Becoming a "Go-To" Company Starts with Customer Service



TRICIA-BLOG-IMAGE.jpgThe days of the stereotypical salesman are gone. No longer are salespeople encouraged to succeed by pushing unneeded services or products to customers, or by stretching the truth just to get a sale. The role of salespeople has changed. Now, it’s about customer service and honesty.

Through my previous experience working in customer service, and my current role working in sales, I have come to find there is much salespeople can learn from the customer service profession. Much like customer service, the main purpose of sales is to provide a valuable service to customers. And in order to provide the right service, a relationship must first be built. 

Building a relationship starts with trust. This requires listening and letting the client guide the conversation, instead of immediately trying to sell them something. For instance, the Quality Manager at a client of mine once took the time to share with me the story of his very first audit. As he explained, the auditor began asking him questions, and he would plead the fifth. As the auditor continued asking him questions, he continued to plead the fifth. Finally, when the audit was finished, he went to his office and had a fifth. 

While this might be a more amusing and unusual example of relationship building, it shows that taking the time to listen and speak with clients – without sales expectations – can build trust and help the client reach a new level of comfort with you. Meeting in person, rather than simply talking over the phone, will largely aid in this as well, as you can potentially meet other workers in the organization and gain more insights into their business operations. This will widen your understanding of their business needs and thus enable you to provide more targeted and comprehensive solutions to their challenges. 

Once the relationship is built, it needs to be maintained. After a sale or engagement with a client has finished, follow up with them. Ask them how your product has worked for them and listen to any ongoing challenges or needs. This involves listening to the Voice of Customer, or customer feedback about their experiences with and expectations of your products or services. Their needs and expectations will help inform and guide any future sales opportunities that might arise. Sustaining this partnership with them will not only lead to further sales, but will position your company as a trusted advisor.

To strengthen this reputation, show the customer you care about their challenges and want to provide them with relevant solutions, even if it’s not through your own company. A client might need something that your company does not directly offer. If this situation arises, the best course of action is to assist the client with finding a resource to help them. As mentioned above, the goal of sales is to provide a service to customers – that service might be your own company’s product, or it might involve referring the client to another resource that will better fit their needs. 

Remember the movie Miracle on 34th Street? In one scene, Kris Kringle suggests a shopper at Macy’s try visiting a local competitor to find the fire engine toy she’s looking for. The shopper is shocked by his recommendation, and he explains that the important thing is to keep children happy – it doesn’t matter which store the toy comes from. Later, the owner of Macy’s explains to the salespeople that this tactic has resulted in enormous success as more than 500 parents have called to express their gratitude toward Macy’s. The owner goes on to say that from here on out Macy’s will be known as the store with a heart, that gets people what they want even if it’s not from their own store, and the store that “puts public service ahead of profits.” 

Approaching sales in this same way will establish your company as the go-to resource for connecting businesses with solutions. By maintaining this open communication with the customer and making them feel comfortable coming to you with any needs they have, they will likely come to you first when they are in need again.

To achieve success in this approach, all salespeople must be on the same page. The company should operate as a united team with one shared attitude and strategy in mind. Here, communication is key. Regular, consistent meetings will help keep the team unified and on a path toward success. Include all team members in these discussions and ensure everyone understands how to approach sales in this way.

Establishing strong communication among the team will serve additional purposes as well, as it will enable workers to learn more about each other’s backgrounds and skills. For example, one worker might have a certain capability or connection that could come in handy during your next sales call. By sharing ideas and abilities with each other, the sales team will be more equipped to connect clients with the resources they need.

Throughout these efforts, it is critical that all workers provide support – not just to clients, but to each other. Collaborate on strategies, go on sales trips together and get to know everyone on a personal level. Much like the Voice of Customer mentioned above, your coworkers have needs and expectations too. Do your part to support team members and ensure their needs are being met, and they will do the same for you. One of my fellow team members is a champion of collaboration and always goes out of his way to make sure everyone is included and receives the recognition they deserve. Stronger support among team members like this translates to a stronger team overall, which means stronger sales. 

Evolving from a traditional sales mindset into a “go-to” company that provides customers with the resources they need requires much effort, collaboration and understanding among your team. However, this transformation will be worth it as your organization’s reputation will be improved and clients will choose to work with you over your competitors, every time.


Onesian_T-web.jpgTricia Onesian, Business Solutions Manager
Tricia started at The Center in January 2016 as a Business Solutions Manager. Previously, she spent six years as a Sales Executive/Relationship Manager for a highly successful commercial cleaning and building maintenance company. Her customer service passion began more than 25 years ago in various customer service and management positions with paper manufacturing and warehousing companies including Westvaco, Abitibi-Price and Toledo Harbor Warehousing. She also is enthusiastic about helping customers in their individual fundraising efforts that support health and community service programs.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at


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