Lately, I’ve been hyper aware of the link between customer service and sales. They’re often thought of as separate, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a salesperson, it’s this:
We need to treat prospects more like people and less like opportunities.
“Customer service is not a department. It is a philosophy to be embraced by every employee.” This quote comes from a 2016 Forbes article, and the date is noteworthy because bringing customer service into sales isn’t revolutionary. Instead of looking at this from a business perspective though, I’d like to take a more human approach. I don’t know all of the customer service statistics of 2018, but what I do know is how to be more human. To me, customer service is just that—being human and treating other people like humans. Sounds simple, right? It is, but it isn’t.
Brené does it again
When I think about what it means to treat other people like humans, two examples come to mind.
The first is the forever quote-worthy, Brené Brown. In her book, Dare to Lead, she shares a story about preparing to speak, peeking at the crowd, and noticing they were all wearing suits. She knew she was gearing up to talk to a group of C-level executives, but she didn’t know that “C-level” meant CEOs, COOs, and the like until that moment. She was scared. She doubted herself. But, she spoke as planned because after all, they’re just people, and everyone was enamored with the concept of vulnerability.
This second example is more personal and shows how gentle we all should be with each other. A friend of mine lost her best friend recently, and on her way to the meeting where she’d help plan the funeral, she accidentally cut someone off. That car honked and cursed at her, and she responded, “If only they knew I’m on my way to plan my best friend’s funeral.” Sometimes we forget there are real humans behind the screen, the wheel, the phone, dealing with human problems and in turn, making human judgements. Leaning into our humanity and being genuinely kind is how to improve customer service in the workplace.
Tying things together
In my life, I’ve pursued multiple career paths. I’ve been in social work, customer service, and sales roles. What I’ve found is that regardless of what my day-to-day has looked like, every job includes providing service to customers in some capacity.
Despite the obvious differences in these types of “customer service” jobs, there is a common thread throughout. Providing great service means treating the people you work with like humans. Of all the customer service sales tips I could give, being human is truly at the top of the list. Here’s why:
On a particularly gruesome day of cold calling, I thought of Brene Brown’s story and told myself, “The person on the other end is just a human.” I dialed and completely choked when it came time to do my pitch.
The question of how to get better at pitching kept me up at night, but I couldn’t bring myself to google “customer service phone tips”. You know what I did do though? I asked myself, “What mindset got me through working with the mother’s at the Indiana Women’s Prison?”. When I worked as a Family Support Specialist, I would go to the Indiana Women’s Prison and talk with mothers about building connections with their children. I’m not a mom, and my upbringing looked so different than most of the upbringings of these women. I didn’t always feel qualified to join these people in their stories, but once I removed the titles, past experiences, and expectations, I was able to connect with them. Because we’re both humans.
The same goes for today. When I call a Vice President of Sales, I don’t always feel qualified to be recommending ways for that person to maximize their team. But I always feel qualified to talk to that person, human to human. From there, I can find out what’s going on in their world, share what we’ve created at Lessonly, and see if we can help them. The relationship between customer service and sales seems simple through this lens.
Supporting yourself to support others
Here’s where it becomes more difficult—sales and customer service reps have more in common than just providing a service and interacting with prospects and customers. They walk into each day knowing they will be accepted by some and rejected by others. There’s a human behind every angry customer. As a customer service rep, I kept a folder of the appreciation emails or tickets I received to help soften my approach and make me more resilient. It worked.
Helping > Selling
As a Sales Development Representative, balancing the line of humanity and pushing a sale is difficult. If I don’t check myself, prospects become a number to hit a goal. Companies become dollar signs. Logos become brands that could boost future sales.
But what if they were more? What if a prospect is just someone who’s stuck in the weeds and needs an amazing solution for a business problem? Companies are usually someone’s dream brought to life, and I as a salesperson have the ability to help nurture that dream by providing a service solution. The concept of bringing customer service into sales is simple in theory, but difficult in practice.
Customer service is crucial to the success of a company. It’s a department where people go to feel heard, taken care of, looked out for, but it’s also essential to be woven into every sales interaction. Think about how a first email, a cold call, or a deal could make someone feel heard, taken care of, or looked out for. In order for us to adopt the philosophy of customer service, it’s not enough to just be human. We must also treat other people like humans in all of our efforts. And this doesn’t happen spontaneously. It happens with great training and practice.
Train, Practice, and Grow Your Team With Lessonly
Do you want your sales strategy to be more human? Lessonly is powerfully simple employee training software that does just that. Teams across the world use our software to build ongoing training to win more and Do Better Work. We’d love for one of those teams to be yours. Learn more and demo Lessonly today.