Change your approach to both to make a massive impact, says Bob Morrell, managing director of Reality Training

A few years back when we were booked to deliver sales training, it wasn’t unusual for clients to say; ‘Yes, we want sales training but can you call it service training?’ They thought that there was something slightly unsavory or unethical about training people to sell things. Some people thought that selling was actually dead and that all customers need is to be helped to make a selection (that’s selling).

Now, in more competitive times, especially in travel, that ability to sell is more important than ever. Not to con people, not to manipulate them – but to sell, positively, the right solution for them, using sales skills. However, many struggle to see themselves as a salesperson – they think they’re service people – providing a distinct service which by some magic ends up in sale. So what is the difference between the two? Not a great deal – but let’s be specific so that everyone knows where they are.

• Selling is definitely aimed at new customers and regular customers.
• Selling is almost always targeted
• Selling is judged in terms of customer satisfaction and NPS.
• Selling can begin pre-booking in the research stage
• Selling can take place through enquiries and calls after the booking has been placed.
• Service is mostly aimed at all customers once they have transacted.
• Service is almost never targeted.
• Service is also judged in terms of customer satisfaction and NPS
• Service is used with pre-travel queries
• Service is often used pre-travel and post travel.

Here are the key points:

If you were targeted in your service conversations, then you would naturally sell more. There’s a concept for discussion – why do we measure conversion and transaction values for our sales conversations but never measure our service conversations – or take in to account the time spent on service conversations instead of sales? Bizarrely, we’ll measure satisfaction and NPS on service conversations – and yet they’re largely discounted when considering our overall performance.

Selling to a target is a common strategy. You may like to consider dropping targets for a month or two. Risky? Not really – just strike a deal so no-one loses out, and say, there’s no target, just sell as much as you can. You’ll be amazed at the results because most targets are not stretch targets – they are limiters on performance.

Remove the limiter and people perform with more focus and less restrictions. Plus, how do you set a target? We get asked to consult on target setting and we always say the same thing – ‘Over the next 3 years some months will be much worse than you thought and some will be much better. And a few will be about what you thought.’ Then we advise them to forget about targets and focus on the conversation.

If you have people making ‘service’ calls then you’re missing an opportunity. Surely, when the customer calls in with a query we can also see that as a chance to sell them something else? If they call in with a complaint and we handle it well, isn’t that a way to lock them in for future bookings? If we let people know their tickets are here for their holiday shouldn’t we sell them some travel insurance at the same time? Because by doing so we not only make some money for ourselves but we deliver a much better service to our customers, through selling them something else.

Sales and Service are a blurred line that amounts to the same outcome and changing our approach to both will make a massive impact on our results.