customer support sales opportunity

Why Customer Support Can Be a Secret Sales Weapon (and Where to Start)

Daniel WeissLast updated on September 7, 2023
4 min

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“Sell me this pen.”

Leonardo DiCaprio’s demand at the end of Wolf of Wall Street illustrates a truth about sales. The objective is to create a scenario where a lead sees the pen (and its provider) as a means to a greater goal.Customer support sales

Once that relationship is established, selling becomes infinitely easier. Unfortunately, most companies still only have a single department dedicated to capitalizing on that advantage.

Why Sales is Hard for Sales Professionals

Competition is an essential part of any business. To lead this critical charge, we send in the cavalry — we employ a sales team.

The problem is, the cavalry has a pretty bad reputation working against it. They’re viewed as fast-talking tricksters who don’t know the product very well and only care about their next booking. Support agents, on the other hand, have the benefit of starting conversations without the burden of such stereotypes.

1. Sales has to build relationships from scratch

The hardest part of any sales operation is building a solid working relationship with a complete stranger. Lead nurturing — the process of establishing brand familiarity and trust — takes social tact, multiple contacts, and a significant amount of time.

Support agents, on the other hand, have an advantage. The hardest part is over (thank you Sales) and every conversation begins from a place of familiarity.

Furthermore, sales reps need to learn about leads through hours of research and inquiries. If your team is using a competent CRM or helpdesk software, all this ground-work is accessible and ready to use. It’s as if your support agent were eavesdropping on every sales conversation. They’re ready to jump in and take over at any moment.

2. Sales approaches leads when their guards are up

Nobody wants to be a sold to, and everyone knows the ultimate purpose of a salesperson. As a result, offers of new products, additional features, and larger subscriptions are often met with skepticism.

Savvy modern sales reps are adapting to this reality by positioning themselves as consultants. The idea is, “I’m here to help you achieve your goals, not fuel my own ambitions.”

Customer Support Survey

Support, however, has the benefit of naturally being a designated source of assistance. That is to say, support is contacted by the client when they are in need. Customers are open to helpful and realistic suggestions when their conversational defenses are lowered.

3. Sales only sees half the equation

A good sales rep knows the product well, but nobody knows the product like the support agents. They’re the ones who stand by the product for better or worse. They know the product when it’s at its best, and they’ll clean up the mess when it’s behaving erratically.

Knowledge sells a product, and support reps have more hands-on experience than almost anybody within an organization.

If a customer reveals a potential shortcoming, support has the power to address the issue head-on and find a potential workaround. This type of honesty and empathy fosters more genuine relationships and opens the door to future business. Sales teams, on the other hand, may reflexively avoid any conversation that reflects negatively on a product, making this type of relationship difficult to cultivate.

Simple Ways to Sell (Without the Slime)

It cannot be overstated: Selling should never be your support team’s priority. Providing customers with an outlet to share feedback and seek solutions is still the primary goal. Offers should only take the form of recommendations that serve to improve a customer’s unique circumstances.

That means no high-pressure tactics. Your customer is looking, first and foremost, to solve an immediate problem, not take on a new expense. But if an upgrade or addition helps to solve the problem at hand, or even prevent it from ever happening again, it should be promoted.

(One last word of caution: Never sell to an angry customer. Satisfaction and/or stable blood pressure are only relevant objectives in such a scenario.)

If the customer is in a generally amicable mood, successful sales pitches are extremely personalized. When attempting to upsell a client, support agents should continue their current best practices: listen, empathize, and aim for 100% satisfaction.

Support reps should be cautious not to “overdo it” on the pitch. Mentioning one or two opportunities for improvement — unique to a specific customer’s situation — are enough to pitch an idea without sounding slimy.*

*Industry term

When upselling feels forced or unnecessary after analyzing a client’s needs, it’s best to wait. If an upgrade seems possible in the near future, agents can jot down notes for the sales team to use at a later time. Again, knowledge and communication close deals!

Prepare for Success

In order to sell from the support desk, agents have to be granted the authority to sell. This could mean additional training in the software used by your sales team, and the freedom to occasionally improvise and go off-script.

Selling also has to take root in team culture. When your employees’ incentives are based on the idea of maximum-efficiency, revenue opportunities will be put aside in favor of more immediate goals.

Ultimately, successful selling comes down to personal interactions with the right people at the right time. If that perfect storm materializes during a support interaction, your company still needs to be ready. By preparing support agents to “seize the moment,” you won’t let valuable sales opportunities slip away.

Published on April 6, 2018.

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