Interview with a Rogers Sales Associate About Selling BlackBerry, iPhone and Smartphones

13 Comments

I recently caught up with an old friend, RogersDude69, and had a long conversation about retail and smartphones. I sent him a few questions over email to get some answers about how retailers market and sell BlackBerrys.

Tell me about smartphone sales where you work, which platform is being pushed the hardest right now?

I work at Rogers Plus, the corporate retail store. Our current lineup of phones are:

  • iPhone 3G 8GB, iPhone 3GS 16GB, iPhone 3GS 32GB
  • BlackBerry 8220, BlackBerry 8520, BlackBerry 9000, BlackBerry 9700
  • HTC Dream, HTC Magic+, Samsung Spica
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia X1
  • Nokia N86

Our particular store sells more BlackBerry devices than iPhone devices, because there is a larger selection, and the iPhone in particular has been the same device for nearly the last 2 years.

Internally, we have a big push to sell the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1, most likely because the X10 is coming out soon. There are sales incentives to sell the device even more so than our regular commission.

What were customer demands for consumer smartphones when iPhone (3G) launched, are they different now?

Most consumers in Canada who wanted a phone that surfed the web and got email went with a BlackBerry. However, the plans themselves had a small limit on the amount of bandwidth that was allowed. For $40 you could get 25 MB of data. I would sell a couple BlackBerry devices a week at my store, usually to someone who wore a suit and tie.

When the iPhone 3G launched in Canada, that data plans were boosted from 25 MB to 500 MB, for $15 less. Since data plans have become cheaper, more and more people have decided to take the plunge and buy a smartphone.

Younger women, younger men, older women, older men, what are these groups looking for in a smartphone, what are their purchasing motivations? What are their smartphone preferences?

Younger Women – BlackBerry Messenger
Younger Men – Cool Applications
Older Women – Ease of Use and email
Older Men – Work Related applications

Not long ago, apps for phones were sold through a carrier deck, now it’s shifting towards a manufacturer store model, how does this effect smartphone sales?

I think it has definitely increased the sales of smartphones themselves, as the platform stores are more advertised by the manufacturers, rather than the carriers. Generally, it makes people have more control over their devices, and complain about something else besides the price of ringtones.

Are consumers interested in software?

Most consumers aren’t, in my experience. The only consumers that are interested in software, are what the industry calls the prosumer. You know, the early adopters and the ones that spend lots and lots of money on their toys.

What is your favorite BlackBerry to sell someone on right now and why?

My favorite is the BlackBerry 9700, since it’s got a much better battery life than the 9000, and it’s a 3G phone, so you can download stuff really quick. More importantly, it doesn’t have a trackball, but a trackpad, which doesn’t break down hardware-wise. Other than that, I also push the BlackBerry 8520, because it’s pretty cheap but still makes me more commission.

If someone doesn’t know what kind of smartphone they want, what factors lead you sell them on a BlackBerry over an iPhone?

The first question I ask people is: Would you be using your device primarily to communicate with people, or would you be using the device to surf the web and entertain for yourself?

That usually cuts the line between iPhone and BlackBerry. When people say communication, I push BlackBerry. When they say surf the web, I tell them iPhone. Other that, I sell BlackBerry because I have more models to choose from and it’s a Canadian Company.

Do you deal much with returns? Which makes and models are returned the most and why?

Currently, for a smartphone it is the LG EVE. Overall, it has to do with the people who are buying smartphones. There is a lot of ignorance in this industry and sometimes a user simply doesn’t understand how to use a smartphone. I’ve seen users who make the mistake of typing in their gmail password for the BlackBerry lock screen until the phone locks and their data is wiped. I also see users typing their BlackBerry password into their Gmail and want to return the phone because “their email is broken.” People will also return the BlackBerry when there are smudges on the screen, or if the frame of it seems to separate slightly (some BB 8520s do this). What surprises me, is that in general people don’t return the iPhone.

Which apps do you talk about when the topic of BlackBerry applications comes up?

The first application I talk about is BlackBerry App World. It’s strange that the store for the BlackBerry isn’t pre-loaded on the devices but I will often take the time to download it onto people’s devices for them. The next is BlackBerry Messenger, followed by Windows Live Messenger or Facebook. Games aren’t usually talked about in store.

