Should customer service reps sell?

Oct 01, 2007 9:30 PM  By

Customers love to buy. We love when someone helps us solve a problem, meet a need, satisfy a desire, or do something nice for ourselves.

If it’s true, why aren’t your customers buying more? Perhaps you’re not asking them to.

Many organizations take the position that customer service representatives shouldn’t sell. They believe service agents are there to take orders, answer customer questions, or deal with complaints.

Smart marketers realize the amazing potential in designing scenarios in which customers have more opportunities to buy, and the reps have more opportunities to create customer happiness. How? By making sure reps are astute enough to know what those customers need.

My experience with CSRs over the years tells me that most service reps do not like to sell. In fact, many of them have less than glowing opinions of “salespeople.” On further inquiry, I find that CSRs love to help, they love to be useful. If you ask them if they would feel good if they could provide their customers with more ease, more convenience, more peace of mind, more value, more variety, more satisfaction or more delight, they will enthusiastically respond, Yes!

Here are some steps you can take to create the right environment for maximum selling results:

Reframe the activity

Help CSRs see that by offering the “premiere” upgraded service, the maintenance contract or the matching accessories, they are indeed creating more value for the customer. As a customer I want a rep to be sharp enough to recommend the right glue for the glue gun I am buying, the best insurance product for my small business, or the fertilizer that will make my new roses thrive.

Set reasonable goals

The art of the upsell or cross-sell is in asking the right questions. To find out what else a customer needs or how they are planning to use your product, ask and then listen for responses. This takes more time. Make sure a rep is not penalized for doing a good job at this probing activity. Set goals based on outcomes, not just time spent on calls. Rushing a customer off the phone won’t get you where you need to go. Create incentives tied into goals.

Provide adequate training

Some companies pay team incentives for selling activities and some pay the reps. There is no “right” way. What works best for you, your reps and your customers? Make selling fun by tying it into contests and rewards. After all, we are asking people to stretch outside their comfort zones.

The more a rep knows about your merchandise, the easier it will be to see the opportunity cues. Does your rep use your product or service? If not, could they? Can you get them out to see your products in use and to talk to the people using them? Help them become specialists in using your products so they can easily make recommendations to customers.

Remember, customers love to buy, now go sell them something. Skillfully.


Joanna Brandi is president of Boca Raton, FL-based Joanna Brandi & Co., a contact center consulting firm.