The Link Between Sales and Customer Support
The Link Between Sales and Customer Support
(Royalty-free image: https://unsplash.com/photos/WEDDt-u3q3o, Credit: Unsplash / Berkeley Communications)
The following is adapted from Demand-Side Sales 101.
For many businesses, it’s all about the sale.
That all-important deal that salespeople make can be critical, and businesses spend a lot of time, effort, and money on their sales divisions hoping that more sales will impact the bottom line. But at some of those same companies, customer service departments barely exist, and as a result, customers come in and out of their business like a revolving door.
There’s a link missing between sales and customer support, and most businesses don’t even realize it. But the job of both teams is the same: to listen to the customer and find a solution that fits their needs and helps them make progress in their life.
If you don’t recognize this and take the customer for granted, you could lose them, and that lost revenue is challenging to get on the books.
Servicing Cars Is As Important as Selling Cars
Let’s look at a car dealership as an example. Mary has bought a new car from a salesperson who listened to what she was looking for in a car, asked many questions, and then helped to put her behind the wheel of a vehicle she loves.
But when she goes to get it serviced, the customer service team is rude and treats her like a number. It takes hours to get her car serviced, and when she has a problem, the team spends hundreds of dollars on a solution that doesn’t fix the problem. Fed up with the bad attitudes and poor service, she goes elsewhere for her service. When a salesperson from the dealership contacts her a few years later asking if she’d like to trade up, she flatly says no.
Mary’s confidence in the entire dealership eroded because the customer service team didn’t treat her as well as the sales team did. Sadly, this happens quite often. We’ve all experienced terrible customer service. If the service department had treated her as well as the sales department did, they’d still have a customer. They both need to establish a relationship with the customer in order to secure new business.
Getting New Business is Difficult
Most companies think new business is more challenging to get than renewals. So they put their lower-level, inexperienced people on renewals and customer service. But a study by Marketing Metrics showed the success rate of selling to an existing customer is around sixty-five percent. Compare this with the success rate of selling to a new customer — only about twelve percent. Good customer service equals a better rate of renewals and repeat business.
Both sales and customer service teams should be treated equally within an organization because both do essentially the same thing: They act as coaches, mentors, and advisors for their customers and help them achieve their goals.
The problem of “What kind of car should I get?” or “I hear a rattle in my car.” are very different issues with different outcomes, but the two teams should help the customer similarly by building and maintaining a close relationship.
Given that their responsibilities are so alike, is there a way for sales and customer service to work together? Of course, there is.
The Handoff is Key
First, salespeople need to focus on helping the customer and solving their problems. All customers have needs and desires to be fulfilled. Salespeople work closely with them, finding out what those needs are and helping them along the buying process to make sure the product or service is right for them. They then hand it to customer service, who should learn as much about the customer as the salesperson did.
This handoff is crucial to keeping the customer for a long time. Sales must supply customer service with as much information as possible, but that’s not enough. Customer support needs to dig for information on their own and keep a relationship with the customer.
Face to Face Matters
Relationship managers should meet with the customer regularly and find out what the future holds for the customer. What do they have planned? Is there anything the business can do to help them with projects or new problems they might be facing?
Customer service reps or relationship managers should be ready with ways to help. For example, if you’re with a bank, and the customer is looking to start their own business, you may suggest a new loan to help them get on their feet. Stay engaged with them and know what their next moves are.
Honesty, Really Is the Best Policy
Both teams need to listen and be honest. Salespeople who close deals usually earn customers’ trust, but if customer service does a lousy job responding to questions or following up with the customer, the trust erodes. This “trust decay” can be lethal to a business.
You can’t ask customers point-blank if they trust you. Dig deeper, and ask specific questions about the product and whether it’s meeting their needs. If the customer asks a question, always answer it honestly. If the answer is no, say it. Don’t string them along.
Completing the Circle
The process also works the other way. Customer service can help sales by telling them about problems the customer is still having. It will help salespeople understand the problems the product or service may have, and they can be better prepared to handle questions and issues that the customer has even before they buy the product. That could result in more sales.
Remember, the most vulnerable people in your portfolio are your current customers because your business has probably ignored them up to this point. Treat them with respect, and assume you’re trying to gain their business every day.
For more advice on sales and customer support, you can find Demand-Side Sales 101 on Amazon.
Bob Moesta is a teacher, builder, entrepreneur, and co-founder at The Re-Wired Group, a design firm in Detroit, Michigan. Bob has developed & launched over 3,500 products and sold everything from design services, software, and houses to consumer electronics, and investment services. He’s an adjunct lecturer at Kellogg School at Northwestern University, lectures on innovation at Harvard and MIT, and enjoys mentoring at incubators. Greg Engle is a co-founder at the Re-Wired Group. Since the beginning of his career, helping people make progress has been part of Greg’s DNA. He’s worked in everything from food services and retailing, to construction, software, and now consulting services. Greg’s a native Detroiter and enjoys volunteering in the community, especially in local ice hockey leagues.