The Sales / Service Relationship

Sales = Service = Success

Many organizations like to segment their customer service function from their sales activities.  I believe this is a mistake.

The closer you can entwine your service and sales activities, the more successful you are likely to be. After all, the customer rarely segments a sales activity from a service activity. To him or her, all your activities are service interrelated!

The formula for weaving these two activities together is to:

  • turn customer service opportunities into sales opportunities, and
  • follow up on sales opportunities to provide efficient and appreciated service.

Another way of expressing this is:  SALES = SERVICE = SUCCESS.

Some people like to argue that this expression should read “sales + service = success.” But that is where I disagree. That is the way of doing things today, with sales being one activity and customer service being another, with little or no integration.

Changing your mindset to SALES = SERVICE = SUCCESS means you understand that success comes when there is no segmentation between selling and service.

In today’s age of consultative selling, one of the best services your organization can provide is to sell a customer the right product at the right time that provides the right solution for his or her particular need.

Now that’s a true service. One that every customer is likely to appreciate.

People often ask me, “How do you know if a customer is satisfied?”

The simple, and best, answer is: ask.

Be proactive. Call and ask the customer:

“Did everything go as expected?” 

“Have we delivered as promised?” 

“Have we met your expectations?”

Staff should be encouraged to never be afraid of having to deal with problems. What if you do call up and there is a problem? Well, at least you are now aware of it, and you have an opportunity to fix the immediate problem ─ before it grows into something larger and unmanageable. And by doing so, you not only show the customer that you care about them, but that you are also willing to make sure that they are completely satisfied ─ two concerns of customers that they will value highly.

Also, not following up always results in a missed selling opportunity.

After all, when is the best time to start the next sales cycle?

Anytime the customer is satisfied with you.

So, if nothing has gone wrong and the customer is fully satisfied, that is the ideal time to start working toward the next repeat order. Or, once you have corrected any problems and have achieved customer satisfaction through your servicing efforts, you are in an ideal position to start working towards the next sale.

The Golden Rule of Selling: keep the customer satisfied, not just sold.

I see this as a 3-step equation:

1) Quality results in customer satisfaction.

2) Customer satisfaction results in repeat buys.

3) Repeat purchases lead to customer loyalty.

By weaving together your sales and service mindsets, and being proactive in your customer care efforts, you will achieve the customer loyalty levels you are seeking.

Marketing is not rocket science. In fact, marketing success really boils down to two key principles:  understanding customer needs and delivering upon the promises the organization makes. You can achieve these two principles through a full understanding of the sales/service relationship.

KEY POINT:  it is important to weave together your sales and service activities so that they appear seamless to the customer.

TAKING ACTION:  are you sales people capable of superior service? Are your service people capable of superior selling? How can you fix any gaps that exist?

How can you make your staff more proactive in their customer care activities?

How can you inculcate the mantra SALES = SERVICE = SUCCESS throughout your organization?

What steps can you implement to keep your VIP customers satisfied, not just sold?

This article is excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Corporate Image Management

The corporate image is a dynamic and profound affirmation of the nature, culture and structure of an organization. This applies equally to corporations, businesses, government entities, and non-profit organizations.

Looked at from a marketing perspective, corporate brand management needs to be an on-going, synergistic management tool, not the one-time “corporate image exercise” as practiced by so many organizations and almost all corporate identity consultants.

The corporate brand provides a mechanism for the organization to:

  • Differentiate itself from competition.
  • Create recognized added-value to the products and services marketed or delivered by the organization.
  • Attract and maintain customer relationships in order to prosper in an increasingly competitive and constantly changing global marketplace.

The corporate image also represents the highest level of brand personality and characteristics that can be created and communicated to customers and marketing partners [and hence the linkage to relationship marketing].

In today’s world of deteriorating product brand power, rising perceptions of parity products, reducing employee loyalty, and increasing competition, the corporate brand image has taken on renewed importance.

Previously, a company’s visual identity system was sufficient to project and protect the image of the organization. Today, all aspects of the corporate brand image need to be managed, from the refinement of the mission statement to how well the troops on the front line understand, communicate, and portray this mission.

