Note: this write up of an interview I had with Shep Hyken first appeared at Forbes,com. You can find it here.
Most people think that customer service is a department that handles complaints and problems. There may be a department or contact center that does, but customer service is more than that. It’s a philosophy that must be embraced by everyone in an organization, and that includes sales.
I had a chance to interview Frank Cespedes for an episode of Amazing Business Radio. Cespedes is a Harvard Business School professor and author of six books, including his latest, Sales Management That Works: How to Sell in a World That Never Stops Changing. One of his books, Aligning Strategy and Sales, was hailed by Forbes as “… perhaps the best sales book ever.” Here are five lessons he shared, with my commentary following, that should convince you that selling with service is today’s best sales strategy.
1. Sales and customer service merge together. Selling with service is all about what we do to enhance the sales experience. We make it easy, eliminate friction, stay in touch and make the customer feel (at least in the moment) that they are the most important customer we have.
2. Sales and customer support are increasingly intertwined. Typically, the sales team makes sales, and the customer support team delivers service. More and more, these two responsibilities (and departments) are connecting to create a seamless journey for the customer. During the “after experience,” as I like to call it, what is traditionally referred to as customer support continues the sales process with upsells, cross-sells and other tactics to generate revenue for the company.
3. The sales team is becoming a smaller part of the sales conversation. This doesn’t mean the sales team is any less important. However, the days of the salesperson being, as Cespedes says, “an organic, walking, talking version of product and price information” are gone. Customers are just one or two clicks away from getting the information and price they need to make decisions. We must recognize that to have a winning combination, online information, customer support and sales must work together.
4. People don’t want to be sold. They want to buy. This expression has been around for some time, but it’s never been more relevant than today. In the past, most customers would want to talk to a salesperson at the beginning of the sales process. Today, however, most prefer to start their buying journey with their own research. There’s great information to be found through a quick Google search. Before the customer ever talks to a salesperson, they may be close to a buying decision, if they haven’t already decided to do business with the company. The conversation with a salesperson becomes more of a formality.
5. The most important thing about selling is, and always has been, the buyer. Let’s never forget this commonsense, but very sage, advice. Customers get to decide how they want to buy. If they want to skip the formal sales process, let them do so. If they want to do their own research, give them the tools they need (a knowledge base on a website, videos on YouTube, etc.). If they want to talk directly to someone in the company, give them easy access to the right person. Let the customer buy from you the way they want to, which might be different from the way you’ve traditionally sold in the past.
With all the changes caused by the pandemic, supply chain issues, employment problems and a scary economy, we must be prepared to give our customers the journey they want, which is not always how we’ve done business in the past. Sales are not just sales. Customer support is not just customer support. Both fall inside the bigger concept of the customer experience. Heed Cespedes’ advice. Sell with service, and create the experience that makes customers want to buy from you.