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Why Your Salespeople Need to Spend Time in Customer Service You'll never learn more about what people want than you will by really, really listening to them.

By Sujan Patel Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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When I started running my own business, I did everything myself. I was in charge of sales, marketing, accounting, HR, customer service and more. And while this wasn't the most effective way to run a business, I did learn a lot from spending time in each role.

The biggest lesson I took away from that experience was that skills from one area of business are transferable to another, and if you know how to do only one thing, you'll box yourself in -- and your business will suffer.

Related: Use Your Customer Support Staff to Improve Every Aspect of Your Business

I find this is especially applicable to sales and customer service. The two departments are so intertwined that there needs to be a symbiotic relationship there.

Sometimes, salespeople are so wrapped up in getting a customer to sign on the dotted line that they forget that that customer is a person. This is crucial because a sales professional's job is to understand that customer and treat him or her with respect.

For the salesperson to earn that respect, customer-service skills come into play.

That's why I believe every sales professional can benefit from actually spending time in customer service; there's a ton they can learn there and some very valuable takeaways they can discover:

1. Old sales models don't work anymore.

Back in 2015, Forrester predicted that 1 million sales jobs would be eliminated by 2020. And maybe that prediction was right: 2020 is not so far off, and it's clear that the way sales has operated in the past doesn't work for today's customers.

Old tactics call for focusing solely on the bottom line and cold-calling as many people as possible. Those tactics no longer work well. Instead, savvy businesses know that the best way to attract and keep customers is through solid customer service. In fact, a survey by Econsultancy found that participating companies considered customer experience the most exciting opportunity in 2018.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Good Customer Service Is Your Most Important Metric

Typically, consumers gain their first impression of your company from your salespeople. If they lack the necessary customer service skills, how many customers might you be losing?

2. Sales reps need to think like customer-service reps.

Customers don't want to be treated like dollar signs. They want to be understood and treated as people. When your sales reps are so focused on closing the deal, they may fail to address what the customer actually wants or needs.

The most important thing salespeople need to learn is how to listen. Customers are usually ready and willing to share their problems or needs. They just need somebody to listen to them.

As Seth Godin has written on his blog, "You don't find customers for your products. You find products for your customers."

When sales reps are on a call with a customer, they need to think like customer-service reps. They must be empathetic and hear what the customer has to say. If they have a problem, what solution can the sales rep provide? Instead of being aggressive and pushing the product or service, that sales rep should focus on how his or her product or service can truly solve the customer's problems.

3. Satisfied customers can be turned into loyal ones.

What's better: a customer who buys your product one time, or a customer who is a loyal devotee of that product? Pretty obvious choice, right? But so many sales reps are focused only on the first type of customer, when clearly loyal customers are more beneficial in the long run.

Satisfied customers may be happy with their experience, but loyal customers take it to the next level. They have a solid relationship with your business and are an advocate for you. They'll recommend your product or service to others, bringing you more customers and more sales.

So, how do you turn a satisfied customer into a loyal one? The key is service:

  • Provide stellar customer service. Loyal customers don't want to wait too long for service, and want their needs taken care of -- even ones they haven't thought of yet (which you'll suggest).
  • Be a friend. Loyal customers have a relationship with sales reps that goes beyond just the sale. Sales reps should get to know their customers and listen to their problems.
  • Get their input. Loyal customers love to feel that they're making a difference. That's why sales reps should listen to their ideas; those customers' ideas may help your business.

4. Customer service is key to business success.

For all areas of your business, whether they be sales, marketing or customer service, the customer should be top of mind. Because, after all, the success of your business is dependent on your customers.

At my business, we use net promoter scores (NPS) to gain feedback from our customers. If we score high, we know that we're doing really well and that we've got some great advocates on our side. A low score, however, means we're doing something wrong and need to make a change to get more in tune with our customers.

Related: Customer Service Is Ground Zero For Success

Sales reps, then, need to know exactly what the customer wants, needs and desires. This information is critical to selling to them. And the way to discover that information is by practicing good customer service. So, are your reps doing this?

Have you ever spent time in customer service? How did it help your sales? Let me know in the comments:

Sujan Patel

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Co-founder of Web Profits

In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.

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