Retailers have long relied on strong salespeople to help serve customers in their stores. These employees perform tasks ranging from keeping an eye on inventory to helping customers who call with questions. The Internet, however, initiated a shift in the role of the salesperson, because customers now access products and answer their own questions with the click of a mouse. Many small business owners are turning to web developers and online marketers in an effort to establish a web presence for their businesses, and meet the needs of today’s shoppers, but for owners who cannot accommodate the expense of hiring both salespeople for their stores and web developers for their sites, there is one pressing question. Who should be hired first? The answer depends on the current state of affairs at each individual store and, for retailers who operate several brick and mortars, there may be more than one solution.
Establishing a clear definition of sales staff roles is essential at each physical store. Certain retail businesses require very little hard selling, and employees’ primary duties are to care for customers at the doors or register. What is often overlooked, however, is their ability to help business owners keep a finger on the pulse of consumer trends. By engaging with customers face to face, salespeople are able to source information simply through conversation. Their job is to help manage customer relationships, as well as to help generate profits and, for some retailers, this is a vital position to fill. If a retailer finds that his or her sales force is already strong, but online business is lacking or yet to be tapped, is an additional salesperson the right candidate for an open, untitled position? Perhaps.
Salespeople Can Work With a New Set of Tools
Regarding hiring web development staff, marketing analyst John Jantsch offers unique insights in defense of salespeople. “My take on the difference between sales and marketing has always been that marketing has always been tasked with owning the message. Today, marketers no longer have control of how the message is consumed, packaged and heard. Salespeople have an entirely new set of tools to mine, build, nurture and convert leads, and are no longer tied to relationships built on location.” Though it may be appropriate for brick and mortar businesses to investigate web development options and create a firm goal, hiring the right sales representatives can be just as beneficial. Look for qualities that signify the job candidate is marketing minded. “They should think like a publisher and build their own expertise, by sharing an online platform with the business,” Jantsch suggests. The ideal candidate would also facilitate community and peer discussion between customers and partners, either via social media or other digital communications, such as email. There have been dramatic shifts in retail roles over the last several years, with no pause in sight. However, retailers who begin to look for employees fitting this new set of criteria will secure their own success in the long run.