• Bill Leinweber

  • About Bill Leinweber

    Bill Leinweber's mission is to help businesses and organizations grow by combining efficient processes with great customer and employee experience.

    Bill is the Chief Experience Officer & Owner of Landmark Experience LLC, a consultancy, where he loves to help business leaders walk in their customers' shoes and devise memorable and meaningful experiences for both customers, guests, visitors, employees and business partners. After all, have you ever heard of customer loyalty and business growth without GREAT customer experience?

    Bill's 30 year career spans retail and office products distribution operations in both small, family-owned and global mega-businesses. He has managed customer service operations, sales support, customer on-boarding and business intelligence teams while also serving as an internal consultant and subject matter expert. Bill has helped his past employers improve their customer engagement processes and achieve their goals of customer experience excellence and loyalty.

    Bill loves to talk and speak about customer experience as well, so don't be afraid to ask!

    Bill Leinweber
    Landmark Experience

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How to get your Sales Reps out of Customer Service and back to SELLING!

In my last post, I wrote about how and why it hurts your business when sales reps spend too much time doing customer service tasks and not enough time selling. If you missed that post, click 5 Reasons why your sales reps should not be order managers.

In this next post, I promised to answer the question, “How do you move from a culture of sales rep as part-time customer service rep to a culture of sales rep as full-time sales rep? I’ll start by saying; it’s not going to happen overnight. I’ve been there. It’s going to take commitment but it will be well worth the effort in greater efficiency, a bigger sales funnel and a culture of cooperation. And full disclosure – my background is strong in B2B so I do see things through that lens. However, this advice will work in a B2C environment. There is more that is similar than is different.

But before I get into some of the cool things to put in place, you need to understand this one point:

Sales people will stop selling the moment they lose trust in your business.

Need Help PhotoThe moment you jeopardize the sales reps word (promises they made to customers) or their income (commissions), they’ll take their eyes off the sales ball and move into babysitting and triage mode. They’ll hand-hold orders and customer setups, they’ll double-check accuracy and process steps and generally poke their noses into every other department’s business. They’ll insist on being the sole communication point between the customer and the business. You’ll see them in the office more often rather than visiting or on the phone with customers.

And frankly, I can’t blame them. Your sales reps won’t let go of the reins and go out and sell more until they trust that everything works as it should and that customers will receive the service they expect. The sales organization has to TRUST the operation, trust your quality, and trust that people will do what they say they’re going to do. They need to believe that customer service and other support staff won’t only do what the process says to do but will also make good decisions on the customer’s behalf when the process doesn’t fit the situation. If a culture of trust doesn’t sound like your company, start there. Otherwise, nothing else I share here will matter.

It’s the Numbers after the Decimal That Really Count

A word about quality. If you tell me your order accuracy is great and that 99% of orders are accurate, then you’re in big trouble. That’s because it’s the digits after the 99 that really matter. If you ship 1000 orders a day and only 99% are accurate, then every day 10 orders go out wrong. If I’m your sales rep, I’m losing sleep. That’s 50 orders a week that go out wrong and how many of them are for my customers? You’re pushing your sales reps to butt-in and hand-hold the order process because they won’t trust it. You don’t need Six Sigma or some big complex quality program for this one. When gauging accuracy, look at the digits to the right of the decimal and put something in place to get those digits into the 9’s. You’ll also be saving your company boatloads of money in re-work.

Develop a Customer On-Boarding Program

Formalize your customer on-boarding. When you get a new customer, every department should know about it. When the first order ships, everyone touching that order should know it’s the customer’s first order. Internally, everyone needs to handle that order just like the sales rep would because remember, your sales rep is now out selling and not babysitting orders. If I’m the shipping dock supervisor, I want to know it’s the customer’s first order. If I’m the billing supervisor, I want to know it’s this customer’s first invoice. There are many ways to implement an on-boarding program, from automated to manual. Code the customer as “new” for 90 days. A formal customer on-boarding program does the following:

  • The extra attention ensures new customers have the best experience possible
  • You build trust with the new customer at the most critical stage in the relationship
  • Sales reps will have confidence that their co-workers have their eyes on new customers
  • And not the least of which, you celebrate new customers with your employees!

Integrate Sales Support Into Customer Service

When your sales reps call with a customer issue, they shouldn’t call your admin or the warehouse manager. They should call customer service just like the customer would. After all, the sales rep is really calling on the customer’s behalf, aren’t they? Otherwise, the customer would be making the call. Channel sales rep calls into customer service so they follow the same process with the same people who have access to the same information. Within Customer Service, you could even establish an “elite team” who handles sales reps calls. Whatever approach you use, integrated sales support accomplishes the following:

  • All customer issues follow the same process flow and tracking
  • Prevents duplication of work
  • Ensures a faster more efficient resolution
  • Gives the sales rep the same level of “service” as you give your customers
  • Builds on a culture of collaboration between customer service and sales

Establish a 2-way Communication Channel

Sales reps can focus more time on getting sales and less time micro-managing the operation when there is 2-way communication between customer service and sales. If customer service encounters a customer issue or question that warrants the sales rep’s attention, they need a consistent way to get that information back to the sales rep. If I’m a customer service rep and a customer just told me they were talking to a competitor, I want our sales rep to know that. Perhaps you can use your CRM, case management system or something as simple as email to get word to the rep. Train customer service when and how to recognize what should be communicated. The payoff is:

  • Sales rep (or Account Manager) is proactively alerted to possible issues. Better for the rep to hear it from an internal source than from the customer later.
  • Gives the sales rep confidence that co-workers are alert to potential customer issues.
  • Builds on a culture of “these are OUR customers” not “your customers.”

