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.

Your Profile Image Can Make (or Break) Referrals

Have you considered the importance of your Facebook profile photo to the process of getting referrals? As someone who regularly refers the people and businesses I am connected with on Facebook, I have a message for you: make sure your page name and profile photo makes you easy to find!

When someone is on a smartphone and wants to connect a comment with a referral to you on Facebook, they don’t get much to look at. They start to type and get a few letters and a teeny-tiny image to try to decipher the right profile to connect.

Here’s a screen capture of my latest attempt.

The images are larger here than on my iPhone and  they are still tiny!

When people are on Facebook and see someone in search of a business exactly like yours or needing the exact service you provide, you want to make it easy for them to connect you to that opportunity. This is generally done by commenting on the post with a link to the Facebook page of the person or company.

Here’s my advice to make it easy for people to help you network and be connected to great opportunities on Facebook:

  1. Have a Facebook page for your company! Unless, of course, you are not interested in any business.
  2. Make sure your Facebook business page is named EXACTLY the same as your business name. That is what your well-meaning referrers will type. Don’t make the job harder by using a page name that does not match the name they know.
  3. Always use a profile image that helps someone know it is you. I know there are many causes to support and many cute pictures of your cat to use. Don’t. Do. It. Make sure that tiny little image screams “this is me!” all the time.


Ditch These SEO Ideas

Best practices for SEO have changed over time. So, it is not surprising that some concepts that used to be important are not so critical now.

Here are several ideas that you can let go:

  • You need a lot of pages. The quality of your content is more important than the number of pages that comprise your website. Search algorithms no longer assume that page volume is an indicator of a site’s authority on a topic. Quality of content is far more important than page count.
  • User experience is secondary to SEO tactics. No SEO tricks are more important than a great user experience. Pay attention to your analytics for indicators of user happiness at the site. Factors like page load time, bounce rate, time on page, and page views per visit indicate a good user experience AND help your search ranking.
  • Images aren’t important. Images are important to the user experience and to SEO. Search engines can’t see images on websites so it is important to give each an alt tag that lets the search crawler detect what it is about. Descriptive titles and captions are an added bonus. Further, using keywords in the image file name can help with your site rank.
  • Q&A doesn’t help. Question and answer and numbered steps have risen in importance with the Google snippet feature. A featured snippet is shown on some search result pages when a question-based query is used. Since these types of queries are becoming more common, this is a great opportunity to get attention.
  • Domain age matters. Hanging on to a longstanding domain so you don’t lose search engaging ranking. Don’t worry.  Factors like quality content and links to your content are more important to page rank than the age of the domain.

All of the nuances become less important if you keep this rule of thumb in mind: provide a website that is easy to use and addresses the needs of your target audience and your website will rank well for applicable searches.