Selling is still important
A walk through one of the trade fairs is enlightening. There is a clear difference between local business and business from across the border. Businesses from outside the country come with agendas. Their representatives have to pay back with sales and contracts for their air tickets and accommodation, as well as the cost of the stand. Local businesses can be spotted by their introversion, They do not come to the front of the stand to sell, stands are often empty, or the people manning the stands sit to the back, engaged in leisurely conversation.
It is a sentiment echoed in the behaviour of local business, outside of fair grounds. There is a ‘come-to-us’ approach, in which customers are expected to make unaided purchase decisions, as well as a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ attitude which pays little heed to quality or post-purchase care. Most calls are answered eventually, but grudgingly and gracelessly. Motivation appears to be as low as energy levels on a hot summer day.
In the past few years, there has been some talk of innovation, in the same vein as a panacea for Namibia’s failed business ambition, however, even if Namibia were to come up with a cure for cancer, it could well end up unremarked or unnoticed, for want of salesmanship.
Business is, in its purest form a transaction in which an exchange of value occurs. If the core element of business is given short shrift or ignored, then the returns to business will be less than the optimum, no matter how much value exists between the parties.
Namibia does however have a basic culture of selling. It can be seen in agriculture, in classified advertising, and on Facebook. Unfortunately it seldom extends into enterprise, where specialist functions and job descriptions rarely specify productivity of sales.
For Namibia to be productive it needs to build a culture of selling at the level of the individual enterprise and assess the sales of individuals. This should not be limited to specialised individuals but should extend across all functions of the organisation. Even administration should be aware that the retrieval of information can be critical to sales and repeat sales.
Selling begins with two critical aspects, the customer needs and the ability to pay. If the salesperson shies away from getting to know the customer, then the sale is in jeopardy: it becomes a hit-and-miss process. Once the customer is identified, then the customer has to be informed. That’s not enough though. The customer also has to be convinced, through an active process, that the product is worth paying for on the basis of needs, and in the face of competition.
Once the sale is closed the process is not complete. After sales service keeps the customer happy by addressing experience and any defects. This brings the customer back.
None of this is esoteric, nor does it require formal qualification. The entire process is described on thousands of websites, as are more detailed aspects of the components of selling. It is immediately accessible as long as there is basic English literacy and computer literacy.
In order for selling to be the basis for success of the enterprise, the entrepreneur has to take the process seriously. The place to begin is with recruitment: don’t hire salespeople who can’t sell, and build sales into the contract and / or job description as part of the assessment.
Do not expect advertising to sell on behalf of the salesperson, or allow salespeople to rely on advertising material. Advertising material lays the ground for selling but, as a rule, does not sell on its own, unless there is a specific price attached. Ask any shopkeeper.
And above all, do not allow points of purchase to be manned by people who can’t sell. Consider this the next time you go to a trade fair. Are your staff there to grow the business, or to decorate the seats at the back?