I’m sure you hear it a lot. “I’m not in sales. I do customer service, IT, operations, HR, etc.” At the end of the day everyone is in sales. But I didn’t always understand what that meant. Are we still holding grudges against the used car salesmen of old or is it the telemarketers who disturb our dinners? I have come to view sales as the ability to speak authentically about something you believe in.
Each and everyone of us exists to solve someone else’s problem. It might be as simple as giving a status on an order, or resolving a customer complaint to as complicated as designing or developing a complex product or service. You still have a customer you are serving and you still desire to do the best job you can (or I hope you do). Every one of these interactions are a “sale.” You are talking through a problem and identifying tangible steps to take to resolve it with the best time and resources you have available.
I credit my time at Soundpath for this enlightenment. This was a business, created by lawyers to service law firms. The founder knew her market and the pain that conferencing and conference call billing caused for these firms. Prior to establishing the business she reached out to her connections and asked about their pain points. Her vision was always to create a business that took the inconveniences of implementation, training and billing away from the law firm administrators. Sometimes this meant that we had to admit we made a mistake and work with the client to resolve the issue, and rebuild that trust.
The first iteration of what ultimately became our customer portal was simple but not particularly pretty. But it solved an immediate pain. We continued to work with law firms and their billing vendors to understand their systems and design our products to better serve our clients. I can say by the end of it, every feature of that application was attributed to a specific pain of our customers. I know this because they told it to me and my team. There was a time that I could name the IT administrator would raised the inquiry and led us down the path of finding a solution. I have been away from it for several years and can still recall a few. How many can say your product was built 100% based on customer feedback?
We layered products and services over core data and processes to solve immediate needs. I could comfortably and with confidence speak about our what our company had to offer. I had established the relationships to take new ideas to our customers and ask for their input. They valued my opinions and asked for best practices. To me this is sales.