The Yin & Yang of Sales & Service

Wells Fargo made headlines this week after bank analyst Dick Bove went on record regarding a series of frustrating experiences. After wrangling with the bank for months, Bove finally concluded that they are only interested in “seeking new customers and selling them more products and not getting bogged down by offering service.”

A Wells Fargo spokesperson downplayed the issue by citing an ambiguous customer satisfaction number. But having worked in the banking business for several years, I’ve heard many reports from former Wells Fargo employees about the heavy-handed sales management tactics that force employees to shortcut service for the sake of meeting their sales quota. This story illustrates the often contentious relationship between sales and service. Many believe that the ideas work in opposition – that selling and providing good service can’t be achieved simultaneously.

As a sales manager, I believe strongly in having clearly defined goals. But service does not have to be sacrificed in order to achieve sales targets. Here are three tips to make the marriage between sales and service work.

1. Focus on service. Nobody likes being sold to, and selling is an aspect of business that is hard for many employees to get comfortable with. So when the focus of an interaction is on selling something, nobody walks away feeling good about it. But service is different. Customers want help. They want someone who’s on their side – working to help solve their problem.

And most employees naturally want to be of service. Helping people feels good. It just so happens that helping a customer often includes educating them about a product or service that they don’t have. When viewed as part of customer service, selling becomes easy.

2. Set sales goals with the customer in mind. When you set sales quotas for specific products, it pressures employees to sell customers things they don’t need. For example, setting a goal of 10 credit card applications a day for a banker can cause them to feel as if they have to shove an application in front of every customer they meet, even if a credit card is not right for them. This is not customer-focused selling.

Rather, set goals that give the employee leeway in what products are offered to each customer. Train them to engage the customer in a conversation about their needs and drams in order to uncover products that help move them closer to their own financial goals. Focus on helping the customer reach their goals and you’ll reach yours.

3. Remember when not to sell. Selling is important, but not at the risk of offending, and potentially driving away, your customer. There are times when selling is not appropriate. For example:

  • Your company has made a mistake that has caused the customer inconvenience.
  • The customer is distracted, agitated or in a hurry.
  • The customer has waited an abnormally long period of time for service.
  • Any situation in which you would not appreciate a sales pitch.

Selling is an important part of the growth process for an organization. But so is service. Try viewing the concepts of sales and service as complementary, rather than opposing parts of the customer experience and you’ll achieve sales and service harmony.

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