The difference between sales and customer service
I got a call last week from a local car dealer saying they were looking for our make and model of car to sell used. “If you could make a profit by selling us back your car, would you do it?” And if I could make a profit, well then, why not?
Of course it wasn’t as straightforward as that, and of course I wasn’t going to get a profit for the car. And I was fine with that until the very end when I had made it clear there was no deal and needed to leave.
The dealer had taken the car key and registration to inspect the car while they eased my friend and me into another car for a test drive. Our salesperson—a perfectly pleasant woman and the only female car salesperson I’ve ever met—finally, I thought, understood that we were through, that there was nothing more for her to do or say. The only thing left from my perspective was to get my keys and let us go. She went, I thought, to get them.
And the manager came out.
And I lost it.
He held out his hand to shake, and I didn’t take it. “You won’t even shake my hand?” he said. “I just want my keys and registration,” I said, and apparently my voice was raised. “Don’t yell at me,” he said. So I lowered my voice to a threatening growl and said, “Please get us the keys and registration.” And I am sorry to say he decided the thing to do was carry on with his patter. I turned to my friend and said, “I’m going to the car and will meet you there” and walked out of the showroom. And I assure you, I will never return.
But in that moment, I learned a very important distinction between sales and customer service.
In sales, the goal is always the sale: edging the buyer ever closer to the decision point, inching them along through the sales process. Failure is when the buyer doesn’t buy.
In customer service, the goal is always making sure customers get what they want: that may or may not be the product. Failure is when the customer leaves unhappy.
These two states flow into one another, of course. I think the best sales people know intuitively when to switch from sales mode to customer service, getting the best of both worlds.
What’s unfortunate in this situation is that they lost both a sale and a customer. If they had used just a touch of customer service and left their comfortable sales techniques for a moment, I would not have left angry and determined never to go there again.
I suspect this distinction and tendency between using a sales model or a customer service model–or switching between the two–becomes part of the make-up of any organization. That same tendency, whatever it is, is no doubt reflected in your marketing and social media. And it’s going to color how people perceive you in the social media sphere. And I assure you, if your organization is exclusively in sales mode, it is not going to do well in social media.
So take a look at your organization and ask yourself: are you in sales or in customer service? Do you know when to quit pressing the sell and simply respond to your customer’s needs? Do you know when to say to your customer, “Hey, I have something you could use. Let’s make a deal”? Do you need to tweak your social media–and your organization–to better serve your customers as well as have a better rate of return?