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Sales Makers or Order Takers? How to Determine 'Who’s Who' on Your Team

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Sales makers will be seen by most customers as trusted advisors. Customers will feel that the sales maker is working “for” them.


Now more than ever, you need to know if you and your salespeople are “order takers” or “sales makers.” This can be very difficult to tell based on sales and/or profit margin at your store - or virtually any store. 

When people are buying a lot of products and services for their cars and trucks, it is difficult to make the distinction between order taker and sales maker.

What did the customer buy from us and what did our salesperson sell to them that they had not planned to buy? What were the details of the sale? What was the motivation behind the sale?

If you read on, you will find that you can, within reasonable certainty, determine the quality, depth and breadth of your sales team - and even yourself. 

After listening to thousands of calls - plus watching, learning and listening to hundreds of retail tire sales people - we can pinpoint, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, if your salespeople are professional sales makers or simply order takers.

Let’s first look at the best practices of the professional sales person - also known as a sales maker. Sales makers:

1. Ignore the price objection without making the customer feel like he or she is being ignored and build value by focusing on what the customer really needs - almost never mentions a competitor beating them on price.

2. Follow up on missed sales when a recommendation is made and the customer does not buy.

3. Ask for and desire more sales training even when they have been in sales for many years, always trying to sharpen their sales skills.

4. Always try to learn more and develop better techniques in an effort to increase sales for their store or department versus previous-year numbers.

5. Receive constructive criticism well - most will ask for it from a sales trainer/guru.

6. Sell tires for $10 to $15 more per tire than their competitor every day - and almost never complain about the competition.

7. Enjoy teaching others new and old techniques and are always proud to let new employees  watch and listen to them engage with customers.

8. Make customers feel better without dropping the price - never selling on price and always selling on value.

9. Always operate with a gross profit of 55%  to 60%, in most markets.

10. Always speaks the truth.

11. Always answers a customer need with an “I can,” without being afraid of providing a price.

12. Will be seen by most customers as a trusted advisor. Through problem solving “with” the customer, the customer feels that the sales maker is working “for” them. 

13. A sales maker never justifies and/or brags about the number of hours they work for a store, are seen as a true asset to the business and cares about producing a strong return on investment for the business owner.

14. Knows how to upsell and cross-sell without making the customer feel “sold,” instead making the customer feel “served.”  

In our line of work, we want to help salespeople overcome barriers that keep them from selling less, while helping them increase profitable sales. We also do not want to see a day when a live person can be replaced by a phone prompt system or tire sales on a website. 

How do you identify order takers? These individuals:

1. Usually take the path of least resistance, allows the customer to drive the interaction and almost never pursues what is best for the customer.

2. Only view the short term and are not concerned with issues down the road due to not selling value.

3. Never ask for a name and phone number - and many times afraid to ask or do not understand why they need it.

4. Are uncomfortable when others are listening to them sell on the phone or face-to-face for fear this will reveal that they lack skills and/or a sales process.

5. Allow customers to beat them up on price and usually will drop the price a few dollars to make the sale.

6. Consistently miss upselling and cross-selling opportunities. (For example, free rotations usually end up being a zero sale.)

7. Are only comfortable selling a tire that has a rebate.

8. Think they are okay to be below a 50% gross profit margin and do not understand what it takes to make a higher margin.

9. Are afraid of more training or think they know more than they actually know about making the sale and helping a customer understand value.

10. Can make some customers feel pressured.

11. When asked about their sales performance, often get defensive and offer excuses, such as “My competitor is selling for less” and “The customer just doesn’t like our brand.”

12. Use gimmicks and filler words, and sometimes talk too much, using slang.

13. Do not want to receive constructive criticism that will ultimately lead to more sales and profits for their stores - sometimes using the excuse, “That’s just what the customer wanted.” 

14. Take a reactive sales approach, instead of a proactive sales approach. 

15. Are not equipped to challenge a customer with tactful, probing questions.

15. Use phrases like “To be honest with you” or “To tell you the truth” or “I will be upfront

with you.”

16. Do not create value and have some hesitation when pricing products and/or services that have a higher price tag.

As I speak with owners and general managers of multiple stores, they sometimes seem frustrated because of the difficulties in determining the ability of their sales people. 

The aforementioned descriptions of order takers and sales makers are difficult to deal with but they are a reality. 

I often say, “I never want the need for professional salespeople to disappear.” If your people grow as sales makers, they will most likely enjoy security. Order takers are more replaceable.

It appears that COVID-19 will not go away anytime soon. Since many businesses and families are opting to travel by car, there will continue to be substantial demand for tires and auto repair services in most areas of North America. 

This is a good time to “sharpen the saw” with your sales team. And now might be the perfect time to evaluate them. The results will either validate what you suspect or help you identify opportunities for improvement.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you honestly prefer to employ order takers or sales makers?

  • What are the consequences to your business if you have more order takers than sales makers?

  • Can you afford to keep order takers during a recession?

  • Do you know - by name - who are your order takers and sales makers?

  • Do your competitors employ sales makers? What impact could they potentially have on your business?

I have seen many businesses convert or replace most of their sales teams from order takers to sales makers and boost sales and profit so well that it was like adding one or two stores without adding the expense of new locations. 

Mike Townsend is owner of Townsend Strategies, a sales and leadership training and marketing firm. He has 30 years of sales experience, 13 of them in the tire industry. As a Six Sigma black belt and professional trainer, Townsend says he “has witnessed every scenario and heard every objection in the retail tire environment across every state in the U.S.” For more information, call (865) 318-4588 or (800) 319-8552, or email Townsend at

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