Meunier
    Senior Business Development Manager

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I don’t think we disagree here at all, Jennifer. My point is that order-takers only believe they are great in front of clients. They lack putting in the effort to do all the work that allows them to be really good, like working to truly understand how you can make a difference. 

      I said renewing clients and growing wallet share is important. You sold it, you own the outcomes. I agree. But order-takers try to do renewal work, never working on the acquisition of new clients. 

      Good salespeople do some of these things, but to the exclusion of selling! Hope that helps clear some of that up!


  • Pingback: Are You An Order-Taker? : Media Sales Today

  • Chris

    Outstanding Post!

  • Mark Colwell

    I agree Anthony. Too often complacent salespeople like to make “busy work” out of renewals, and use it as an excuse to avoid the sweat equity side of sales, that of discovering and developing new prospects.

    As for “Being good in front of the prospect”, if you’ve done a thorough needs analysis in the first phase of the relationship, the presentation phase should simply clarify with the prospect why your solution is the best available.