Did you know that you probably have a hidden sales team within your company right now? They speak to your customers regularly and provide help and support when questions arise, or problems occur. And – they may already have great relationships built with your clients. Most importantly, those relationships are typically built on trust. Where can you find this hidden sales force? It is your customer service department! There is only one problem: they (and maybe even you!) do not think of themselves as salespeople. So, since they do not believe that sales are part of their jobs, they approach their conversations with your customer in a reactive, rather than proactive, way. But if you can coach and guide your customer service team to follow these best practices, you can tap into this unmined resource to produce incremental topline revenue and lay the groundwork for growing your business without adding to your personnel or your overhead. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as simply telling your customer service team to “Do it!”
The Stigma of Sales
The reason many people choose a customer service over sales position is because their perception of salespeople is that they are pushy, sleazy, or self-serving. When trained in a way to sell that actually helps customers solve problems and make smart buying decisions, customer service team members will let go of stereotypical views and be more comfortable in a sales role. Great customer service providers are eager to help, so when they see sales through that lens, they will be more open to the role.
Another reason customer service providers avoid sales is that they do not know how to approach or avoid push back – also known as overcoming objections. They may be uncomfortable dealing with what they consider awkward “sales” conversations or asking for a buying decision. When you give them a systematic process for how to take a business development approach to service it takes the pressure off them and your customer.
Bonding and Rapport
Ensure customer service providers are empowered to craft compelling questions and are actively listening to their customers. Encourage them to engage customers in discussions that lead to better understanding of how your product or service is utilized in their lives. When you ask customers about their problems, their thoughts, and their challenges, you tap into their wants and needs. This leads to better customer service solutions which ultimately lead to better sales.
Check for Icebergs
The surface problem a customer brings you is rarely the real problem. Just like 90% of an iceberg is below the surface and not visible to the naked eye, many times what the actual issue is can only be uncovered by skillfully asking questions until it is revealed. Customer service providers must learn to dig deep and find out what is behind the visible issue; then guide their customers to products and services to address those issues that are beneath the surface. When a skilled customer service representative can solve a client’s underlying pain, that’s where customer loyalty begins.
While on the surface, ending a service call with “Anything else I can help you with today?” sounds like a call to sales action, it is easy to reply to with “no.” On the other hand, “I see you have bought widgets by the dozen in the past. We have them on special this week. Is that something you would like to stock up on when we ship the rest of your order? “ however, is specific, tailored and helpful. If the customer has a need, you have made it easy for them to say “yes.” Think of effortless ways for your service team to get a “yes” from your clients and create some simple statements they can add into a customer service interaction to help your clients in the buying process.
Listening for Buyer Signals
When a service technician hears, “I should really replace this unit you’re working on,” this is a customer signaling that they know they should start the buying process. Unfortunately, service providers do not always recognize this, and buyers may take that as a sign of disinterest and shop elsewhere. The technician may believe it is not part of their job to act on or follow up on the customers comment, or maybe they believe that bringing the lead back to the sales team is good enough, not realizing that the opportunity may be over by the time the sales team calls. Give your service providers and customer service representatives the tools to turn buying signals into sales revenue.
Value is Greater Than Price
One thing to focus on right away is teaching your customer service team how to understand value rather than just price. When they do, they will stop assuming buyers only want the lowest price, they will start finding out the clients’ needs and will then match those needs to the right product or service. Customers need a return on their investment, and a customer service provider’s product knowledge, experience, problem-solving abilities, and industry knowledge have huge value. Revenue left on the table is vulnerable to the competition. Ensure your hidden sales force is prepared to uncover and bring that revenue home.
At the end of the day, a customer service provider must be a professional communicator. Every customer and prospect are different and having the ability to establish trusting relationships quickly is essential when solving problems, developing long-term customers, and creating a relationship based on loyalty beyond the product or service. Having the skills to lower barriers between people, ask questions and really listen for the meaning will create win-win solutions, build trust, and increase sales. This is far more powerful than any other aspect of customer interaction. Relationships built from a good foundation with open communication, mutual respect, and good intentions will weather almost any storm!