There’s an easy way to make your small business better at customer service–and it doesn’t involve hiring new people or investing in new technology (although a CRM system never hurts and can make it much easier). Rather than tell you what this easy way to improve your customer service game is, I’m going tell you about a client who does it well. 

This client sells jewelry online and through its two retail stores. They have thousands of customers and about 70 employees. The company is all about providing the best customer service possible. 

How?

Everyone’s in sales.

Imagine – this is a company with hundreds of different products to sell from dozens of manufacturers and artisans. There’s a lot to know. And their customers, who are mostly female, are hungry for advice. They’re always looking for something nice to wear with a new outfit or a great necklace to go with their dress for the evening. Sure, many of them are experienced buyers. But they need advice. And attention. And service.

So do your customers. You don’t sell beautiful jewelry. You sell pipes. You sell spools of wire used in mesh products. You sell plastic materials that are used in household appliances. You manufacture parts for the auto industry. You make custom bolts that are part of industrial equipment and oil rigs that go deep under the Gulf of Mexico. Ugh! 

But your customers also need advice. They want to make the best purchases possible. And they want to make sure they’re being looked after. OK, it may not be a nice piece of jewelry to go with an evening gown. But it’s still pretty darn important.

This kind of service can’t be done by one sales rep, nor is it the exclusive job of the assigned customer service agent. It’s everyone’s job. Everyone needs to be servicing this customer. Everyone needs to be in sales.

“Every single conversation is a bonafide selling moment,” says Todd Cohen, a nationally recognized sales speaker and consultant and the author of the best-selling book Everyone’s In Sales. “Every single interaction you have means you have about 7-10 seconds to engage someone in a way that makes them want to know more or continue the conversation.”

Cohen knows this because he’s helped thousands of executives embrace a sales culture regardless of whether they’re in sales or not. When you embrace a sales culture, you’re helping your customers make decisions. You’re providing a better service.

According to Cohen, there are two types of salespeople: the ones who self-identify as being in sales and everyone else. The salespeople are selling to customers. But everyone else is also selling – not just to customers  — but internally as they put forth their ideas and recommendations for doing things better. “Everyone is exercising the fundamentals of sales far more often than they think,” he says.

How do you build an internal sales culture? I’ve seen this in action with my clients, particularly at the jewelry business. 

  1. You teach everyone that sales is not a bad thing – it’s a good thing. It is helping your customers get the most value from the products you sell and it is helping them to hopefully do something better – or just enjoy their life a little more. It’s teaching your people to speak up and better sell their ideas internally if they’re something that will benefit customers.
  2. You constantly educate your people on the products and services your company provides. My jewelry store client treats their staff to lunch once a week where there is always a demo or presentation done by one of the jewelry makers about their product line. That way the entire staff – accountants down to administrators, walk away with more knowledge that they’re likely to share with customers, prospects and even friends and family (i.e., potential customers).
  3. You encourage your employees to make recommendations to your customers whenever there’s an interaction. “I see you purchased this from us last month – you might be interested in this accessory.” Or “How are you enjoying this product? If you do this to it you might get more out of it.” Your people should always be thinking of what’s best for the customer. Sometimes that may result in more sales. But at the very least it’s creating a better customer service environment.

Cohen has more to add:

“Selling is not something that requires people to stop what they are doing and do something different. It is not a mode change. It is rooted in solid relationship building and developing trust. What you do every day impacts and influences people in many different ways—and that’s sales!”

You want to provide better customer service. You can. Just recognize that everyone’s in sales.

Join writer and small business owner Gene Marks each Wednesday on the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can also submit a question for Gene to answer on the podcast.

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