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A growing number of companies are looking to get their customer service department to start generating sales…

Not so long ago, customer service and the sales department were two worlds that very rarely overlapped. Now, with the emergence of the internet and online selling, the lines between their roles are becoming increasingly blurred.

Since bots now fulfil more and more support tasks, customer service is veering towards providing support to salespeople and, doing so, generating more sales. Consequently, a growing number of businesses wish to transform their customer service into a profit centre, instead of a cost centre.

Don’t underestimate the difficulty of this endeavour.

Distinct Roles

Before even considering this option, it’s important to understand the differences between the traditional roles of both departments. Understanding the distinctions will help to determine which tasks to share and what contributions both departments can bring to the table.

Traditional Roles of Customer Service

  • Gathering information on your clients
    • Changes in their ordering habits
    • Fluctuation in the success of your products and services
    • Feedback on their questions and buying habits
    • Changes in the goods and services sold by your competitor
  • Answering the client’s needs
    • Technical problems
    • Billing issues
    • Presale interrogations
  • Managing complaints

Traditional Roles of Inside Sales

  • Contract renewal
  • Delivery scheduling
  • Identifying additional sales opportunities
    • Offering complementary products that add value and presenting their benefits
    • Proposing additional quantities for an economy of scale
    • Offering products purchased in the past
    • Suggesting products that the client has already purchased at an equal or lower price
    • Promoting upselling
      • Analyzing each client
      • Presenting the benefits
      • Providing references
      • Demonstrating the difference
      • Making simple suggestions
    • Offering purchase renewal and cross-selling
    • Proposing to increase quantity for an economy of scale
    • Offering preferential rates

Two Career Choices, Two Different Profiles

While salespeople are ambitious and persevering, customer service specialists tend to be more caring, attentive, and understanding. Consequently, many of them have a negative image of sales.

It’s worth acknowledging that throughout their career, they’ve often been responsible for dealing with disgruntled clients and repairing damages. If we want to teach them the basics of sales, we must first bring down those barriers.

Shared Knowledge, the Key to Better Understanding

The first step is bringing everyone together at the same table, and then clearly establishing each person’s different roles and expectations. This clarification will lead to greater accountability within the company.

During this meeting, it will be essential to clarify the business processes, what type of requests each person will have to handle and the kind of feedback both teams are expected to share.

Management can also use this opportunity to explain which direction they wish to take and go through the changes this may bring to each person’s level of responsibility.

One Step at a Time

I’ve observed that while managers eagerly delegate new responsibilities to customer service employees, they rarely provide proper training and new, practical strategies to help them take over their new roles. Seemingly overnight, they’re expected to renew contracts, negotiate shipping dates, and evaluate sales opportunities.

Going about it this way is almost guaranteed failure. It’s much preferable to explain the situation and incorporate new tasks one step at a time. Use your team’s points of interest, their values and strengths to show them how beneficial it is to establish a sales process in the customer service department.

You might, for example, explain to your employees that while their work is exceptional, they have the abilities and competencies to do even more to increase client satisfaction and loyalty; two objectives that speak to the empathic nature of customer service employees.

Once you have convinced them, you may now start gradually implementing new responsibilities. Fix the first objective by teaching them to use open questions. Once this notion is acquired, you can then move on to other competencies.

We must learn to walk before we can run!