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The alarming disconnect between the disciplines of sales and customer service

Research conducted by a leading international training consultancy has uncovered an alarming disconnect between customer service and sales training.

Having worked extensively with three high-profile multinational corporations over the past six months, Sales Commando has discovered that customer service was often regarded as something outside the sphere of the sales team.

Sales Commando’s Doug Tucker confesses that he is surprised by the findings: “If the concept of customer service is not built into the sales philosophy from the beginning, there could be trouble ahead. If you are a talented sales professional you can sell anything to anyone – once. The real challenge involves building relationships with clients so that you are the first person that they think of when they need to buy the type of product or service that you are offering, and that they recommend you to others.”

It is the shift in emphasis from one-on-one customer contact, which was the norm until relatively recently, to high density call centres, which has been largely responsible for the separation of sales and customer care. This has resulted in a generation of sales teams who have forgotten the essentials of customer service. Tucker believes that the model of ‘battery-farm’ style call centres, backed by an impregnable customer care section that does more to protect the company’s sales figures than help the client, has been especially injurious. “Very often these call centres only allow their sales team to operate from a script, which is a disaster for them because they have no autonomy and are effectively unable to build up a proper relationship with the clients. However, it is even more harmful for the client, who is often badly let down once the sale has been closed. Thankfully, current trends indicate that these are being phased out.”

The findings uncovered by the work Sales Commando has recently carried out point towards the need for massively improved sales training, which should considerably lessen the need for an overloaded customer services department. “When your clients imagine that sales always involves them feeling bullied and rushed into making a decision that they may well later regret, it makes everyone’s life more difficult and less pleasant. What this ultimately means is that you have to spend a lot of time overcoming resistance to your profession before you can get down to the business of promoting your product,” says Tucker.

“The point is that there are a number of measures that can be taken to ensure that customers feel that their needs are being met by the sales team. This should be accomplished at the point of sale but, if it isn’t, this means that the customer service department is likely to be overworked.

“Sales teams need to be armed with the ability to develop long-lasting relationships with clients, so it was quite shocking to hear that so many companies are still failing to provide their sales people with the tools that they need to do their job effectively and efficiently. Customers should feel that they can speak to their contact in sales at any time and voice their concerns and reservations. My belief is that sales professionals should always take the extra step. Doing a little bit more than your job requires is an excellent investment for the future.”

Tucker’s years spent equipping trainees with all the skills that they will need for a successful career and the customer care component is a key aspect of this: “Sometimes it’s as simple as answering your phone and making sure that you’re available to iron out any problems as they arise, not making promises that you cannot keep and being helpful, even when there is no immediate profit in it. Just remember that nobody has ever complained that their sales contact has over-delivered.”