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Selling And Order Taking

by David Brock on October 30th, 2013

Selling and Order Taking are sometimes confusing.  They overlap in some areas, they have some similar characteristics, they both produce revenue.  Each has it’s place, but they are different.

Order taking is very important and effective in many customer engagement scenarios.  When we can count on customers finding us.  When the customer can, for the most part, educate themselves and make good decisions.  When the customer is looking for a very efficient buying transaction.  Where the questions a customer might have are fairly routine and predictable.  Where the customer decision making process is very simple–perhaps limited to one decision maker.  Where the negotiation is fairly simple.  Where the buying cycle may be very short.  Order taking may be the most effective.

Some of the skills we use in selling are critical to order taking.  We need to be able to probe the customer to verify their need and product selection.  We want to look for upsell, cross sell kinds of opportunities.  We need to defend against competition to some degree.  We do have to present value, but in simple terms, largely the customer has made their own value assessment prior to inquiring about placing the order.  But largely, we need to confirm the customer is making the right buying decision when they call or visit to place an order, helping overcome any last minute concerns they might have or just making them feel good about their decision.  A large part of our value creation is to make their buying experience effortless and efficient.

Sometimes we have the mistaken idea that order taking is primarily used for very low cost/price transactions.  But we see order taking for very large value transactions–perhaps a financial transaction like a stock trade, perhaps buying a tanker of oil, perhaps chartering an airplane.

Selling is different.  The buyer and the situation is very different.  We have to go find the customer, rather than counting on them to find us.  We have to create the need to buy, often converting a latent need to an explicit need.  We have to teach the customer, less about the product, more about the impact on their business.  We have to persuade and influence multiple buyers.  We have to execute a selling process aligned with the customer buying process.  We have to help the customer move to a decision in their process.  We have to create value through the process and differentiate the value of how we engage, as well as our solution against all the other alternatives the customer is considering.  The customer’s decision making process is very complex, we need to persuade, influence and align people with different interests, needs, priorities and agendas.  We have to manage them coming together to make a decision–hopefully in our favor.   We have to address complex issues of change, risk, and value.

We often get confused.  Mostly it’s with customers that need to be sold, but engaging them in order taking.  Sometimes it’s the reverse.  In either case we create an unsatisfactory customer buying experience.  We are incapable of responding to their needs and reduce our ability to win.

Selling and order taking each have their place.  But they are different.  Make sure you understand what buying experience is most effective for your target customers.

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5 Comments
  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    Great blog, Dave.
    In the 1980’s the worst insult on the Sales floor was being called an “Order Taker”. Problem was OT’s got paid the same commission as the “Sellers”!

    Order Taking was brought to its pinnacle by Amazon dot Com, [oh why did I not buy those options, why?]

    And, we have successfully opened ‘Order Taking’ channels for many of our Customers. We replaced 80 Sales people in an 115 ‘road warrior’ Sales force, by opening a 3 seat call centre! [Gas and Oil Sales]

    Great blog!

    • Thanks Brian: Order taking can be highly effective for the right types of buying experiences. The worst thing, however, is people who should be selling that are really only order takers.

  2. I like the way you drew this distinction.

    Many would have simply elevated selling above order taking, but this is a better nuanced view.

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