Ambidextrous Professionals Increase Customer Satisfaction and Sales Performance
By Tom Larkin
Market data continues to demonstrate that service drives business sales. Many businesses however, continue to employ sales professionals who are trained only to sell. What happens when they are trained to sell AND provide service?
Ambidextrous professionals are described as sales employees who perform both sales and service skills. They can juggle supportive, service-based, empathetic behavior along with directive, proactive questioning skills to achieve sales targets and positively influence customers.
Why Does the Ambidextrous Strategy Work so Well?
People have become increasingly weary of traditional selling behavior and are more likely to buy when they feel they're not being sold to.
Suppose a call comes through to a customer service professional at a restaurant supply company. The customer, Mr. Batali, is looking to repurchase for the coming year. A professional trained only to sell may complete the sale by asking how many cookware sets he would like to purchase. An ambidextrous professional, however, might engage with him further: "Mr. Batali, you ordered 68 cookware sets last year. Did that work well for you? Do you anticipate any changes in your business in the coming year?" Mr. Batali is more likely to develop a positive impression from the customized service he received from the ambidextrous professional.
Challenges of Becoming Ambidextrous
Many organizational sales models pose challenges for incorporating service as a key objective for sales teams. For starters, organizations hire service professionals for their customer-oriented skills and, separately, hire sales professionals who are proficient at selling. There is an existing perception that sales is not compatible with service. What's more, many policies and procedures taught during training and reinforced in daily work also keep professionals focused on their respective objectives: serving OR selling — not both.
A shift toward an ambidextrous approach creates opportunity for individual, as well as overall business goal, development. Here are some initial steps toward working with professionals to develop ambidextrous skills:
- Engage your leaders by using strong data and rationale for change. Analyze all touch-points that will be affected.
- Align managers across customer service, training, sales and quality assurance teams. Educate them with data and rationale for change. Seek their buy-in and provide them with an action plan that can engage their associates.
- Deliver training and consistent follow-up. Keep initial training focused on developmental coaching and modeling of the desired behaviors. Provide realistic examples, models and toolkits for learning support. Ensure all professionals are clear about new quality standards before performance assessment.
Benefits of Being Ambidextrous
As with any organizational change management, strong attention to strategic direction should be given prior to tactical implementation and measurement of results. Above and beyond the two key benefits of increased customer satisfaction and sales performance, organizations may also enjoy improved processes and efficiencies as well as higher rates of employee retention. Exceptional service contributes to sales, and relationship selling serves prospective and current clients. Using this ambidextrous strategy to focus on long-term interests with customers will help create long-term relationships that will improve your business results.
Tom Larkin is president, CEO and co-owner of Communico Ltd. and has more than thirty years of experience as a consultant, coach, facilitator and business owner. He is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® and is also a part-time professor at Fairfield University.