Corporate image management matches the expectations and understanding of both customers and employees about what the organization stands for, where it is heading, and what its core strengths, traditions, and principles are.

The underlining principle of this discipline is simply thisif it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™

Nothing touches the customer more than how he or she perceives your corporate image. This fundamental perception will be a major factor that determines whether the customer will decide to conduct business with you and, more important, enter into a long-term and mutually rewarding relationship with your organization.

There may be no greater marketing issue than management of the corporate image in today’s increasingly competitive markets.

Without a doubt, corporate image management will be a key marketing discipline well into the future.

The ultimate battleground for winning and maintaining customer relationships now takes place in the minds, hearts, emotions, and perceptions of your customers.

KEY POINT:  the corporate image represents the highest level of brand personality that can be created and communicated to customers and marketing partners.

TAKING ACTION:  where and how can you place greater resources in winning the battle for the minds, hearts, emotions, and perceptions of customers?

Is your corporate brand giving you sufficient differentiation in the market? Why or why not?

How can your corporate brand provide added value to the products and services marketed and delivered by your organization?

What does your organization stand for? Where is it headed? What are its most important core strengths, traditions, and principles? Are these found within your corporate image, as perceived by your key constituents?

This article is partially excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in Kindle and paperback formats at Amazon.

The Value of a Good Corporate Brand

One of my favorite marketing topics is the subject of corporate image.

While I was conducting research for my first book, Corporate Image Management: A Marketing Discipline For the 21st Century, I began looking for illustrations to prove the value of a strong corporate image.

I knew intuitively that a strong corporate image would provide several levels of value to an organization ─ such as financial value, market place value, human resource value and, of course, customer value.

But how to prove this?

Well, an example from the automotive world probably best illustrates the market value of a powerful corporate brand.

In the late 1980s, Toyota and General Motors created a joint venture company in Freemont, California called New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI).

The NUMMI plant produced two identical cars: the Toyota Corolla and the General Motors Geo Prizm. These two cars were produced on the same manufacturing line, using the same raw materials, the same labor, and the same manufacturing process; basically the same of everything. In the computer world we would call these two car models “pin for pin compatible.”

The only difference between the two models was that some of them carried the Toyota Corolla brand name and some of them had the General Motors GM Prizm marque.

Being identical in all but brand name, they should sell for approximately the same price and depreciate at about the same rate, correct?

Perhaps so, but they didn’t.

The Toyota Corolla sold in 1989 for about 10% more than the GM Geo Prizm.  It then depreciated more slowly than the Geo Prizm, resulting in a second-hand value almost 18% higher than the American-branded model after five years.

Why the differences?

One has to conclude that the relative strength of the Toyota brand and corporate name, over the General Motors name in the late 1980s and early 1990s, played the first significant role. If car buyers perceived a Toyota named car to be superior to a GM car in the same model class, they would be willing to pay a higher sticker price.

But that wasn’t the entire difference, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group. The BCG study reported that the after-sales service provided by the Toyota dealer network sustained, and even boosted, the perceived edge of the Toyota name.

In other words, the corporate image management process taken by Toyota to ensure that the service departments at its dealer network wouldn’t tarnish or deteriorate the Toyota brand helped to reinforce the positive attributes of the Toyota identity.

These positive attributes had already given it an edge in the marketplace vis-a-vis a direct competitor brand manufactured in the same facility, using the same materials and labor.

This example shows the direct value of a powerful and well-managed corporate brand.

It was stories such as this, as I continued to conduct my research into the value of corporate branding and corporate image, that led me to conclude that corporate image management is one of the most powerful and potent marketing and management tools available to senior executives for the 21st century.

KEY POINT: corporate image management is one of the most powerful marketing and management tools available.

TAKING ACTION: what are your internal processes for managing your corporate brand and corporate image?

What is the weakest link in your corporate image management chain? What steps can be taken immediately to strengthen this weakest link?

What is the strongest aspect of your corporate image? How can this be further leveraged to develop market leadership for your products or services?

 

 

This article is partially excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.