Can service-oriented staff really sell?

In the few years that I’ve been involved in fiVISION we have been interested in helping our credit union clients get better at cross selling. We even have some products that address this goal specifically … but, I have to say that there are some really different philosophical approaches to selling out there. Most of these discussions rotate around having staff – who are traditionally service oriented – become super sellers. Does it work?

The prevailing wisdom in the industry is that we need to provide sales training … to foster a sales culture … to position staff to be able to engage customers in a conversation that results in a sale of a new account or an expanded service. In other words, teaching staff to sell … because as we all know, sellers sell, right?


OK, I’ll admit that in some situations sales do occur because the seller was truly relentless and convinced someone to purchase a new product or service. With that acknowledgment, I’d propose to you that the poor buyer in most of these situations left the visit with ‘buyer’s remorse’. Not really one of those top-of-the-morning feelings. After all, they were not really buying something, they got sold.

About 10 years ago I participated in a networking group of CEOs and presidents of local businesses. Each month we met, discussed issues of the month and listened to an outside speaker on a topic of interest. One month that person was a fellow by the name of Jim Cecil. Jim espoused an approach called ‘drip marketing’ that involved staying in touch with clients and prospects on a routine ongoing basis and never truly pushing the sale … but always letting your target know what you could do and being available should the need arise. The essential recommendation Jim made is that when your prospect is ready to buy, you want to be top of mind.

This particular presentation formed much of my personal – and our corporate – philosophy about selling. That is: Sellers don’t sell … buyers buy.

The practical result of this influences how fiVISION addresses the topic of cross selling in our products. We believe that it is difficult (maybe I should have said impossible?) to turn great service reps and call center agents into trained sales killers. But it is entirely possible to equip them with tools and information that helps staff talk with members and prospects about products and services that would be helpful to them.

After the sale both parties in the transaction will evaluate the deal … the buyer will probably do so at an emotional, subconscious level. When this evaluation happens in the mind of your member (who just got a couple of new accounts and signed up for a review with a financial advisor) what feeling do you want them to have? If they ‘got sold’ that advisor meeting will probably never happen and the accounts might get closed within a few months. But if they ‘bought’ because what you provided helped them … then you’ve built some trust and may be on the way to establishing a long term member relationship.

When in doubt, remember … ‘Buyers Buy’