How Customer Service Destroys A Sales Force

Selling is about digging and working with customers to help them see needs they didn’t realize existed. Selling is not about sitting back and taking orders based on what the customer wants.

Too many salespeople don’t know how to sell

Ask any CEO and you’ll hear that one of their biggest problems is finding and retaining good salespeople.

Something happened its way into the faltering economy: Many companies learned the hard way that their salespeople don’t know how to sell. Instead, their salespeople were good at taking orders and providing customer service.

There is nothing wrong with this approach, as long as the market will always serve new customers and keep existing customers in business. Does this type of market always exist? Unfortunately no.

You won’t achieve growth goals with great customer service alone

As a sales consultant who works with a large number of companies, I am not surprised by the current state of sales. For the past 20 years, books and staff have flooded us with advice that the best way to grow your company is through great customer service. (Think companies like Disney, Marriott, and Honda, to name a few.)

These are definitely great companies, and I’m personally an avid customer of all of them. However, if great customer service is all that is needed to win, why do each of these companies struggle in today’s economy?

I do not provide this example to generate an in-depth discussion about economics and market share. Instead, I put it to say that customer service alone won’t help the company achieve its growth goals.

Selling is a salesperson’s first priority

It is essential for salespeople to focus on selling as the first priority and providing customer service as the second priority.

Selling is about digging and working with customers to help them see needs they didn’t realize existed. It’s about helping customers know how to find the solution they are looking for in what you offer.

Selling is not about sitting back and taking orders based on what the customer wants. If it’s a sale, no need for a salesperson. The whole process can be done online or over the phone.

I know this note hit a sore spot for many of you reading this. You’ve probably watched your industry crumble with the power of the web. Nowadays, many customers can get what they want, when they want it, and how they want it, all from their computers.

Customer service is important, but it’s not sales

If you lost your job because of the internet, let me share something you might not want to hear, but is simply true: you weren’t selling; You only take orders. I don’t put myself on a pedestal, because one of my first sales jobs thought I was a salesperson (at least, that’s what my business card said).

In fact, I was doing nothing more than going to grocery stores and taking orders from store managers. I did not sell. I convey information and provide customer service.

Today’s economy is crying out for salespeople. Are you someone who is ready to be assertive about making phone calls, meeting clients, and spending time doing what I refer to as “deep diving” with high odds of securing really big business.

Do you know how to develop leads and handle cold calls?

If the salesperson is not willing to face the customer face to face, he has absolutely no right to be in the sales.

The only thing they do is hurt themselves and their employer. The quickest test I know of to gauge a person’s willingness to sell is to ask them to explain in detail how they develop leads and handle spam calls.

When a company is looking to outsource their lead generation process, or spend heavily on advertising to try to generate enough leads for everyone, they are setting themselves up for failure.

Over time they will end up with a sales team focused on getting the easy sales. They do this by making every thing instant customer service.

Think of yourself like a professional athlete

This is like pro-athletes thinking because they are professionals, they no longer need to stick to a physical exercise program.

When a professional athlete stops their conditioning program, they may not experience a decline in performance immediately. Over time, the regression will be evident.

The same is true for salespeople who are not routinely involved in the game of finding and developing new customers. They will lose their edge. The rollback would be so slow that they wouldn’t even realize it was happening, let alone why it happened.

Finding and retaining new customers is everyone’s responsibility

Every client I have the privilege of working with hears this message: The responsibility to find and retain new clients is the responsibility of every employee.

Salespeople by the nature of their jobs have to take the lead and set weekly, monthly and quarterly goals to mine for the calls they have to make.

Management owes them the tools that include an efficient selling process. This process should include non-sales employees whose primary responsibility is to provide customer service.

After all, salespeople should focus first on selling. They need time to realize this realistic expectation.


In the most comprehensive book ever written on sales research, Jeb Blount reveals the true secret to improving sales productivity and increasing your income quickly. Read along with our free fanatic prospecting book club guide.

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