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If you think success in sales comes down to the product or ideas you offer, think again.
That’s according to Dan Waldschmidt, Co-Founder and Partner at EDGY Inc. The business strategist, speaker, and best-selling author says the only thing you are really selling is the day-to-day interactions you have with existing and potential customers. Waldschmidt’s view is that selling is service — not sales. Providing outstanding service, in other words, is now more than ever a vital part of any successful sales process.
He warns that people are so frantic about making money these days, they often neglect how their company approaches the process of simply being awesome as a business.
That’s backed up by recent research on the link between providing great customer experience and great service. The “State of the Connected Customer” report found that today’s consumers and business buyers are looking for differentiated, personalized experiences that are based on trust and understanding, and they will shop around to find them. Eighty percent of customers believe that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. More than two-thirds (67%) say their standard for good experiences is higher than ever.
Bad service is an issue that affects companies of all sizes. Today’s consumers and business buyers are more informed and less loyal than their predecessors — so it’s little wonder that 76% say that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere. Waldschmidt adds that stellar customer service is especially vital for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). He has found that the public in general wants to support local SMBs and have them as part of their lives, but bad service keeps them from coming back.
The pressure is on for organizations to get customer experience right. Here are four steps Waldschmidt says will dramatically improve your “selling is service” approach.
1. Have a plan
Even if this advice sounds small or simple, says Waldschmidt, you must have a plan to create amazing service. He uses the example of a wedding, where the bride and groom wouldn’t just show up and expect their guests to walk away having had a great experience. Instead, they take time to make a detailed plan about what they will wear, the venue, music, food, photographer, and more.
Be purposeful about what you want customers to think and feel when they visit your business — both in person, and virtually through your website. Gather your team and put stuff on a whiteboard to brainstorm ideas. If you don’t have a team, Waldschmidt recommends talking to yourself. Stop copying what everyone else is doing and come up with original ideas that will make people feel good about buying from you.
To scale support and make space for more strategic work and customer relationships, teams may look to offload manual tasks. The same Salesforce research shows that 70% of agents in service organizations believe automating routine tasks would allow them to focus on higher-value work. More than half (56%) are investigating ways to use artificial intelligence as a potential solution.
2. Eliminate distractions
According to Waldschmidt, the reason most things go wrong with customer service is carelessness or laziness. To avoid mistakes, he says you must eliminate distractions by becoming fitter — financially, physically, and mentally.
Becoming financially fit involves doing the hard work of budgeting, planning, and preparing. Using data well can play a huge role here. Research also shows that sales teams in general, and particularly high performers, are sharpening their skills with data-driven insights to deliver better service and meet elevated customer expectations. High performers are 1.6 times more likely to prioritize leads based on data analysis, for example, and half as likely to prioritize based on intuition.
Waldschmidt, a champion ultra-runner in his spare time, says that staying physically fit can help power success in business and manage stress. He adds that mental fitness can be as simple as getting some help to shake out the cobwebs, so you think clearly. This can involve speaking to a coach, a therapist, or a community of people.
3. Boost collaborative selling
Salesforce’s research found that 70% of customers say connected experiences are very important to winning their business. But to meet customers’ expectations, companies can’t rely on sales alone to close deals: they need to foster a truly collaborative effort between multiple parties who are all working toward shared goals.
By empowering your company’s sales, marketing, and service teams to work together, the whole company can execute an efficient collaborative “selling is service” model that puts customers at the center of your business. The key to this is connecting data and establishing similar success criteria across sales and service. Eighty-four percent of service professionals say a unified view of customer information is vital to providing great customer experiences.
What’s more, tight collaboration between sales and service teams may reveal opportunities that would otherwise go unnoticed.
4. Measure and improve
If you don’t find a way to track customer service, you won’t know if you are delivering it, says Waldschmidt. He recommends making a note of people who say other happy customers referred them to your business. Keep a log of the number of emails you receive with unsolicited positive feedback. Find out where people — without being prompted — have used social media to say your business is great. Take what you are doing well and build on it.
In the digital era, new performance metrics that account for the broader customer experience are also becoming an essential part of the measurement process. With increasingly sophisticated analytics, more than half (51%) of customer service teams are taking a more granular look at the customer experience through first contact resolution rates, for example.
Waldschmidt suggests that when customer service issues do arise, admit what you could have done better. Then contact the customer 48 hours later to make sure you got it right and that they are now happy. Put a plan in place so you don’t repeat the same mistake in the future.