As a counter clerk, when a customer walks in the door, you’re often the person they’re looking for. The customer wants to place an order and expects you, the counter clerk, to serve it. Although this encounter is usually brief, let’s examine what the general expectations of the client may be. What do customers expect from counter sales professionals? Since the customer’s perceived value of you as a provider drives their expectations, knowing the answer to this question is important to meeting expectations and building equitable relationships.
CEO Strategist research indicates that customers have the following expectations of counter sales staff:
o Knowledge of the product and application to respond efficiently to doubts.
o Understand the customer’s business to make good purchase recommendations and ask thoughtful questions to learn about their needs and interests, problems, and types of customers they serve.
o Provide accurate pricing, inventory, and timely service.
o Keep customers informed about new products, special promotions and company policies that affect the business relationship.
o Provide timely follow-up to customer questions, timely solutions to problems, and timely handling of complaints to ensure customer satisfaction.
o Demonstrate an attitude of service that demonstrates that the client’s business is valued.
o Possess a sales mindset to help match the right products and the right services to customer needs. This will provide your customers with accurate information options on the features, benefits and value of each.
the rest of the story
As a counter vendor, you are definitely on the front lines. However, everyone in your company also plays a role. Accounting, human resources, warehouse personnel, truckers, administration, information technology and even your receptionist, if you have one, are part of the formula for service excellence. Why? Because the people in each of these roles touch the customer in some way, shape or form.
Shopping plays a particularly important role. The purchasing department must be knowledgeable about each manufacturer and product line, and old and dead inventory must be kept to a minimum. Remember, the right product at the right time is a key customer expectation. Purchasing and inventory management play a key role in meeting customer expectations.
Counter-responsibilities: juggling and multitasking
You are a frontline warrior making real-time face-to-face contact with the customer. First of all, you are a seller. That deserves to be repeated. First of all, you are a seller. As a result, helping the customer to buy is a key responsibility. But keep in mind that in the eyes of the customer, you are also the service person. You are his lifeline, his support structure and his solution to all problems. That means they want immediate attention to their needs. This can include pricing, troubleshooting, recommendations, and even sometimes just someone to listen to your issues and/or problems. You’ll check stock, write orders, pick and pack, and even invoice and collect on occasion. In fact, you are a “manager of first impressions,” so don’t underestimate your value or your impact on building fairness in customer relationships. Quite frankly, you play a crucial role, which means you need technical knowledge, product knowledge, industry knowledge, leadership skills, and most importantly, people skills. You must be able to recognize opportunities to help the customer through suggestive selling, defining your value proposition and offering an option.
Your knowledge, professionalism and people skills will lead to respect, which is the only platform capable of supporting your efforts to build equitable relationships. Look around you, how is the counter organized? Are you always looking for product literature, brochures and promotions, or do you have everything common to your customer base at your fingertips? What about your marketing efforts? How is your showcase? Do you have shelf talkers?
The job of the front-line counter salesperson is not always clearly defined, but by nature it encompasses many responsibilities, including:
o Sales: serve customers at the counter or over the phone
o Up-selling and suggestive selling: giving the customer a choice
o Merchandising: keeping shelves and displays stocked
o Order fulfillment: Picking, packing and extracting products for customers.
o Administrative tasks–for returns, credits, lost sales, etc.
o Reception and other warehouse functions
o Education: product lines/learning applications, including features, benefits, warranties and limitations, plus training and sales meetings.
o Company policy: understanding of credit policy and product return/exchange
On top of all this, a counter salesperson is often expected to support field sales by fielding your calls for customer service issues, product inquiries, and many other requests, and is often subject to sales reps from disgruntled field.
“Many counter vendors keep their RED CAPE under the counter within easy reach.”
The counter salesperson plays a fundamental role in the success of sales. They are a key link with the client; a crucial ingredient in the formula for service excellence. Don’t underestimate its impact on customer relationships, sales growth and profitability. Customers have higher expectations of counter salespeople as their face-to-face contact than anyone else in the business. They want to get the right product, at the right time, at the right price. They also want to talk to knowledgeable total solution providers who do more than just write orders and handle complaints.