Flip the Switch

Finally, to get the sales rep out of the customer service kitchen, you may have to simply limit system access. If your sales reps can enter or modify orders, override pricing, change addresses and perform other system maintenance, you may want to give that a hard look. It’s not only a good idea from a process control standpoint (can you spell Sarbanes-Oxley?). It also removes the temptation to spend time in the system. You’ll have to overcome the sales rep’s objection that, “It’s just quicker if I do it!” View-only access should do the trick in most cases and it removes the last excuse for, “I don’t have enough time to sell more!”

When your existing sales reps can spend more of their time on sales tasks, your business has the opportunity to grow sales and profits with existing staff. If your sales reps are spending any time being order managers, shift their focus by giving them confidence the business will live up to your brand promise.

If you would like to discuss this topic, give me a call (513) 227-9037 or email me at Bill@LandmarkExperience.com.

Learn more at LandmarkExperience.com

Photo courtesy of pakorn and FreeDigitialPhotos.net


As a Customer Care Leader, You Must Partner With Sales

In my years in B2B customer care, I’ve seen and heard every cliché about “Sales Reps.”  There’s the, “Oh, those reps will say and do anything to make a sale,” the conversations that begin with, “You promised WHAT to the customer??,” and of course all the high-fiving and self-congratulatory gestures that go along with closing a sale.  However, if your customer care team ducks their heads or tries to hide when they see a sales rep coming, then it may be time for a culture shift.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with my share of “strong personality types” in various sales departments.  The truth is, those qualities that may rub you the wrong way are the same qualities that help sales people to succeed.  Tenacity, perseverance and extraversion serve most sales people well.  Sales Reps get a lot of doors slammed in their faces and have to pick themselves up and knock on the next door.

Winning new business and retaining current customers is how companies grow and remain strong.  In the current economy more than ever, sales is a critical part of your business.  So the incessant focus on sales is legitimate.  If you ask yourself my two guiding principle questions – What is best for the customer?  and What is best for the company? – then, “I must partner with Sales” is one logical answer.  Here are some suggestions on building that partnership.

Get A Seat At the Table

As a customer care leader, intend to be a voice at the sales table, not only to learn about current events and strategies but also to offer your expertise to help the sales organization achieve their goals.  If this type of collaboration is foreign to your culture, suggest a meeting with your sales leader.  Explain that you’d like to form a stronger partnership between customer care and sales.  As a first step, you would like to attend the monthly sales meeting.  It’s not uncommon for customer care to be “left in the dark” about important initiatives so this is your chance to turn on the lights, so to speak, and be better informed.  I’ve never known sales people who weren’t eager to be heard!  They’ll appreciate your interest.

Understand the Sales Targets, Goals and Quotas

It’s important for you to know what’s in the current sales pipeline or funnel.  What critical accounts are your sales reps working to win?  What accounts are at risk of being lost and why?  If your team is dealing with the at-risk accounts, it’s vital that they be informed.  It wouldn’t be far-fetched for a yet-to-be-won client to contact your customer care team just to evaluate the experience.  Having an overall understanding of your company’s sales goals puts you in a better position to Do What Is Best for the Customer and Do What is Best for the Company.

Don’t Keep It To Yourself

Once you get engaged with the sales organization, if you keep what you’ve learned to yourself then you’re not doing anyone any favors.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Infuse your team with the sales strategy information and even individual or team sales goals.  Your team members will appreciate being better informed and I bet you may be surprised with the serendipitous collaboration that will occur when you least expect it.  Depending on the size of your organization, encourage your sales counterpart to work with you on team-building exercises.  There are plenty of ideas for activities to mix the sales and customer care teams in ways that are meaningful and fun.  When the defensive walls come down, it’s amazing how open the team members are to their counterpart’s challenges and achievements.

It’s Not Only About Sales

Finally, relationships are give and take, right?  No, no – not you give and they take!  We all have to have “skin in the game” as they say so it can’t ALL be about sales.  Whenever I’m asked to invest my collateral, I ask for something in return.  If there is something your team needs from the sales team to better do their jobs, ask for it from a position of partnership.  Here’s an example.

Ed, a VP of Sales came to me once and wanted his sales team to be able to temporarily bypass our usual customer set-up process.  Our customer management system was very, very flexible in the way in which we could structure customer data.  However, that flexibility made the setup process somewhat complex, requiring the sales reps to fill out numerous online forms.  I asked Ed, “Why do you need a temporary shortcut to the setup process?”  Ed explained that they were planning a “Sales Blitz” and the Reps were going to go out for five days and really pound the pavement trying to win new business.  Of course, I couldn’t resist.  I said, “Ed, don’t we usually just call that Tuesday?”  But I digress.

Ed wanted his reps to be able to phone-in new client set-ups to my Account Implementation Team.  The account could be set up on the spot and the customer able to place orders right away.  From a customer experience and sales perspective, it made a lot of sense.  However, it was a far cry from our standard process and being ISO certified, I had to be cognizant of the impact to our business.  I also knew this.  If I could do for one week what Ed was asking, the logical question was why not do it all the time?  (If I were Ed, that would have been my next question!).

The long story short is that we did come up with a permanent process for phoning in a customer setup.  Of course, a rep couldn’t call and say, “Hey, I just won the IBM account and want to set it up over the phone!”  There were parameters for qualified phone-in customer setups.  The process was approved by our Credit department and documented for ISO purposes.  In exchange for Ed’s request, I asked for the Sales Reps to be “certified” in the process.  They would have to go through training so the Rep would understand what my team needed in order to efficiently and successfully set up the account.  Ed agreed.  It was a marvelous win-win for everyone and we were able to set up mid-market accounts in a fraction of the time.  This accelerated our sales cycle and made raving fans of the sales reps and customers.

Partnering with your Sales Team is a must.  Be sure to both listen as well as be heard.  Good Luck!