The death of the salesperson is the missing piece of the ROI puzzle

David Hague gets nostalgic for a time when in-store salespeople - not social media campaigns - were the front line of a brand's marketing campaign.

A long time ago in a place far, far away, I worked in a Tandy Electronics store. Remember those? They were everywhere – at one point there was reputedly more Tandy and Radio Shack stores than McDonald’s – and they sold everything electronic from a resistor to radio controlled cars, stereo systems and, of course, computers.

Ah, memories.

Anyway, we were paid according to sales and profit, depending on whether you were a manager or a salesperson. As such, you very quickly learnt to actually sell, and more importantly, sell stuff that had a high margin.

For example, you could sell someone a blank cassette in a case, or you could sell the cassette “raw” and then add on blank cases and blank labels. Often the customer saved money, but you made money as the individual items had a higher profit than the packaged.

I am mentioning all this as a preamble to my next statement.

People don’t actually sell anymore. That art of selling seems to have died a death, and everyone is now reliant on “marketing”. And that is a shame.

Everywhere you go, stores are either self-serve or no-one cares and just asks what you want. It doesn’t matter if it is the local servo (who used to make a mozza selling oil top ups – “your oil is half empty sir”), or the supermarket. And God forbid you’ll even find a salesperson in say Kmart or Target or BigW.

Rivers certainly doesn’t and nor does Harvey Norman or JB HiFi, from my experience. They might ask what you want and point you to it or get it for you if you are lucky.

Sometimes not even that. I recall a major electrical appliances and associated gadgetry store assistant being asked for five SD cards of a particular brand and size. It was a decent potential sale.

“We don’t sell that brand” he said, with a competing brand at his right elbow on display under glass. And then walked away.

Even the “new” Tandy – Jaycar – doesn’t seem to sell, although I can say their staff are very good and knowledgeable.

Butchers used to be pretty good sales folk too, with their sassy and risqué patter. So did the original greengrocer / corner shop – think Arkwright of Open All Hours!

Therefore, I ask: is selling a dying art, or has everyone just become too damn lazy? Has the rise of the self serve checkout, the “get-it-yourself” department store and the pump-your-own-fuel servo all contributed to this malaise with their promise of lower running costs hinting then at higher profits?

I suggest a bit of sales training and weeding out no-hopers would garner far more effect than ploughing money into so-called social media campaigns – that don’t really increase sales physically, just awareness.

I give you exhibit number one. A brand name service station in south western WA that sells at full price, and is surrounded by discount servos – four within 500 metres – and there is always a wait to get fuel.

Why? They have driveway attendants who’ll cheerfully fill ‘er up, check the oil (and top up as necessary), clean the windscreen and test the tyre pressures. They try to sell everything from windscreen cleaner to oil to drinks to Mars Bars.

They only thing they don’t do is accept the brand’s loyalty card. Why should they? They don’t need it.

David Hague is the owner of VBtheDog Productions.


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