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Getting Your Service People to Sell

In today’s world, regardless of the sector you are selling into, your competition has more than likely become more capable and more proactive in recent years. Your buyers will have unlimited access to information on your competitor’s offer and, like it or not, your products and services are being commoditised and hence are at risk of being substituted much quicker than you would like.

To add to your nightmare, no matter how big your contracts are, your customers are also far more willing and able to switch supplier if what you offer is not completely unique and mission critical to their operation, or if they are not fully satisfied with what you supply to them.

Aim to add value in every interaction

We have a saying that, once you win an important customer or contract, if you are not adding incremental value to the relationship on a daily basis, you are unwittingly getting one day closer to losing that customer as soon as the contract allows them to move to another supplier.

From the customer’s perspective, it seems that as soon as they sign up with a supplier, despite all of the statements on the supplier’s website about putting their customers first, the customers have to threaten to leave or escalate to a senior level before they can get their needs understood.

This is no longer acceptable in any industry and customers should not only to be served but to be ‘up-served’ (i.e. delighted) whenever they invest their time and effort to interact with your company.

Equip your frontline people

For company to be successful in today’s world, it is imperative that all of its front line people are equipped with the right knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable them be able to proactively add incremental value (for both customer and supplier) in every one of its customer interactions.

Put simply, your company needs its service people to be champions for the customers AND your company and its capabilities. And they need to be equipped to sell in a consulative way when the opportunity arises.

Many will say, “But that doesn’t align with a service mentality” or “Our service people are already expected and incentivised to sell but it has affected customer satisfaction”

The problem is that when companies try to get their service people to sell, many of them don’t do it in a way that makes serving the customer’s needs central to the way they implement the change.

I’m really not saying that service people should be incentivised to ‘push’ additional products and services that the customer might not want or need. And I’m defintely not saying they should be given a sales target, or a target for generating sales leads. However, if an existing customer has a genuine need, over and above their stated initial problem, what’s wrong with your people being equipped to systematically add more value to the transaction by offering additional services or by getting a sales person to actively follow up to discuss the additional needs?

Serving hidden customer needs

My point is that service teams should be comfortable with asking a series of open questions to understand the customer’s wider hidden needs within the context of their lifestyle or their business operating environment. 

When used professionally, sensitively, ethically and with a genuine intent to solve problems and create value for the customers (while complying with all regulatory requirements, of course), a consultative selling approach to service development will simultaneously improve customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and your company’s turnover (as well as margins).

Oh and, by the way, it’s really OK for service professionals to dislike the term ‘selling’. Let’s call it “serving a customer’s holistic needs” or ”ensuring that the customer is delighted that he or she can realise the additional benefits of coming to our company for a ‘one-stop-shop’ solution.”

If you do this, and lead the change well, your customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction levels will both be transformed. By implementing a service development initiative that encourages a more consultative approach to serving wider customer needs, you can help your company’s service teams to make the transition from the role of fire-fighting with complaints (and the stress that goes with it) to the role of proactively understanding the customer’s needs and ‘up-serving’ and ‘cross-serving’ on every call to make every relationship a value-added experience for both the buying and selling parties.

Written by: Steve Eungblut, Managing Director at Sterling Chase

To find out how Sterling Chase can implement a joined-up approach to sales and service development for your organisation, contact us for a free consultation.

Getting Your Service People to Sell