When It Comes To Selling It's A Matter Of Attitude
Aventa Data Systems, Inc. has tripled its sales in the past three years. To keep up, the company hires salespeople who have restaurant experience and a good personality instead of someone likely to go in for the kill.
Salespeople, or account executives as they are referred to at Aventa, stay with their clients even after the sale is final. The goal, according to Cicci, is for account executives to build a lasting relationship with each customer.
To accomplish this, Aventa would rather hire salespeople with personality and restaurant experience than extensive sales training. "We would hire a person with a little knowledge about the technical side of the restaurant business," he explains, "before we would hire a high-powered salesperson with no restaurant experience or people skills. We don't hire account executives who just go in for the kill."
This sales philosophy is to ensure customer satisfaction and provide account executives with the opportunity to present other products that can enhance Aventa's customers' businesses. These products include back-office accounting software and pagers.
With $2 million in sales in 1998, Aventa has tripled its growth since 1997, and expects $3 million in sales in 1999. Cicci attributes this growth to the emergence of Aloha software as a major choice in the POS arena and Aventa's commitment to service. Aventa integrates Aloha software, POS terminals, back office reporting software and consulting to meet its customers' needs. Aventa's sales area covers the entire state of Arizona.
"We follow our customers as they expand in Arizona," he explains. "If they get larger or farther away than we can handle, we turn them over to a sister Aloha dealer. We do this because our first responsibility is to get our customers the quick service they deserve. Our sales motivations don't come into play." To meet the increased demands associated with growth, Aventa is continually hiring new account executives and has opened a Tucson, AZ branch.
The Human Element
"We look for account executives who are outgoing and self-confident," Cicci explains. "We want our salespeople to have a way of making people feel comfortable, but we also want people who are persuasive without being pushy. We believe that our account executives are looking out for the customers' best interest."
"To us, good account executives are people who focus on the day-to-day activities of the business. They hold themselves accountable for their actions and their processes, whether it's cold calling, writing a quote, performing equipment demonstrations or discussing a situation with present or prospective customers. These salespersons will always be prodding and digging to better their knowledge of the customer and the industry."
Training Never Stops
Aventa's initial sales training program can last from 30 to 45 days. New account executives work with technicians to understand the integration of the hardware. "Then, we have them (new account executives) work with trainers on how to use the Aloha system so they have a good knowledge of how Aloha operates," says Cicci. "From there, we have them work with one of our senior account execs where they observe demos and sales calls and how to respond to customers' questions and answers. Finally, as they make appointments, another account executive goes with them individually to help new employees make demonstrations. When they feel confident enough, the new account executives go out on sales calls by themselves."
Account executive training never stops. "We sit down with account executives on a regular basis to make sure they understand what they are selling and servicing, in addition to understanding how the product works. Our technicians hold constant refresher courses to help the account executives understand the product."
How To Sell To A Customer
Aventa account executives go through a four-step process to make each sale.
- Fact finding – Account executives want to determine what the customers' needs might be, if they are familiar with POS systems. "We don't need to know the customers' demographics," Cicci explains. "We need to know how their business operates. The account executive's goal is to walk into the restaurant and talk with the company's decision maker."
The toughest sale of all, according to Cicci, is a customer who has had minimal exposure to the POS industry. "In this scenario," he explains, "the account executive must explain how our solution will help the company run its business more efficiently."
"Oftentimes, these customers have worked with an electronic cash register and used handwritten checks. They have never had the need to investigate POS equipment. Our account executives have to get potential customers to a point where they are comfortable enough with the technology that they are willing to think about installing a solution."
- Setting up the demonstration – After the customer agrees to see how the Aventa solution works, the account executive suggests a demonstration at an Aventa office. "If we give demonstrations on site," says Cicci, "the customer is often interrupted by employees or problems that can arise. When customers come to our office, they are focused on the demonstration."
- Writing the quote – The account executive writes the quote based on the factors of the solution that will fit the restaurant.
- Presenting the quote – At this point, the account executive sits down with the customer again to discuss all of the facets of the quote. "Our salespeople make sure the customer understands the product, the services we provide and the costs associated with these items. We want potential customers to have all of the information up front so they are able to make a sound business decision."
Power protection units are an important part of every Aventa solution. These units can be used as a sales tool in situations where a power protection unit is not already in place. The added level of power protection can guard POS systems against a variety of mishaps, including power surges, brownouts or blackouts. "We believe so highly in these systems," remarks Cicci, "that we offer discounts on our maintenance agreements to customers who already have power protection units. These systems eliminate ‘hiccups,' or skips or jumps in the current, which can corrupt data. In addition, it can save our customers and us time and money by eliminating power-related problems that would require a technician."
Setting Up For Success
Tripling growth in the past three years has caused Aventa to be proactive instead of reactive. "We set up for our success instead of reacting to our success," Cicci explains.
The company does this by evaluating the needs of each area - technical, training or sales. "We determine how many accounts our account executives and technicians can comfortably handle, and we try to stay within that window," he explains. "All of our employees know that their goals are obtainable - but they have to stretch. We expect them to go the extra mile and above the standard."