Why Customer Service Destroys Salespeople
By Mark Hunter
One position that has not been impacted by the
economy is sales. Ask any CEO and you will hear that one of their biggest
issues is finding and retaining good salespeople. Something happened on the
way to a sour economy: Too many companies learned the hard way that their
salespeople didnít know how to sell. Instead, their salespeople were good at
taking orders and providing customer service. There is nothing wrong with
this approach, as long as the marketplace is always going to serve up new
customers and keep current customers in business. Does that kind of
marketplace always exist? Unfortunately, no.
As a sales consultant who works with a wide number of companies, I am not
surprised with the current state of sales.
In the past 20 years, books and soothsayers have inundated us with advice
saying that the best way to grow your company is through great customer
service. (Think of companies like Disney, Marriott and Honda, just to name a
These are certainly great companies, and I'm personally an avid customer of
each one. However, if great customer service is all that is needed to win,
then why is each of these companies struggling in today's economy?
I donít offer up this example to generate an in-depth discussion on
economics and market share. Rather, I put it out there to say that customer
service alone is not going to help a company achieve its growth targets. It
is essential for salespeople to be focused on selling as their first
priority and providing customer service as their second priority.
Selling is about digging in and working with customers to help them see
needs they didn't realize they had. It's about helping customers see how the
solution for which they are looking can be found in what you are offering.
Selling is not about sitting back and taking orders based on what the
customer wants. If that's selling, then there really is no need for a
salesperson. The entire process could be done on the internet or over the
phone. I know that observation just hit a sore spot to many of you reading
this. Possibly, you've watched your industry be decimated by the power of
the web. Nowadays, many customers can get what they want, when they want it
and how they want it, all through their computer.
If your job was lost because of the internet, then let me share something
that you may not like to hear, but is simply true: you weren't selling; you
were merely taking orders. I am not putting myself on a pedestal, because
one of my first sales jobs I thought I was a salesperson (at least, that's
what my business card said). In reality, I was doing nothing more than going
around to grocery stores and taking orders from store managers. I wasn't
selling. I was conveying information and providing customer service.
Today's economy is crying out for salespeople. Are you someone who is
willing to be assertive in making phone calls, meeting with customers, and
spending time doing what I refer as the "deep-dive" with high-potential
prospects to secure the really big business. If a salesperson is not willing
to go face-to-face with a customer, then they have absolutely no right to be
in sales. The only thing they are doing is hurting themselves and their
employer. The fastest test I know to measure a person's aptitude towards
selling is to ask them to explain in detail how they develop leads and
handle cold calls.
When a company looks to outsource the lead generation process, or spend so
heavily in advertising to try to create enough leads for everyone, then they
are setting themselves up to fail. Over time they will wind up with a sales
team focused on capturing the easy sales. They do this by making everything
a customer service moment. This is akin to a pro-athlete thinking because
they are a professional, they no longer need to stick to a physical workout
program. When a pro-athlete stops their conditioning program, they may not
experience a falloff in performance immediately. Over time, however, the
decline will be evident. The same is true for salespeople who are not
routinely in the game of prospecting and developing new customers. They will
lose their edge. The decline will be so slow that they won't realize it is
happening, let alone why it is happening.
Each client with whom I have the privilege to work hears this message: The
responsibility of finding and retaining new customers is the responsibility
of every employee. Salespeople by the very nature of their position must
take the lead and be assigned weekly, monthly and quarterly goals of
prospecting calls they must make. Management owes them the tools that
encompass an effective sales process. This process must include employees
outside of sales whose primary responsibility it is to provide customer
service. After all, salespeople should focus first on selling. They need the
time to achieve this realistic expectation.
About the Author:
Mark Hunter, "The Sales Hunter," is a sales expert who speaks to thousands
each year on how to increase their sales profitability. For more
information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales
Motivation Blog, visit