Customer Service, Sales, and the Golden Rule

Another in a series on My Journey to the Golden Rule.

My cross section of technical, service, and business interests led me to an interesting role at where I helped my programming heroes continue their work in the open source community. Building a community requires active participation by everyone. If people are visiting your site, downloading your free software, and you aren’t there to answer questions, people start to disappear. I was able to halt the slide, creating activity on the site to engage the wider programming community. I always wanted to be helpful, even if I did not know the answer, I would find someone else to help.

When I returned from Singapore, I decided to go into Sales. That surprised many people since I am not your most obvious back slapping, fast talking guy. In sales, I believed I could learn a key business skill. I was certainly right about that. I explained to my future managers how my skills in customer service and technology would help me with their clients. Since working for The Economist had been a dream of mine, my international economics understanding would also help tremendously. And I was right.

My service training had now taken deep root. I knew instinctively that I would pick up calls on the first ring as well as be an advocate for our clients within the organization. I several sales books to better understand what else I could do better to move a sale forward. What I most wanted to do, however, was help our customers. Perhaps that meant steering them to a different service, or managing the paperwork for them. Sometimes it meant working with their technical team and my technical team to resolve connection problems faster.

Our products at EIU were varied and complicated. Explaining the products to a prospect required a true understanding of what the prospect actually needed. (this also led me to believe strongly that if any person cannot easily understand your service, you are doing something wrong. It took a year to get the product pitches down.

In two years of inside sales it seemed to me that the best way to make money was to help the customer achieve their objective. Isn’t that what you would want in their situation? The best sales books explain how to help the customer explain their objectives to you so you can best explain your ability to solve that problem. Admitting you cannot solve their problem is better than taking their money, then failing. I would rather walk away from a deal I can’t make mutually beneficial than to take on a project I can’t complete. (Remember my musician client?)

Golden Rule Lesson: If you practice the Golden Rule in Sales, you will always treat your customers well if you treat them as you would want to be treated in the same situation. This includes being honest on pricing, capabilities, and timing. You only hurt yourself if you take on unprofitable projects or clients who are not good matches for what you do.

The interesting thing about practicing the Golden Rule to avoid bad projects is the prospect you worked with will respect you more. In fact, she will remember you and your capabilities very well, making it likely she will tell a friend who does need your solution.

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