Teaching customer service reps to sellWhat? Me? Sell?!!

What to do when you want your customer service team to make sales?

There is a push to get service people to sell. It makes sense: They have a captive audience and constant contact with potential buyers. Since sales generally come with financial incentives, why don’t more service people naturally take advantage of selling opportunities? Here are some things to ponder when considering having your service or operations people try their hand at selling.

I have what could be considered a typical service personality (cautious, reserved, systematic, detail oriented), and when faced with the possibility of selling, my thoughts take a very rational course. I think, “If I hide under my desk, maybe they’ll think I am invisible and I won’t have to do this.” Yes, it’s that hard for me to contemplate. Once in my rash youth, I took a job going door to door soliciting donations for a nonprofit. I needed the job desperately, and the pay was pretty good. I lasted one day. (Technically, you couldn’t even call it one day, since I spent much of the time shuffling around my assigned neighborhood, wishing I could sprain my ankle so I’d have an excuse for my miserable results.)

Possibly, it comes down to fight or flight. Natural born sales people, when faced with a potential competitor, do whatever they can to win (fight). Natural service people tend to back away (flight). I turn tail and run like a small rodent from an angry badger (super-flight).

If you ask me why it’s so scary, I can’t really tell you. Of course there is fear of rejection, fear of hostility, fear of disappointing my manager and losing my job! Well, ok. That’s plenty. The thing is, I know intellectually I am in no actual danger, but that doesn’t stop me from having the kind of visceral, physical reaction one would expect to see in someone facing (possibly for the first time) a battle against a hoard of the walking undead.

If I evaluate myself honestly, I think I could sell if I had to. I believe most people could do any job for a while. However, the incentives would have to be right and the pressure would have to be low. (Trust me; people like me put enough internal pressure on themselves without needing much pushing from the outside.)

So, what can you do to help your customer service team make sales?

  • Make sure the product/service is meaningful to the employee.  To convince other people, they will need to be convinced themselves of the value of their product. I could sell our product because I believe in it wholeheartedly…although, I would never be a high pressure seller, but at least I would have the courage of my convictions.
  • Make it a team effort.  The need to support the team is strong in service providers, and the fear of letting others down is a powerful motivator. Set measurable goals for the service team with clear incentives. Natural service people do not want to be the ones keeping their friends and colleagues from winning. Give them regular updates to help them keep a sense of urgency about the goal. But don’t single anyone out for low performance!
  • Make sure they are prepared.  Role-play, send them to training, give them a sales script, let them shadow top sellers. There is no such thing as being too prepared.
  • Take it on a case-by-case basis.  Say you have someone on your team who is beloved by clients and kicking butt in service but is not making much headway in sales. Maybe you say, so be it. They are probably making up for it in customer loyalty and renewals.
  • Offer reassurance.  Rejection is going to feel personal to these folks, and they may not ever get used to it. Meet with them, offer encouragement and remind them it’s not personal.
  • Don’t lose sight of their service accomplishments (and don’t let them).  Your customers still need great service! Make sure to keep recognizing excellence in this area.

The plus side is, the very things that make service people terrified of sales, make them great at service. They need to be helpful; work well with other people; put customers’ needs first; listen patiently; take feedback to heart; and do what is necessary to exceed expectations. These people can make your customers happy you hired them.

How to select your next customer service superstar!