When You Service What You Sell

customer with mechanic looking at bicycle in work shop
Mikael Vaisanen/Getty Images

Can you imagine that you accept a position selling cars at your local auto dealer and, a few hours into your training on your first day, your boss glances at her watch, and says, "It's time you head over to service. You need to get trained on oil changes and air conditioning repairs this week."

"What are you talking about?" you respond. "I'm in sales, not in service."

"Around here, our sales team does both sales and service.

Nothing too complicated, however. Just the basic repair work."

While being expected to be both an auto sales professional and auto service technician may be a bit of a stretch, many in sales are expected to service what they sell. And when you have to wear two hats, making sure that your skills are sharp for both parts of your job is a serious challenge.

An Example of Sales Doing Service

While the sales industries that employ sales professionals that also provide customer service are many, one industry that has seen a rise in these dual roles lately is the IT industry. Like the example in the introduction, sales reps in the IT industry may not be expected to set up an entire network, configure firewalls and restructure an email server, they may be expected to set up, troubleshoot and configure end user equipment. 

It is becoming more and more common that a sales rep who sells a computer (or a fleet of computers) to be expected to set up, install and possibly train the end user on the computers.

And if and when something goes wrong with the computer(s) don't be surprised if the sales rep is the one showing up to make things right again.

There are other industries that you'll find the line between sales and service blurry if not completely erased and the reasons behind this trend are twofold.

 

Closer to the Consumer

In most industries that have a product that requires service, the service department is often associated with customer service. This implies that those in service provide a tangible and direct benefit to a company's customers. It can then be assumed that those not in service are not in customer service as well.

Sales professionals who present themselves to prospects and customers as being "part of the customer service team" may not only be able to avoid the negative public image that many hold about sales reps, but may also be seen as more trustworthy and more valuable in their customer's eyes.

Cost Savings

Another reason why companies may choose to have their sales and service employees blended is to save money. If a company can hire someone who can both sell products to customers and provide service when those products are in need of repair, the company can save the expense of having two employees on the payroll.

 Your Strong Suit

If you are hired in a dual role, your main challenge will be to make sure you don't spend too much time in either role. Your tendency will be to gravitate towards the role you are either more comfortable with or are better suited for.

If, for example, you feel your skills set is more aligned with the service world, you need to make a conscious effort to spend enough time, each day, improving your sales skills and actually meeting with customers on sales calls.

Conversely, if sales is your preferred area, commit to learning more about the unique set of skills required to provide exception product servicing.

Conclusion

While you may never be in a position where you are clearly expected to be both sales rep and service tech, don't be surprised if you are expected to provide at least some direct service for your customer's products. The days of a copier sales person, for example, who has to call for service when a customer's copier has a troublesome paper jam are over.

Sure, some of the service you may provide will be very basic, but that doesn't mean the services you provide aren't important enough (to you and your customer) to make sure your servicing skills are sharp.