Sales vs. Order-taking

Sales vs. Order-taking: What's the difference

What is the difference between an order-taker and a salesperson?


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Sales vs. Order-Taking 
© 2007 David Peterson

I’m probably going to ruffle a few feathers of a few good salespeople with this article. But here it goes:

After your opening statement the prospect on the phone says…

“I’m not sure if I have the right department but I would like to talk to someone about your product. I understand or at least I think I understand that this product will solve my problem. Can I speak with you about the product?”

You answer smartly…

“You have the right person and the right department on the phone, in fact I am the expert in that particular issue. Let me tell you how I can permanently solve your problem.”

Is this a hot prospect? You bet!

Do you need a salesperson to close this deal? – Absolutely Not! 

You need an order-taker. You need someone who is good at describing exactly what your product does and how that relates to the prospect’s problem. 

Order-takers abound in the sales profession. You may actually interview several of them that have made $100,000 or more in a past job. Yet, you will notice on their resume’ that they haven’t seemed to make that same kind of money in years.

There is a definite difference between order-takers and salespeople. You need to know these difference if you plan on hiring, retaining, setting up salaries, or paying commissions to these representatives. 

Here are the differences:

Order-takers are adept at listening to your customer’s problems and figuring out the exact solution for that particular problem. They can “sell” thousands if not millions of dollars worth of your product line if you can get the proper prospect on the phone.

Salespeople are adept at finding out the customer’s needs by getting the prospect engaged in to the sales process. Salespeople are needed because the vast majority of your calls or RFI leads (Request for Information) that your organization will be receiving are not people who ready to buy.

So what happens if you accidentally hire an order-taker when you really needed a salesperson?

What happens is your sales numbers will go stagnant or they will start to fall. Look out for these warning signals if you put the wrong person in the wrong job.

The order-taker will take immediate credit when they sell a product. The order-taker will always chalk his or her sales decline up to a poor product, or sloppy marketing, product pricing, or even a bad day at the office before looking at the way they are pitching your product. The order-taker just doesn’t understand that it could be them. They don’t understand that they are not supposed to be waiting for buyers; they are supposed to be hunting for prospects.

After all, how can they understand that they may be the problem? I mean really; they used to earn $100,000 a year! 

You have to realize that anyone can earn $100,000 if you have the right product at the right time. 

As an example wouldn’t you have liked to have been an ATM salesman in 1980, or how about a Honda Accord salesman from the mid 1980’s to the mid 1990’s? Here’s one - how about a stockbroker at a major brokerage firm in the mid 1990’s to the late 1990’s? My favorite personal $100,000 a year job was a web hosting salesman early in this decade. Now that was a good time. I personally experienced the phone ringing off the hook with people trying to get websites up and running as quickly possible. 

The point is if you have the right product you don’t actually have to sell. You can just take orders. 

That may be the point but the problem is eventually the easy orders will eventually dry up. The low hanging fruit will fall. Eventually it will be time to actually sell!

Salespeople hunt for orders. They are self-starters that realize that if they don’t find the prospects then they will starve. 

Salespeople look at all the low hanging fruit orders as “gimmies” or “gravy” certainly not as what happens on a normal day. 

God help you as a sales manager if you end up with a list that turns out to be too easy and your prospects just turn into customers by the dozen. It will take you a month just to get your salespeople out of the order-taking mode and back into the sales profession.

How do you know which type of person to hire – a professional sales person or a professional order-taker?

There is room for both types of professions in the sales field. If you have a large marketing department whose sole job is to drive calls into your office then you will want to hire order-takers. 

Order-takers can handle a large amount of calls quickly and efficiently. Their primary goal is to close the deal and catch the next call. If you have poor sales results with an order-taker then they are typically more proficient as a customer service representative than as an actual closer.

You don’t need to pay top dollar for order-takers. They are good at what they do but they are also an easy group of people to find and hire. You can find an entry level order-taker in the $25,000 a year range.

On the other hand…

If you don’t have a large marketing department sending you lead after lead, or call after call, then you need a professional salesperson. This professional tends to take their time on the phone. They are friendly, always building rapport and always appear to be in a conversation. Salespeople tend to have high energy and are constantly prospecting. If they are not prospecting then they are following up with prospects. 

You will pay top dollar for a professional salesperson. This group starts at $50,000 and that is only if they are on the rebound or are fresh out of college. 

There really is a difference between the professional order-taker and the professional sales representative. There is a place for both types of professionals in the overall sales field.

Your job as a business owner or as a sales manager is to decide which type of calls or leads you are receiving before you decide on which type of professional you need to bring into your organization. Once you figure out where your leads are coming from then hire either the order-taker or the sales representative – not both.


David A. Peterson

David A. Peterson

Author of: 

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