When Service Turns to Sales

Huffington Post

November 16, 2011

by Marshall Goldsmith

As my co-authors, Don Brown and Bill Hawkins, and I researched and developed the content for What Got You Here Won’t Get You There– in Sales, we spoke to hundreds of “buyers,” within our own customers’ organizations and many within organizations that were new to us. As we uncovered why what gets you here won’t get you there in sales and service, we also discovered some of the ineffective habits that result when people try to push the outcome!

Countless industries are drafting service providers into sales; it’s happening in call centers, car dealerships, medical and dental offices, and even on airplanes.

Our collective economy and culture has brought about this conscription into the ranks of sales because more conventional methods of reaching out are either impractical or illegal. The shift from landline phones to cellular, the advent of “do not call,” and the expense of traditional mailings have created the need to find some other way to reach out and touch someone.

At the same time all of this was developing, the ranks of service providers exploded. In call centers, customers were already making contact; they already were calling us! In car dealerships, customers were already calling in to schedule vehicle maintenance. In professional offices around the world, we already had service providers in regular scheduled contact with our customers. It seemed like a natural fit, didn’t it? We need to reach out and sell in a new way, and we have a human resource on the payroll that already gives us the new conduit to the customer: Let’s turn service into sales! Thousands of service providers become salespeople overnight. We can’t lose, right?

Perhaps. Whereas the single determining variable for the effectiveness of a sales veteran seems to be comfort, we found mindset to be the successful factor for salespeople new to the game. Would you like to make a guess about the mindset toward sales of those drafted into sales? During workshops we regularly ask sales draftees to play a word association game around the term “salesperson.” Easily 95 percent of the terms they associate with that term are not just negative but derogatory. Many have been pulled into a profession that they find, dishonest and distasteful.

Remember that mindset is more than a simple opinion or point of view. It is the foundational set of assumptions we have about the world around us, and those assumptions are the genesis of our behaviors. Some organizations have found a way to tap into the base assumptions of their service providers to move them from service to sales. They have done this by transferring the service provider’s focus from problems or issues to people and by separating the customer’s service agenda from the sales agenda. Where we find an effective transition from service to sales, we see a partnership using solid, compatible analytics and, more important, an honest acknowledgment of the task at hand.

Where we find disaffected salespeople, we find organizations simply dumping sales pressures on top of the duties of service and satisfaction (at times even competing with service and satisfaction objectives).

What are the relevant trends that have seemed to drive and affect this movement from service to sales? Technology and the evolution of customer communication.

The development of the customer contact technologies of voice recognition, real-time on-screen delivery of customer data, market penetration, and sales conversion analytics–even social media–has contributed to the utilization of those technologies in up-selling, cross-selling and “service-to-selling.”

Communications has contributed to this surge of unconventional outbound selling in that the methods work; organizations are achieving results by using them. Whether it is automotive manufacturers using Facebook for new product introduction, airlines gaining an extra $6 billion by up-selling preferred seats and other amenities, or retailers pressing for “extended warranties” and “fabric protection,” organizations are desperate to maintain quarterly dividends and are concerned with the short-term financial horizon. Right or wrong, this is what drives the service-to-sales dilemma.

With these organizational dynamics, what personal habits do we find to be the most common ineffective behaviors for the new sales draftee?

– Habit 2: Vocal filler–the overuse of unnecessary (and meaningless) verbal qualifiers.

– Habit 3: Selling past the close–the irresistible urge to verbalize and execute every possible step in the sales process.

– Habit 11: Explaining failure–behaving under the erroneous belief that simply being able to assign blame, fault, or guilt is enough to satisfy the customer.

– Habit 12: Never having to say you’re sorry–the personal inability to apologize or accept responsibility for personal or organizational error.

– Habit 13: Throwing others under the bus–sacrificing a colleague– often anonymous, often vulnerable, and usually innocent–by blaming him or her for the one’s own functional failure.

– Habit 14: Propagandizing–overreliance on organizational rhetoric and themes.

Mindset makes all the difference. So, sales draftees – take a tip from this little article that what got you here won’t get you there!