Within the sales function of organizations, an individual or group of people go about their business day after day, and in many cases, without a lot of respect from their colleagues. It is the Inside Sales team.
If you haven’t taken the time recently to think about how much easier your job is because of them, take some today. When was the last time you bought them a coffee, took them out for lunch, or phoned/emailed to say thanks?
Our team always pitched in to get inside sales Christmas gifts with one company that I worked for. The group knew how much we appreciated them, and always loved the surprise!
Have you been guilty of using inside sales as your personal assistant?
Be honest with yourself!
Inside Sales’ role is typically clearly defined, and if you consistently dump tasks on them that you did not feel like doing yourself, you are just being lazy! Work with them on moving activities towards closing sales like quoting price and delivery, handling customer questions etc.
One concept that really helped me get on to the same page with one of my Inside Sales teams was establishing “Rules of Communication”.
The goal was to communicate on their terms as much as possible, not mine.
- Currently, are you calling or emailing inside sales for every situation that arises during the day?
- Do you even know if they prefer to be phoned or emailed?
Our agreement included the following clauses:
- If something was an emergency or crisis, I called immediately
- If something needed to be completed as soon as possible a detailed email was sent. They were always monitoring their inbox, and would respond as soon as possible
- For non urgent requests – follow-up notes, general questions and other important items were put on a Daily To Do List. It was sent to Inside Sales at the end of the day. In my case, there was a two-hour time difference, and I typically had my answers waiting for me by the time I got to my computer the next morning!
The less nagging, disruptive phone calls the support team handles internally, the more they can focus on booking business. Call when needed, but always take a moment to think, “Does this have to be dealt with immediately?”
The more you strategize with them as teammates, and respect the job that they do, the smoother the sales function should run in general. Who do you think they will give priority service to when they are in a time crunch? The rep that treats them like gold and respects them as people and colleagues of course!
And always remember, they are not your personal assistants!
I was recently away on a business trip, and received a phone call from my wife. She was sad to inform me that our PVR (personal video recorder for our TV) had finally died. She promptly made a phone call to our satellite provider, and they gave her two options:
- $150 for a repair
- $500 for a new unit
She proceeded to explain to the agent that one of their competitors was offering a TV and internet package at a very aggressive price. Their response,
“We will note that on your file”.
That’s it? Really? They will note that on our file?
We may call the competitor and never give our current provider the chance to match packages because of their lack of interest in my wife’s comments. We have had several other issues with their customer service department over the years, so I think it was the “audio-visual gods” way of saying it is time to move on.
Paul Castain had an excellent blog post recently over at Your Sales Playbook which discussed his trip to a local gas station. You can read about his adventures at http://bit.ly/HBF47a
Good friends of ours just returned from a family trip to California, and could not believe how they were pretty much “tossed to the curb” by one hotel, but had the “red carpet” rolled out by another.
I have a strategy that has worked for me a couple of times now, in situations where I was negotiating with customer service in regards to products and services for my family over the phone. There is a certain amount of negotiation that goes on, and you can be put on hold a few times as the options are debated back and forth. I start to lose patience quickly, and have a new technique.
Early on I ask them to pretend that I am very irate (only I am still calm) and request that they give me the best deal or result possible. I call it “the freak-out resolution”. It shows that I am very serious about being well taken care of, but I don’t want to be a jerk about it. The strategy works well, and lets them know that I mean business, and minimal concessions will not be tolerated.
After reflecting about these stories and many more, I could not help but turn my attention to the sales profession. Customer service support is vital to the success of any sales team, and I wonder how often management and reps evaluate the job that these teams are doing for their organizations.
If you are reading this and are not in inside sales / customer service, you need to realize how important they are to your success, or possibly failure. Too many negative experiences with support representatives could turn off customers. As a manager, you need to provide these teams with all the necessary support and ongoing training to give them the best chance to perform their roles to the best of their ability.
If you are a rep, you need to have great rapport with the team and be able to assist and support them if things ever go terribly wrong. It is probably in your best interest to bring up any larger issues with your manager first, and let them decide who should talk to the person in question. You can ill afford to lose any customers, and certainly not ones where customer service made a mess of things.
Other things matter too. You need to treat this group very well. They are difference makers and make our jobs as outside sales reps much easier. Be easy to work with, and certainly DO NOT treat them like your personal assistants! Who do you think will get preferential treatment when their time is limited? The reps who treat them like crap, or the ones who respect the job that they do, and considers them a valuable part of the team?
The stories are endless about customer service today, but the horrible experiences tend to get shared much more than the positive ones.
Let’s change things up a bit….
Send me an email at TimMushey@gmail.com if you want to share a customer service story when they really WOWED you, and exceeded expectations.