Save the Sale With Service

5 strategies for polishing and protecting your customer-service reputation
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the November 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Imagine you are a customer. (You know, one of those people who buys things from companies like yours.) Now imagine the companies you deal with making a series of customer service blunders and sales mishaps. Shocking! Let's see if we can turn these blunders and mishaps into simple sales strategies that actually save the sale.

Sales strategy #1: Empower your people. How many times have you heard "I'm sorry, that's not my job" from a sales or customer service rep? Yeah, you hate it. So don't do it, and make sure your employees don't do it. Everything that happens to a customer is your responsibility, regardless of whether it's in the job description or not.

Sales strategy #2: Adapt to the customer. Have you had the sales rep you were talking to serve up a sales script instead of actually answering your questions or dealing with the issue at hand? I know I have. The last thing I want to hear from the cable company, after it's taken them three hours to resolve my issue, is the upsell to the new service they want me to buy. No one should be upselling when a customer is seeing red--even if the computer tells them to.

Sales strategy #3: Differentiate ­between right and correct. Have you ever tried to renegotiate an agreement or change an item you bought but were told that you couldn't? Technically you were responsible for the purchase, contract, agreement or decision, but you still felt agitated that the business didn't do the right thing. So you tell your friends about your horrible experience. Here is where customer consideration and taking the time to understand each unique situation turns good companies into great companies.

Enhancing the Customer Experience

Four companies that understand how customer service protects and boost sales:

American Express Rated best credit card company by JD Power and Associates, largely because of customer service practices.

Zappos The online retailer offers fast, free shipping, free returns and a lot of leeway for reps to make sure every sale means an enthusiastic customer.

USAA BusinessWeek has ranked the military-focused financial services firm a "Customer Service Champion" for three straight years.

Apple The computer powerhouse's Apple Store, complete with free Genius Bar, has revolutionized technical service in the electronics industry.

Sales strategy #4: Pay attention to consumption. Have you ever paid into one of those subscription services that means financial security for the business and makes talking to the customer after the sale completely unnecessary? Or maybe you bought something that you never used and were disappointed you wasted money on it. Don't let your customers regret buying from you. Know whether or not they are consuming your product or service. Your success as a salesperson depends on it.

Sales strategy #5: Be radically transparent. Have you ever bought something too complicated or so new that the technology left you baffled? Sure, sales reps can talk up a twister of confusing concepts that will throw customers into a perplexed state of buying but leave the customer dazed and confused. Cut the jargon. Stop trying to sound smart, and meet people where they are no matter how simple you find it. You might just save a sale--or better yet, double your sales.

Commit to customer-centric sales habits and embrace an authentic sales style that doesn't disempower customers, crunch credit or pull out the big guns that force customers beyond their buying limits. Shortsighted sales strategies or profit quotas will never replace trust-building and revenue-generating efforts that show your true commitment to customers.

Michael Port is a New York Times bestselling author of four books, including Book Yourself Solid, Beyond Booked Solid, The Contrarian Effect, and his latest and most provocative, The Think Big Manifesto. Learn more at

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