Answering Questions About What Makes an Order-Taker and Dead Elephants

Yesterday’s post identifying five things that make a person with a sales title and sales responsibilities an order-taker drew a number of interesting responses. One response was posted in a LinkedIn group, and it deserves a more thoughtful answer than I am willing to post there. Instead, I am going to respond here.

I am interested in how you would answer these questions, too. Leave your thoughts in the comment box!

The Response

Here is the response that was posted on LinkedIn:

I find your comments confusing. Who cares if the salesperson is an order taker or a hunter? Isn’t the objective to bring in orders? If I have a few big elephants that generate 150%+ of my budget, am I at risk of being dismissed? Plus to maintain a strong relationship in these accounts (relationship selling as endorsed by you) and be responsive to opportunities that arise within the account, the “order taker” needs to stay in their face. Neglect will allow all the others targeting these accounts an in.
Bottom line; any way (legal) that you can make your numbers and grow your business is an honorable and professional sales activity.

Clearing Up the Confusion

“Who cares if the salesperson is an order-taker or a hunter? Isn’t the objective to bring in orders?”

Let’s clear this up.

Yes. The objective is to bring in orders. The point of the post is that order-takers don’t bring in orders. Instead, they wait around for something to happen; if they can simply take the order, they will. But they don’t go and sell.

The comparison you may be making is the comparison between hunters and farmers. Pure hunters aren’t known for the ability to stick through the execution and post-sale client maintenance. Pure farmers aren’t known for their aggressive sales prospecting and deal-making skills.

There are salespeople who are pure farmers who are not order-takers. They work aggressively in accounts that have already been established to generate and capitalize on new opportunities. But these are sales force design issues (more about that later).

No one believes that passively waiting for orders is a good, effective sales behavior—except order-takers.

Dead Elephants

“If I have a few big elephants that generate 150%+ of my budget, am I at risk of being dismissed?”

First, if you won these two clients, then it’s not likely that you are an order-taker. But if you are sticking with them alone, there is another issue.

This is another sales force design issue. If your company has determined that it needs you to capitalize on these few clients to the exclusion of all others, then that may be the right answer. My good friend, David Brock, once had a territory that comprised a single floor of a skyscraper in New York. It was a large bank, and that floor of this particular client was his entire territory (and his huge quota, too).

But this isn’t the case for most salespeople. While you may not be at risk of losing your job for sticking with two clients that more than make your number, I would suggest that you are staring down the barrel of an elephant gun.

You are at best one loss away of not being able to make your number. You are two losses away from something worse. Without continuing to prospect and build your sales, you are at risk of depending on too few clients. You can and will churn clients through no fault of your own. When you lose one, it is too late to start prospecting (Not that I know anything about this mistake from my own personal experience).

Worse still, you are depriving your company of new clients and you are depriving your dream clients of the same value you create for your two elephants. And this is to say nothing of the money and value creation being left on the table–including the money you would earn from adding a third elephant.

I Love You So Much, I Am Afraid to Leave You Alone

“Plus to maintain a strong relationship in these accounts (relationship selling as endorsed by you) and be responsive to opportunities that arise within the account, the “order taker” needs to stay in their face. Neglect will allow all the others targeting these accounts an in.
Bottom line; any way (legal) that you can make your numbers and grow your business is an honorable and professional sales activity.”

It is true; I am unabashedly a relationships guy. I believe that all things being equal, relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still win.

What is described in the paragraph above doesn’t sound like a strong relationship. I have never recommended not being present. In fact, I have written about neglect a number of times here. For most salespeople, the idea that they have to be ever-present to capitalize on potential orders is a cop out. If you have strong relationships, you are going to get those orders on the basis of those relationships.

If your relationships aren’t strong enough to withstand a temporary absence while you sell other clients, then you don’t have a strong relationship. If you create value for your clients and you work on those relationships, you are not at risk. The real risk of losing your elephant to a competitor isn’t your selling other clients; the real risk is that you stop creating value.

What do you think?

Questions

Does it matter how you bring orders?

Is it ever an effective strategy to wait for orders to come to you?

How many clients should depend on to make your number? What are the risks of relying on too few clients?

What are the risks to sales organizations that allow their salespeople to rely on a small number of clients? How to they continue to grow and mitigate the risks of losing a key client?

Does your absence while calling on other clients put you at risk of losing your existing clients? What would that say about the strength of your relationships?

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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