The Salesperson Represents the Team

March 20, 2013 12:00 AM

FrankLeeIt was late Friday afternoon when Jim, a salesperson at a dealership, got a call from an irate customer who had a  problem with a piece of equipment that Jim had sold him a few weeks earlier.

"Don’t worry," Jim said, "I’ll connect you to the service department. They will take good care of you."

The customer responded, "I didn’t buy from your service department, I bought from you!"

Jim was stunned. He immediately apologized and said he would take care of it. He worked with his service department late into the evening getting the piece repaired, checking in with the customer regularly to let him know how the job was progressing.

Dave, another salesperson, had just completed a sale. He told the customer he would now introduce him to the service manager who would be able to handle all his service needs. His customer looked at him belligerently and told him, "I didn’t buy from your service manager. I bought from you!"

What do you prefer? I know a salesperson who prefers his customers to call him when they have a problem so he can handle this with his service department and make sure the matter gets taken care of. He feels he keeps control of the customer. Other salespeople told him they didn’t have time to do that; they were too busy selling. He pointed out he sold more than all of them and he still found time to take care of his customers’ problems.

Some salespeople say they prefer the customer to go direct to the service department because they feel the service department is in a better position to help them. They feel their acting as a middleman hurts rather than helps.

While some would prefer that the customer go direct to the service department, they don’t trust their service department to treat customers right. So they act as the middleman.

What do you prefer?

Why do customers react this way? A few are just plain difficult and want to dominate the salesperson’s time. A few have had bad experiences with the service department. Most simply want to know that they will be taken care of and they trust the salesperson to do that.

When they say, "I bought from you," they are actually complimenting the salesperson. Rather than viewing this as a negative, the salesperson can capitalize on the customer’s trust by responding in a professional manner.

How do you respond? Recently, a salesperson asked how he should respond to a customer who tells him, "I bought from you!"

Here’s what I told him.

"No, Mr. Customer, you did not buy from just me. You bought from me and my team. Without them, you probably would not have bought from me at all. I bring a team of specialists to you and your business. My parts team will make sure you get the right parts as soon as they can. My service team members are perfectly situated to handle almost any service situation. My technology team can teach you how to use and get the most from the technology that you just bought. This is why you’re lucky you didn’t buy just from me but from me and my team."

You must trust your team. Of course, you must trust your dealership team, and they must trust you. This is where problems begin. Salespeople often tell horror stories about how their service department upset a customer who swore he would never do business with them again. They have told me about service managers who do not follow up with their customers and parts people who mess up customer orders.

"How often does this happen?" I ask.

They swear it happens all the time. But, when pressed, they admit it happens only occasionally. When it does happen, the consequences are so traumatic they imagine it happens many more times than it actually does.

They agree their service department gets things right many more times than they mess up. For every mishap there are likely to be a hundred things they do right. For every disgruntled customer there are a hundred who love them. They must trust their team members and be more understanding when they occasionally make a mistake. After all, they make mistakes too.

It’s the team! The better the team, the more sales a salesperson will make. Take the team away and the salesperson will struggle. We should be proud of our teams and we should make the customer proud of our teams too. 

Frank Lee is an author and sales trainer who specializes in the ag equipment industry. You can subscribe to his free monthly Ezine for Managers, a newsletter sent via e-mail. To receive it, e-mail and put "subscribe" in the subject line.

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