Which devices sell the most accessories on signup?

When I sell the iPhone, I immediately grab a rubber case made by iSkin, and I force people to buy it because the iPhone does not take a fall. I’ve seen about a hundred iPhones with broken screens. If that phone falls on it’s side, the screen cracks and the rubber case helps tremendously. When selling a BlackBerry, I tend to sell a lot of car chargers.

What is your favorite BlackBerry application of the moment and why?

My application that I use the most is Magmic’s Sudoku (which is free and preinstalled), Magmic’s Daily NYT Crosswords (which is a subscription), BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook, BlackBerry’s official Twitter app (I am awesome) and Foursquare.

What is your favorite iPhone application?

The Rogers My Account application, which isn’t pre-loaded on the iPhone, but tells you your minutes, text messages, and data usage before your bill comes out. It’s also important to note that I don’t use the iPhone, I just tell my customers that they should download that application.

Which platform most often leads to people coming in and talking about it, but not buying anything?

It’s probably the Android operating system. People come in, ask about it, and then leave. I often have people come in and ask about BlackBerry and iPhone, but they usually leave the store having purchased one. The questions I get are always about the ability to do something, such as check their email, and the answer is always “yes”. People still don’t realize what a smartphone is and what it can do.

  • robnhl

    Good job. It would be interesting to see a similar interview with an ATT salesman.

  • DavidB

    No kidding. Isn't it a crock that THIS LONG AFTER LAUNCH neither App World nor Messenger 5.0 come pre-loaded on any BlackBerry you buy anywhere??? Seriously RIM, what is WRONG with you?

  • DavidB

    It would have to be totally anonymous, as no ATT store sales rep is gonna go public saying anything negative about their dear Apple devices. At least no sales rep who wants a future at ATT…

  • kylemcinnes

    Nice article Matt. I've always wanted to hear more from RogersDude69 on the site. We should get someone to post as ATTDude69. I think it's a good point that your average consumer is still incredibly behind the times when it comes to understanding smartphones. I think BBCool readers often take for granted the huge wealth of knowledge they've accumulated about what is essential a computer in your pocket.

  • clbond

    good reading i can relate to. i sell AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. i get hit with a lot of the same questions.

  • iphoneboy

    Fanboyz…..

  • Michael Jones

    I live in the hip and trendy part of town, in Kentucky, USA, and virtually everybody around here, including my wife, has the Jesus phone. They also complain about the service. I have a BlackBerry Bold 9000 and I don't complain about the service.

    Why's that? Well, the BlackBerry Bold 9000 and the iPhone3G/3GS both have 3G, so the data transfer is fast. But the iPhone squanders that speed, by downloading a bunch of crap, which it discards, just to show a little content. I can Google something and get the answer on my Bold, before my wife can even get to Google on her iPhone.

    I also use all of my BlackBerry features, like the PIM functionality, and the password keeper, whereas most of the iPhone users that I know simply use the web browser and iPod functionality. Ironically, my wife also carries a paper calendar (note: not a planner) to remember her appointments, which she sometimes misses. My Bold does all of that for me.

    It's not that Jesus phone users are stupid; most just don't appreciate and utilize the entire phone computer. They are unsophisticated computer users. But that is the target market. If they were nerds, they might have chosen a Droid. If they were like me, a Bold.

    However, IMO, the future belongs to powerful smart phones with very high resolution screens, with usable keyboards and good software. Both the iPhone and the Bold have a good selection of software. Have I bought any software? No. Will I? Maybe. But why would I buy it NOW, when I might upgrade my AT&T phone this year? If I could transfer the software from my Bold to a different phone, yes. But most developers will not transfer licenses between platforms.

  • Cathy Carollo

    Matt,

    Great Article!!! Very informative. I'm actually using it to do some research on my own.

    My name is Cathy Carollo. I am the Sales Director for Made Simple Learning. We provide the BlackBerry Training Center. It is the only type of training of its kind.

