On this day in 1969 a brilliant customer service professional and manager was born.
She doesn’t see herself that way. That may be just as well because our expertise and ego can get in the way of our effectiveness.
But that’s how I see her. And because I know how reliable her example is, I try my best to learn from it. I pay attention to what she does. I watch her. She is my sister, Amy, so I have ample opportunities to observe.
My strength, on the other hand, is selling. I haven’t met a commission plan I can’t ace, a goal I won’t reach, or a contest I won’t win in selling. I’m driven that way. I sell effectively because I meet the needs of my buyers.
Throughout our lives, Amy and I have been at odds. There’s been a certain tension. We see the world very differently. Only in recent years have I realized how complementary our differences are. As adults, I see that we are yin and yang, a concept used to describe how opposite forces are interconnected and interdependent.
It hasn’t always been that way. I think we would both admit that we have intentionally tried to be the opposite of one another just for the sake of staking our own claim to a unique quality.
Fortunately, we no longer feel the need to compete with each other. That’s why I’m able now to learn so much from Amy about true customer service. She pours herself into brightening her co-worker’s days, to doing little extras for her son’s teachers, and to going all out for her friends. She strives to deliver something helpful and uplifting to people in her life. And it carries over to customers she’s had, whether they were customers who came to her for manicure services 20 years ago (and still stay in touch with her!) or students she worked with as an academic advisor.
The more I learn about Amy-style service, the more I realize that it is impossible to distinguish service from sales. A company may have two wholly separate departments, one that makes sales and one that serves customers. Even so, the interconnection and interdependence of those activities cannot be denied.
To serve the customer is to sell a customer. As you are serving the customer, you are building trust and demonstrating your competencies. You are fostering the relationship, demonstrating that you care and differentiating yourself from others. That increases the likelihood that a customer will feel secure and positive in buying from you again in the future.
Done right, to sell a customer is to serve that customer. When you are providing solutions that truly meet the needs of the customer, you are helping them. You are serving the customer by meeting his or her needs.
If you focus too much on selling, your customers will sense that you do not care about them. I have made this mistake in the past in my relationship with my sister. I have focused, not on her needs, but on whatever idea I wanted to sell to her.
If you focus too much on serving the customer, you can also go overboard. You can begin to feel like the relationship is lopsided. You may not feel like you’re getting anything in return because you are giving so much. I think there may have been times in the past when my sister felt this way about our relationship.
The balance is about treasuring both the servicing and selling aspect of a relationship. It’s about asserting what you need to sell, and it’s about serving in a way that demonstrates you care about the other party.
Ironically, my sister decided, temporarily, to move into a sales role last year. When I went into business for myself, I paid a lot more attention to serving my customers. Somehow, I think this role reversal has helped us to understand one another better.
Of course, there are many more variables in the dynamics of our relationship. I’m giving you the short version to illustrate the importance of having a dual mindset if you are to be effective over the long-term in your relationships with your buyers. To sell well, you must serve. To truly serve, you must sell with an intent to help.
Keep Amy and me in mind if you exclusively sell or exclusively serve. Stretch yourself so you can bring in the skills and benefits of both. Your relationships with your buyers will improve, just as our relationship has improved.
Happy Birthday, Sister!