Sales vs. Customer Service: The Great Debate

There’s an internal struggle that has been silently waging within many businesses for decades: sales vs. customer service. Companies often find themselves having to choose which to put more of an emphasis on, the bottom line or the happy customer.


Orlando businessman Joel Goldstein believes the answer to this great debate is obvious. One of the first changes he made when he took over as President of Mr. Checkout Distributors, a national network of distributors who service over 35,000 stores, was changing the focus from sales to customer service.


“I want everyone in this company to think ‘how can I make the client happy?’ not ‘how can I close this sale?’” Goldstein says. “If the client is happy, the sales will follow.”


Goldstein just might be on to something. Sales teams are used to hearing the famous “always be closing” sales mantra that focuses on making the deal at all costs. But, more sales leaders are beginning to adapt to the newer sales mantra, “always be helping.” In fact, HubSpot made news earlier this year with the headline “Always Be Closing is Dead: How to Always Be Helping in 2016.”


What gives? Customers are no longer looking for just a product or service, instead they want an experience. The “always be helping” mantra places a value on authentic relationships with the client, and teaches salespeople to steer clear of overly aggressive sales pitches that tend to do more harm than good. Salespeople are taught to learn about the client and only pitch when the product or service is a good fit. Essentially, it is in favor of customer service as opposed to sales.


How can your business shift to an always be helping mentality? Goldstein found success by improving communication with customers.


“Customers want transparency and open communication,” Goldstein states. “You should be engaging in two-way conversations with your customers at all times. Focus more on listening than talking so you can make sure you are satisfying every one of their needs.”


But, don’t expect the change to happen overnight. A sales-focused company will have no problem finding salespeople who are qualified to push clients until they cave in and sign a deal. But, training your sales team to practice the “always be helping” approach is much trickier.


Sales teams must be empowered to make decisions without consulting with upper management so they can easily and quickly give the customer what he wants. Your sales team must also be more informed about the product or service they sell than ever before so they can confidently answer any questions that arise. Although making the shift from sales to customer service does require training, the efforts will pay off in the long run.


“Our customers know we’re not selling for the sake of selling,” Goldstein explains. “When we pitch something to them, they know we have their best interests in mind. Our relationships with our customers are stronger and more profitable as a result of the shift.”