The Best Sales Tool You’re Not Using

So you’re sitting in your weekly sales meeting and someone says, “We need to increase sales.” Ok, that sounds reasonable enough. More sales equals more profits equals more growth. 

Then the conversation moves from the “what” to the “how”. And as you look around the table, you see Suzy from marketing, Frank from online sales, Melissa who handles brick-and-mortar and Phil from accounting. But where’s Bob? Where is the guy who speaks for the customer service department? 

Customer service is your ticket to mountains of information, buckets of good will and a wheelbarrow full of cash. That is, if you play your cards right.

No matter what size company you’re dealing with, whoever handles customer service is sitting on a goldmine of untapped opportunities. Let’s look at a few ways to keep from leaving money on the table:

Knowledge is power.

It’s easy to be in a rush all the time, especially when you’re understaffed and underfunded. But before you and your customer service people get off the phone and move on to put out the next fire, do your best to grab whatever information is available. It doesn’t have to be as complex as asking the customer to hold on for a short survey (I never say yes to those things). Instead, keep a database open while on the phone and see how much information you can collect in the course of helping the customer solve her problem. 

In the process of giving support, offering a refund or sending out a replacement, the opportunity usually presents itself to collect demographic information, user habits, origin of sale and much more. And while you don’t want to hold up the process and make the customer more aggravated than she already is, you also don’t want to miss an opportunity to collect data that could help you serve (and sell) her better next time.

Give and take.

There is a well known principle of marketing called reciprocity. The short version is this: because of human nature, if you give me something I want or need, I become highly motivated to return the favor. 

Customer service is often about giving rather than selling, which provides a unique opportunity to help the client feel as though he got even more than he paid for—a gift, you might say. In a case like that, the customer is primed for reciprocity. Concluding the interaction with a feeling of satisfaction and ease, he may shift his state of mind to the pursuit of more warm and fuzzy feelings. 

Your job, then, is to provide an opportunity for the customer to take advantage of the newfound trust he has for your retail brand. Make the connection between support and sales (without being obvious and/or smarmy) and you create a circle of satisfaction for both parties.

The art of the up-sell.

This is a dangerous one so be careful. The last thing you want to do is offer an irate customer the “deal of a lifetime”. But when it’s a routine call to ask questions, clarify coverage or leave a comment, the customer service rep finds herself in a unique position to extend goodwill, increase perceived value and make a sale that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

For instance, let’s say Marge just called in to check how long she had on the warranty of the blender she bought a few months ago. Answering the question and moving on is a lost opportunity: she may never call again. You tell Marge she’s got another ten months and you’re happy to help however you can. At that point, she’s feeling pretty good.

So you carefully inquire if an extended warranty is something she’d be interested in. Or if she’d like to be contacted by a service rep just before her warranty ends to address any issues before it expires. Or maybe just getting Marge on the mailing list is enough. Do that and you’ve got permission to send her updates about new food processors, a discount on related accessories and a free spatula on her birthday. Things like that cost the average retailer comparatively little, but mean the world to a customer. 

KJ is a bass player and singer-songwriter (like Sting, only taller); co-founder of Sessionville; and all too fond of sushi and Doritos®.