No Excuses - Customer Service is a part of Sales

Article by Tania Armstrong | Published on June 30, 2017

Being badly 'sold to' does my head in. Some sales people - don't listen, they tell you want you want, talk over you, rush to the pitch or to the 'investment', don't have a clue of anything that’s important to you or your business, never follow up and basically waste your time. If you do buy from them - its probably a one off, feels more like the removal of wisdom teeth and leaves you feeling a bit hard done by. So when someone comes along and stands out as making the process enjoyable, I take note. 

Two months ago my sister popped my business card into a 'go into win' box at my local coffee shop. Within a week I had a lovely sales woman (we will call her Joanne) sitting in front of me talking though the attributes of a well known make up and skin care range. She was hands down, one of the best sales people I have met in some time. She imparted her knowledge in an easy, breezy way, enjoyed the process, was incredibly professional, worked through each of my challenges and after an hour or so walked away with a good commission. But - and here is the clincher - when the mascara I bought wasn't up to scratch, she by-passed her companies return policy, told me to keep it and sent me a fantastic replacement FOC!  She then followed up with me several times to just 'say hi' and was never pushy or rude. 

It was a master class in both sales and exemplary Customer Service.  It also built trust.

Whether it’s new software, a house, a haircut or a kid’s toy - a customer service ethos counts and will be the make or break for many businesses. In the long term, it builds trust in your business, product and brand. Despite this however, many sales people think it’s not a part of their particular roles, and businesses often have a specific divide between their sales and delivery teams. Take this familiar scenario - a friendly sales person turns up, takes you for a coffee and paints a picture about how their software will sort your business challenge out and finally let you sleep at night.  But when the project is rolling and issues start being raised, they leave it to the delivery team to pick it up and deal with it. These are the people who already have their hands full delivering. And don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that sales people become technical specialists. What I am stating is that great sales people should care enough to be across what is happening, to be interested, engaged and to trouble shoot if need be. They should be proud to represent their company, utilise their great people skills to provide support to all involved - especially when things are not running smoothly. They should embody a customer service ethos.

There are certainly individuals that are better suited at 'hunting' for opportunities (e.g BDM, new sales) as opposed to 'farming'* (usually account management) but those who sell tend to love a challenge, so anything that slows them down (e.g. complex client issue) tends to frustrate them especially if the internal processes are overly complicated or time consuming. However, what I find utterly disheartening is that many customers see their BDM's or account managers in a traditional 'coin-operated' role - disappearing from site as soon as the ink has dried because that is what they are 'paid' to do.

What front line sales based businesses should be working on is a new dynamic of how sales can enhance a virtuous cycle as part of team by adding value during and even after the project has gone live.

At the very least, ensuring that there some ownership and handover from sales to delivery. Flicking the responsibility to someone else and walking away should not be an option.

Businesses have an absolute responsibility to ensure that their overall business strategy aligns to how they want all employees to work (including sales), not just what they want them to achieve. If it takes on average 6-8 times the effort to on-board a new customer, than keep a current one happy, it makes sense that businesses take care of who they have now. Sales KPI's need to include incentives for customer service activities such as 'support' and 'follow up', and it can't be fluffy. Get to the nitty gritty and be specific. Tech gurus have long been rated on the advice they give to users on forums (1-5 stars) and businesses tend to be rated on their culture (, etc), so it won't be long before this catches up with sales people and their win's will be seen with more discretion. Its great winning a huge contract but if the project delivery was a dismal failure, cost money in rework and made your customers vow never to work with your business again - isn't that also part of sales? And if your sales person shows no common sense, empathy or team mentality is that the kind of behaviour you want to endorse or hire?

Businesses need to ensure customers get the best service by taking the time to work out what great customer service looks like, providing the right incentives and the right people to provide it - and include their sales team. Business trust is hard to develop, harder to keep and should not be on the shoulders of one representative in your organisation. Make sure that your customer service effort is supported with 'fit for purpose' processes that support the strategic alignment from business strategy, through to HR, to employee’s roles and responsibilities to the outcomes your customers want to see. For example - change your returns policy and process to make it easy for your new customer to return her mascara, don't just leave it to your sales woman to sort! Finally, if you continually treat a client well - you will win over hearts and minds, as well has hit targets. It’s not rocket science.



*Research indicates the best sales people are of the 'Challenger' mindset in that they ask questions, push boundaries and challenge the status quo. I would argue that great sales people can challenge regardless of whether are they employed in a traditional hunting or farming role - more here:

Tania is the Client Relationship Manager and a Director of DATAMetrics Business Intelligence and Data Solutions. She has worked extensively with corporate's and large businesses in Australia, UK and New Zealand in business development and sales roles. A self-professed data evangelist, Tania specialises in building relationships while she builds businesses.