From Salesperson to Serveperson
by Joe Bonura, CSP
Imagine what it would be like at your organization if every service
representative knew more about selling and every salesperson knew
a little more about service. Your efforts would be doubled and possibly
so would incoming business. Every employee would be working together
to meet sales objectives. Instead of departmentalization, you would
have harmony. Your customers would benefit because salespeople would
be able to answer service questions and service people could make
a few sales.
The following ideas and suggestions will help you balance sales
with service -- and that leads to increased job esteem and, of course,
more money to be made by all.
The Service Approach to Sales
When conducting a sales training seminar for a commercial printer,
I suggested they change their business card titles from "salesperson"
to "serveperson." They took my advice and reported back
with a success story.
One of their sales associates handed the card to a prospect who
he had been unable to tap for years. While handing her the card,
he said enthusiastically, "I'm a serveperson for my printing
company. I'm here to find out how we can help you." The client
exclaimed, "It's about time someone was more interested in
serving me than selling me!"
Your customers may be crying for help too. They want to be served,
not sold. The more you serve your clients, the more they will buy.
Telling Is Not Selling
Servepeople ask questions before making any recommendations. You
must find out what the injury is before you make any medical recommendations.
How would you feel if you went to your doctor for a headache and
he recommended surgery -- without even examining you first! It's
just as crazy to begin your sales presentation telling your prospects
all the ways you can help them, when you're not even sure what their
Develop a list of at least 10 questions before you meet any prospect.
Design the questions around finding out if and how your product
or service can help your prospect. Either commit them to memory
or keep a written list. Do not attempt recommending solutions until
you have asked your questions, listening carefully.
Become a Problem Solver
Being a problem solver fits right in with the new philosophy floating
around about changing from a product-driven organization to a market-driven
one. The key to being a problem solver is to eliminate the order-taker
syndrome. Start asking customers questions, solving their problems
and giving them what they need to solve their problems.
For example, if a client calls and asks for a certain item or service
you offer, you may want to ask him why he made that choice. Find
out how he intends to use your product or service. You may discover
the item he asked for will not fill his need -- and he'll be unhappy
in the end, possibly bad-mouthing your company. In this case, recommend
another model or service from your line. If you don't have a product
or service that will fit his needs, refer him to a company that
Yes, I said send him to another company! This idea made Macy's
department store rich. In the end, that customer will say great
things about you and come back when he can use what you offer. A
one-time sale should never outweigh the Importance of a lifelong,
trust relationship with your clients. Your customers will be loyal
for life and spend even more money with your company.
A Success Story
Being a professional speaker, I travel all the time and I'm picky
about travel arrangements. We had been shopping for a new travel
agency simply because we had not found an agent who met our high
expectations. We were looking for someone who could think creatively
and get us the most economical, yet comfortable, flight arrangements.
A colleague recommended we call his agent, Jess Swanson of Atlas
Travel, and we have been blown away by his spectacular service.
Why is he so wonderful? Jess CALLS US every month to see if we
have any travel needs. Jess CALLS US to let us know he found an
upgrade to first class at no charge. Jess CALLS US to let us know
he found a cheaper fare -- even though he's already made the reservations,
even though he knows it will take him more time. He spends so much
time helping us, we feel like we're his only clients.
We love Jess because he doesn't just sell us tickets or take our
order. He solves our problems. Even though he is located hundreds
of miles away in another state, we will always remain loyal to him
because he's out for our welfare. We're so excited about his service,
we want to tell everyone about him, including you. You may reach
Jess at 1-800-237-2324.
Tips for Being an Effective Serveperson
1. Read the daily news.
Look for clips or articles about your customers that will stimulate
new ideas on how you can serve them better.
2. Read industry publications.
If you work with printers, get your hands on their association
newsletters. If you work with bankers, call the American Bankers
Association for their magazine. Look for trends in their business
world and think about how your product can serve your customers
3. Form a Customer Council.
Call trusted customers and ask them to be on your council. Hold
a monthly meeting or call them individually to discuss current challenges.
You may get business just for your interest.
4. Call your customers periodically just to let them know you're
I've had many clients say "Boy. You sure called at the right
time. We need a speaker for our next meeting!" And all because
I called to see how it was going.
5. Write notes to your customers often.
We write them on birthdays, before special meetings, when we see
an article about their company - we even write them when they turn
us down! Make sure that when the time comes for them to buy
a product like yours, they will think of you first.
© 1997 Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.