    While reading your article I paid particular attention to the opinions of BlackBerry users in general as well as the typical reason for returns. You are absolutely right. As every BlackBerry has a minimum if 75 functions, knowing how to use it can make life easier and not knowing how to use it can frustrate the user into a return.

    We have successfully focused on the corporate market here in the US over the past fours. Our corporate users have seen a 50% decrease in “How to?” calls to the Help Desk. Some have even seen up to an additional hour of productivity per day per user.

    We have taken a slight turn and are now reaching out to the consumer market. As this is a new product in the consumer market, it's moving slowly forward. I do feel that if Carriers like Rogers will view our Training Center, they will see the benefit for their customers as well as a tool for their Trainers and Sales Associates.

    Our goal is to have our Training Center included with every BlackBerry sold.

    Matt, if you could introduce me to your contact at Rogers, I would greatly appreciate it.

    I can be contacted via phone at (770)313-1200
    or email at cathy.carollo@madesimplelearning.com

    I also encourage you and other readers to visit us on the web at http://www.madesimplelearning.com

    Thanks so much,

    Cathy

  • Ronald

    I wonder if few buy Android phone after asking for it because the Rogers sales associate does not like Android phones so he emphasizes the negative aspects of the android system.

    And then again, perhaps he does not make as high a commission on the Android phones as he does on the others and therefore gives customers inquiring about the phone a less then stellar recommendation.

  • rogersdude69

    Ronald,

    Commission at Rogers is usually sorted by the length of term and the plan signed up for, not device specific.
    There may be internal promotions like, 'Sell 10 Sony Xperia X1's and win a X10', but for actual paycheque amounts, it's not device specific.

    When I sell, I want to make sure A) I don't get a return of the device and B) I want to make sure people are actually using the device and getting value out of their money bills, so they don't come back to my store and complain that they are being overcharged.

    iPhones do not get returned. BlackBerry Devices get returned when people are anal about the device specifically, be that looks or touch or how the paint on the A button is falling off. Windows Mobile and Palm only sell to people who want specific applications from work that only run on WinMo or PalmOS.

    Android, which is probably my NEXT phone OS I want to have (when there is hardware that I want to purchase next), sells and gets returned because people who buy these devices don't know how to use them. I've sold about 70 LG Eve's and had about 25 of them returned to my store, because the people who wanted them didn't understand the device. “You mean I need to have google mail?” “Yes, Ma'am. I don't think this is quite the device for you, though. How about I show you these other phones.” “No, no. I want this, it's so pretty.”

    :roll eyes:

    I like Android, I really do. I want to own one of their devices. Honestly. If you could toss BBM into Android, I'd switch and get the Nexus1 tomorrow.

  • Ronald

    Rogersdude,

    Sorry if I misjudged you.
    Your explanation sounds completely reasonable.

  • rogersdude69

    Ronald,

    Commission at Rogers is usually sorted by the length of term and the plan signed up for, not device specific.
    There may be internal promotions like, 'Sell 10 Sony Xperia X1's and win a X10', but for actual paycheque amounts, it's not device specific.

    When I sell, I want to make sure A) I don't get a return of the device and B) I want to make sure people are actually using the device and getting value out of their money bills, so they don't come back to my store and complain that they are being overcharged.

    iPhones do not get returned. BlackBerry Devices get returned when people are anal about the device specifically, be that looks or touch or how the paint on the A button is falling off. Windows Mobile and Palm only sell to people who want specific applications from work that only run on WinMo or PalmOS.

    Android, which is probably my NEXT phone OS I want to have (when there is hardware that I want to purchase next), sells and gets returned because people who buy these devices don't know how to use them. I've sold about 70 LG Eve's and had about 25 of them returned to my store, because the people who wanted them didn't understand the device. “You mean I need to have google mail?” “Yes, Ma'am. I don't think this is quite the device for you, though. How about I show you these other phones.” “No, no. I want this, it's so pretty.”

    :roll eyes:

    I like Android, I really do. I want to own one of their devices. Honestly. If you could toss BBM into Android, I'd switch and get the Nexus1 tomorrow.

  • Ronald

    Rogersdude,

    Sorry if I misjudged you.
    Your explanation sounds completely reasonable.