I’d venture to say that not many of you really enjoy dealing with building contractors. Of any description. While they may be outstanding at their trade, more often than not that expertise isn’t matched with excellent communication skills, timeliness or superior attention to client needs. Sure, there will always be exceptions, like the gutter repairer who greeted me by name the second time I called him. That was impressive! But for the most part, these inherently customer facing service providers don’t excel at customer service.
Lost Sales Opportunities
Which is a selling shame. Just think of the revenue they are missing! The opportunities lost because their communication was poor before the job began, or additional add-on jobs that could have been completed if the person providing the quote had just asked a few more questions.
When you call a trades person for a quote you are probably not looking just for pricing, but information about what might be required to address your issue too. You don’t have expert knowledge (um, that’s why you’re calling the trades person), and you genuinely need help. If you actually manage to get someone to quote a job, how many ask you additional questions that might result in additional business for their company? And how many actually follow up after presenting a proposal? I sometimes wonder how they remain in business.
Sales IS Service and Service IS Sales
Because everyone who speaks to a prospect has a sales role. It may not be direct selling as in, “can you sign the contract here”, but a scheduler who begins to build rapport with an incoming caller, then asks some key questions to establish the nature of the problem is having a sales conversation. As is the trades person who comes to the home to quote on a job. Virtually every interaction with a customer is selling the company in some way, even if no direct sales of the product or service are occurring. It's a mindset too, as I discussed in this post.
This excellent article by Gregory Ciotti at HelpScout lists 15 customer service skills that every employee needs. Except that they’re really sales skills. Patience, attentiveness, product knowledge, ability to ‘read’ customers, ability to handle surprises, persuasion skills, tenacity and closing ability could just as easily come directly from Sales 101.
Outstanding customer service is just good business. And since selling is really service, selling is just good business. Ask anyone who’s built a family run business – the kind where clients are known by their first names and the ‘boss’ plays a direct role in client interaction.
Everyone Needs Basic Sales Training
So what does that mean if you’re a manager or an owner? It means you should be providing every single employee who interacts with customers with sales training. Not this company’s 10 step method, or that company’s proven techniques, but the basics. Building rapport, listening, asking questions, problem solving, and follow up, follow up, follow up. Because they’re all selling. And guess what? You’ll generate a whole lot more referrals this way too. But that’s for another post.
I’ll leave you with this thought from Nate Holzapfel writing for the HuffPost:
When we truly love our customers and care enough to give them the types of results we would expect ourselves, we find ourselves rich with customers.
Sounds like sales to me!