The Real Goal Of The Sales Role

I come from a fairly cheap family. We get what we need and that’s it. My parents bought a car once at the dealership and have not returned since. We’ll get a used car from our neighbor. Why? Saving money is a large part, but what was the key factor? Well, it’s the same motive that many other people have acquired.

They avoid car dealerships. Repel the idea of answering a phone call from an unknown number. Dread buying insurance. What do all of these examples have in common? 

Sales Representatives. 

When you think of a car dealership, you think of a guy in a fancy suit ready to mislead you into buying a car you can barely afford. When you think of buying insurance, you think of being bombarded with different packages that you don’t fully understand. When you think of answering an unknown call, you dread the idea that the person on the other end is going to try to sell you something you don’t need. (Or they’ve been trying to contact you about your car’s extended warranty). In the past, my family has even had various salesmen come to our door selling frozen goods, vacuum cleaners, and math curricula. 

All this to say, sales tends to get a bad rap. Salespeople are known for trying to get you with what looks like a deal but isn’t. The stereotypical salesman is untrustworthy, overbearing, and just plain annoying. 

This isn’t always (and definitely shouldn’t be) the case. When it does happen, it turns people off big time. There is a key to Sales that many companies don’t exercise. Yes, car dealerships do manage to sell cars with cheesy salesmen. I’m not saying that their practices don’t work. What I am saying is that sales can be done in a way that leaves a lasting impression on the buyer that is positive. 

My family finally renovated our outdoor space. It needed something and we have always wanted a pool. We visited a local pool vendor and a man asked us questions about our area, answered any questions we had, and made recommendations. It was a great experience. Why? What did he do that separated him from the stereotypical salesman? Jeffrey Gitomer (King of Sales) once said, “People don’t like to be sold to — but they love to buy.” This pool salesman wasn’t trying to sell us something. He was trying to help us. He was friendly, down to earth, and wasn’t afraid to tell us downsides. He recommended a solution for us after asking questions and listening to our answers. He clearly wanted to help us find a solution and use all of his knowledge to do so. 

That sort of experience is what makes sales have a positive lasting impression on a customer. When you connect with a customer on a human level, they don’t feel like they are being sold to. Instead of having a solution shoved into their face, a solution is being hand selected according to their needs. A salesperson can be honest about imperfections and willing to go out of their way to help a customer solve their problem. The customer is left with a positive impression of the company, whether they bought the product or not. You could say, “But… the main reason for sales is selling stuff, right?” You’re right. That is the main reason the sales role exists. Regardless, when that’s your main goal, you will have frustrated customers. Using your product to help people should be the goal. If that is your goal, you are accomplishing a lot more for your company than just selling your product.

Customer Success is What Now?

When you work at an apple orchard complete with lots of apples, several food venues, an apple slingshot, a tractor ride, and bouncy pillows, you learn about the apple industry and even more about people. 

I’ve worked in several different areas of this apple orchard during their main season. What does an apple orchard have to do with Customer Success? The majority of my work there included dealing with customers. The main part of my job was making sure the customers were safe and got the best out of their experience. Answering questions, giving directions, dealing with different emotions were some of the ways I used Customer Success skills and I didn’t even know it. 

I recall a busy day at work when I realized how I could affect someone’s experience. I was making ice cream sundaes with no sign of relief in sight.  As I handed them their ice cream, I would apologize to the customers for the wait. Most people were not thrilled that we didn’t have enough employees to keep up with the demand. As I was working, the next man in line leaned on the counter and started a conversation with me. 

He asked how my day was going and how could I make the sundae so fast. I answered him in a light-hearted way and he left with a lot of whipped cream on his sundae. After that encounter, I realized how my job was more than just fulfilling orders. I could make an impact by making a point to have a positive conversation. I made a point to ask customers what their favorite part has been so far. Whenever I did that, we were both left with a smile. Simply making a connection with the customer, improving their experience, made a difference in how they acted. It helped them to be more flexible when it came to a confused order or a long wait. 

It made them feel like a valued customer.

Whenever I thought about CS, I thought of “The Office”. I envisioned a bunch of people taking phone calls and responding to customer complaints. It never seemed like anything worth digging into, but this week I took a deeper look and was surprised at what I found: 

Customer Success is way more than it is commonly portrayed.

I’ve learned that it takes more skills than just the ability to answer the phone. If that was the case, everyone could obtain the role of Customer Success. It takes an understanding of emotions, the confidence to properly deal with them, and thinking on your feet to succeed in a customer success position. It takes not only the ability to find the solution but to explain how to achieve the solution to a customer. Anyone can answer the phone, but whether they have the skills needed for doing Customer Success well is a different story.

At the orchard, I had to deal with a lot of different people. Some customers wanted their food made a specific way, others didn’t know where the restrooms were, and some needed assistance locating a lost phone. 

I learned how to listen and apply my knowledge to help each of them have a positive experience. Connecting with people is so important. A genuine human connection is what can make or break a customer’s experience. During long shifts, I stayed positive and asked the customer’s how their day was going while they waited for their food. I went out of my way to figure out the best way to explain directions. 

Customer Success is about an innate drive to help others. You want your customers to have a positive experience with your business. When they’re frustrated or confused, Customer Success helps them when they need it the most. CS is the business’s personal impression on customers. 

We all can think of times where we needed help, and no one was there. Or worse, when the process to get help was just as frustrating as the situation that started it. We can also remember positive experiences where someone helped you with a smile; how that boosted your confidence and ensured that, whether the problem got solved or not, you were in good hands. 

This week I used this new-found perspective on customer success to create a solution that would improve a company’s relationship with its customers. I found a local bakery that has just launched. I realized that consumers had no way of contacting them on their website. It had online ordering, job applications, and an ‘about’ section. But I realized that there was no intuitive way to contact them. Since this bakery is so new, a clear way to talk to their customers is crucial. So a chatbot would be a valuable addition to their website. With a chatbot, customers would be able to effortlessly ask any inquiries instead of being annoyed because they can’t find a way to get in touch with the business. I made a chatbot specifically for the bakery and made a video walking through how I would set it up on their website. 

I saw a way that they could improve their Customer Success and sprung into action to solve the problem. 

From apple orchards to bakeries and everything in between this is true: Customer Success is not an easy job but it’s essential! It can improve customer-business relationships ten-fold. The job of being the bridge between a customer and a business is not for everyone. I know why it’s beneficial because I’ve seen the effect a positive business experience has on customers. A light-hearted conversation with a customer can make a big difference. Customer Success is necessary for the overall success of a company. It’s about making a connection to customers and making them think, “Wow. I’d be happy to support a company that cares like that.”