Customer service who is afraid of the word “sales”

7 March 2016


Human performance


How to convince people in customer service to support sales?

Your customer service personnel are leaving potential revenues on the table? Seizing opportunities is foreign to them? If they had good reflexes, they could transform your numbers, couldn’t they?

Paralysis, explained

Jean tells me: “We talk to them about it but at the simple mention of the word ‘sales’, we could hear a fly buzzing around because they’re so stiff!” How do we light them up to opportunities?

To increase sales with customer service employees, you need to understand one fundamental element: many still live with a negative image or values related either to the word “sales” or to money itself. So, if you hated “salesmen”, who are “good liars, good salesmen” or even “crooks” and that we ask you to copy their actions, how would you react? Or even worse: if you had mixed feelings on money questions and we now imposed actions in direct opposite to your values in the name of money… wouldn’t you be resistant?

The most common mistake

It’s sad to see good intentioned directions impose sales actions to people who are fundamentally resistant to the concept of sales and to be confronted to such adversity. As a matter of fact, it’s a recurring weakness in sales management: ignoring the feelings of team members to fall back on good old pressure: sink or swim. This good old pressure is the cause of those salesmen you run away from like the plague on Saturdays in stores, as if they had a sign on their forehead saying “I want my commission and I couldn’t care less about you!”

The solution

In the S.M.A.S.H. program, I teach that the first letter, S, is for sentiment. So you can start with the values of your team members and link actions and behaviors to those values even before pushing certain behaviors. Let’s take an example: Julie, customer service staff, values respect and honest service, et we want her to ask questions to the client to create a need and stimulate cross-selling.

Julie needs to understands that asking open-ended questions and presenting products/services related to them is an exact expression of respect of the client and honest service. Isn’t he dishonest in hiding options he potentially needs? Isn’t it disrespectful not to focus on all of his needs? Would you do that to your best friend? By aligning values and sentiment to actions, Julie can ascribe a different meaning to what we ask her to do: “I respect him, therefore, present him with all the information concerning his needs”. “I’m offering to book now to save time and respect his schedule so I can serve him immediately”, etc.

The secret is in the sauce

During your next team coaching, ask each participant to anonymously write what they think of each action they are asked to do for work. Ask them to write down the values that conflict with these actions to them (respect, honesty, transparency, etc.) You will have all the material to adequately prepare the next session.

Next, think of how you can change the signification associated to each of these terms with the whole group.

If the feeling is negative for a certain behavior you ask them to do, what are you real chances of success?

Change the (mental) signification, and you will change the SENTIMENTS they evoke and you can see those ACTIONS deliver results. Without harmony on those three fronts, your success will be limited.