My first job was in a call centre for a telecoms company.
We received inbound calls only, so people always had a question or a problem they needed solving. But while we were called ‘customer service’, we were actually just a sales team.
I was a terrible salesman though, rarely hitting any of my targets, even though other people would regularly exceed theirs.
It wasn’t until after I’d left that I realised I hadn’t actually been trying to sell the products, but rather the brand.
I read a great HubSpot post by Jeff Hoffman last week that reminded me of the difference.
He tells the story of a man who gets a flat tyre as he’s desperately rushing to his daughter’s wedding. A passerby stops to help him, but instead of offering him the lift he desperately wants, offers him a tyre because that’s the need he can easily see.
The point being that more thoughtful solutions are often of greater use to the customer.
And this is where salespeople can fall down. Not just in terms of achieving a sale, but also in the way it can affect brand image.
When you set up to achieve sales, not make customers happy, you’ll inevitably send a lot of people away unhappy. Even a good salesperson will tell you that it’s a numbers game. The ‘trick’ is to get rid of the non-sales calls as quickly as possible, so you can get onto another call that might actually be a sale.
But this is the problem.
And the result, of course, is terrible customer service.
In the call centre, if it didn’t look like a call would result in a sale, some people would just move the customer on any way they could think of – transferring them, hanging up, putting them on mute and pretending the call had been disconnected, or just flat-out lying.
But these were the people with the best sales figures – because the less time they spent talking to the non-buyers, the more time they could spend talking to other prospects. And because they were the best sellers, their managers turned a blind eye to the terrible customer service.
This is the type of customer service that sales targets and commission-based pay scales breed. Everything is set up for the immediate short term, with little to no importance placed on building relationships.
I was always of the opinion that it didn’t matter whether or not I made a sale, as long as the customer went away thinking positively about the brand and would choose to come back to us when they did decide to make a purchase.
Dave Trott sums it up nicely for me – “selling is about helping people find an answer.”
Yes, you want your product to be the answer they’re looking for. But if it isn’t and you can’t sell them something tangible, help them find the answer and sell them your brand instead.
This post was originally published on the BURN blog.