The Secret to Business Success Lies with Your Customer Facing Employees

Guest Post By Kim Fredrich

We hear a lot about how the customer is King. And how in the age of social media, we as consumers, have all the power. And yet, Comcast has the ability to completely upend our lives (because access to the Internet is essential to life, right?) simply by making us navigate their maddening telephone system and waiting around for our designated ‘service window’. The Comcast guy has become THE guy to hate, even with his own category of internet memes. What’s that doing to Comcast’s sales?

Poor Service Leads to Missed Sales Opportunities

We might not all have a great deal of choice in our internet provider, but it is still a competitive marketplace for most of us. Just think of the revenue Comcast is missing by not considering their entire operation a sales operation – one where the customer’s satisfaction (that would be service) with every interaction is the number one priority.

The same goes for tradespeople. While they may be outstanding at their trade, more often than not that expertise isn’t matched with excellent communication skills and superior attention to client needs. Sure, there will always be exceptions, but for the most part, these inherently customer facing service providers don’t excel at customer service.

When you call a service provider for a quote you are probably not looking just for pricing, but information about what might be required to address your issue too. You don’t have expert knowledge (um, that’s why you’re calling), and you genuinely need help. If you actually manage to get someone to quote a job, how many ask you additional questions that might result in additional business for their company? And how many actually follow up after presenting a proposal? It almost seems like they don’t want your business.

All these people are leaving money on the table. Because funnily enough, when you put customer service ahead of everything else, your marketing takes care of itself, your sales become simple, and your revenues rise.

Every Employee is a Salesperson

Now what happens when you provide exceptional service AND train your staff in basic sales skills? Everyone who interacts with a prospect has a sales role. It may not be direct selling as in, “are you ready to sign a contract?”, but a scheduler who begins to build rapport with an incoming caller, then asks some key questions to establish the nature of the problem is having a sales conversation, all while providing service above and beyond expectations. As is the internet repairman who comes to the home and engages with the client in a conversation while returning the IT system to normal function. Virtually every interaction with a customer is selling the company in some way, even if no direct sales of the product or service are occurring.

The Customer Service vs. Sales Debate

This excellent article by Gregory Ciotti at HelpScout lists 15 customer service skills that every employee needs:

  • patience
  • attentiveness
  • product knowledge
  • ability to ‘read’ customers
  • ability to handle surprises
  • persuasion skills
  • tenacity
  • closing ability

Except these aren’t customer service skills, but sales skills. The two are so intertwined as to become almost indistinguishable from each other.

Outstanding customer service is just good business. Ask anyone who’s built a family run business – the kind where clients are known by their first names and the ‘boss’ plays a direct role in client interaction.

So what does that mean if you’re a manager or a business owner? It means every single employee who interacts with customers should receive sales training. Not that company’s 10 step method, or this company’s proven techniques, but the basics. Building rapport, listening, asking questions, problem solving, and follow up, follow up, follow up. Because they’re all selling. And guess what? You’ll generate a whole lot more referrals this way too. Bam! Service, marketing and sales in one fell swoop.

Find more sales tips in ‘Substance & Style’ by Kim Fredrich

About Kim Fredrich

Kim helps customer facing ‘non-sales’ staff get comfortable with sales and realize the importance of their role in business success. Her one-on-one sales coaching, consultancy and workshops focus on building relationships and having conversations with purpose. She has recently presented at The Power Conference, NAWBO, the Freelance Union and the Women in Business Leadership Council. She has also conducted workshops for Howard University’s In3 Incubator, Hera Hub and the Maryland Women’s Business Center.

Kim began selling with her first job in food services, branched into marketing, and came back to sales because it was a bigger challenge and much more interesting. She has trained with some of the most respected business brand names over her career, achieving a training commendation from Xerox. Over the past 20 years she’s delivered sales and marketing services to select clients across the globe, in B2C, B2B and nonprofit industries.