Examine the two reasons customer service representatives don’t sell, and how to overcome them

Pustelak-Lisa-174-2By Lisa Pustelak, RCDA Senior Consultant

An abundance of customer service representatives have to meet certain sales metrics to retain their position in today’s ever-changing and competitive marketplace. This is not a new idea. Years ago, as an outside sales manager, my team of customer service reps was expected to provide leads and eventually ended up being forced into a sales position or leave the company.

Some people can naturally adjust and survive. Most, however, hang on tight to the mindset that, “I can’t sell,” and either struggle or end up being let go. Leading and managing a team of people with a title of customer service who also have a responsibility to sell can be a challenge to say the least.

Reason 1: Saying,“I can’t”

The first reason customer service-oriented employees have a difficult time selling is that they don’t believe they can. They create beliefs that selling is something you do to someone versus something you do for someone. Selling is a swear word for some. This comes from the myths of the “used car salesman” approaches that have been around for years.

In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human, he does a fantastic job of explaining that we all sell no matter what our role is. Parents sell to their children, teachers sell to students, lawyers sell their desired verdict to a jury, and doctors sell remedies to patients. He explains, “We’re moving other people to part with resources—whether something tangible like cash or intangible like effort or attention—so that we both get what we want.” Mr. Pink proves that no matter our profession, we all do a certain amount of “selling.”

One of the first things you should work on with your team is the mindset. Don’t allow anyone to voice the words “I can’t” on your team. This is one of my favorite concepts to help people understand. The words “I can’t” indicate you are not in control, and typically several excuses will follow those two words. Instead, insist your team replaces “I can’t” with “I won’t.” Try this for yourself for anything, not just selling, and you will find it is a powerful tool. By using “I won’t,” you eliminate any excuses. Now it’s a choice. My guess is that most people on your team, if they are the right people for the job, will realize quickly that they are struggling because they are choosing not to sell a product or service.

Reason 2: Not knowing how to sell

The second reason is that they don’t know how to sell. Once you have the mindset on the right track, you need to start looking at the skill levels on your team. Do your people know how to sell? Do you have a call flow? Do they use it? Do they greet customers properly? Do they know how to do proper discovery? Do they know how to offer a solution or close a sale? And the most important question of all is, do you know how to do these things? If you are in the same situation as your team and come from a service background but are now responsible for sales, get moving on improving your skills immediately. Ask for help and support with in your company and study the plethora of information on selling in your industry. Make sure you know and understand what you are asking of your team.

Focusing on skill sets

Once you have your skill set where it needs to be, it’s time to transfer those skills to your team. Start with basics such as building rapport with your customers. If your business is extremely transactional, this in itself might be a challenge. Most people who really love customer service can usually build rapport pretty well.

Proper discovery is the one skill lacking for most of the teams I have worked with when trying to increase sales numbers. We need to learn the customer’s wants, interests and needs (WINs) to know how our products and services will provide benefits. Only then can we offer a strong solution and close the sale.

Taking the first step

Leading customer service-oriented representatives to becoming superstar sales professionals will take time, but I know it’s something you can do! As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “You don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” It takes time to transform a team.

Take that first step today and lead your team to the right mindset around selling. If you need some help transforming your customer service team to selling superstars contact us at RCDA. We have many resources at the ready for you.

Learn more about transitioning from service to sales.