November 11, 2006
We keep an eye on the sales employment ads so we are informed of trends in the market. I came across an ad that was innocuous enough in its title. Then I read the opening sentence:
This is a job in our Customer Service Department that can lead to an outside sales position at our company.
What does customer service and outside sales have to do with each other? Nothing…that is the problem. We have seen this trap before with some of our customers. The skills and aptitudes required for effective customer service are markedly different than the skills and aptitudes required for successful outside selling.
This situation is exasperated by the initial customer service path. Think of a new employee who begins as a customer service representative. They become acquainted with answering the phone, doing the customer’s bidding, checking orders and answering customer questions.
Once they have developed those abilities, the sales manager will then ask them to step into an outside sales position. There they will be asked to cold call prospects, get past gatekeepers, convince strangers to consider their solution and ask questions of the prospects. As you can see, these two positions require completely different skill sets.
Typically, you will either hire a good customer service rep who will not be a successful salesperson. Or you will hire a good salesperson who will be a terrible customer service rep. Either approach is high risk, low reward.
If you need a salesperson, hire a salesperson. And please, do not use customer service as a sales training department.