Product Management

Sales Axiom: Sales is not customer service

Being in sales is an interesting experience. So much of it is about self perception and perception of others. I have worked for my whole career with sales people, and often shook my head at some of the reactionary behavior, but having been in the seat myself now for over a year, I can see how the mind starts to play tricks on a person.

Here’s a big one to get over: Sales is not the same as customer service. (Corollary: The customer is not always right.)

Quite often the customer calls up looking for information. They’re researching the market, looking for information, looking for prices, educating themselves. That is fine and normal, but you must realize that when they are talking with you, you are funding their education. What are you getting in return?

Many of my friends in sales are hyper-responsive to customer requests. “The customer is always right …” … “The customer asked for X, I am going to give them X …”, and the good ones will even throw a popular PM-line right back at you: “Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant!” (you can buy the mug here).

There is no question that the customer’s goals and problems need to be understood. Of course they do. No one buys anything without a problem or a goal, even if that goal / problem is as basic as satisfy the discomfort created by envying the product.

But it is an entirely different thing to say we give customers exactly what they ask for… we don’t! And neither do we give it to them for free.

In the next few posts I’ll dissect this issue further. Stay tuned.


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