Sales and customer service reps face similar challenges. After all, the modern buyer is also the modern customer: Self-reliant, sophisticated, and eager to do her own research.
According to a 2016 HubSpot Research report, more than half of salespeople say buyers have become more independent in the past few years.
Meanwhile, CEB found almost 58% of customers who call support try to first resolve their problem by themselves.
One of the unexpected consequences of the similarities between sales and support? A sales rep can take inspiration from the most effective lines in a support rep’s arsenal. If you’re a salesperson, borrow the following five phrases.
1) “That sounds challenging.”
A customer typically contacts the support team when she has an issue or hard-to-answer question. By the time a rep picks up the phone or responds to her message, she’s probably frustrated.
If the rep treats the customer’s problem like it’s minor, her frustration will increase. But if he empathizes with her situation, she’ll feel validated -- which will improve her overall experience, not to mention make her more patient.
Along similar lines, prospects are usually sharing sensitive or private information about their business, priorities, and personal goals with salespeople. Showing empathy humanizes the interaction, boosts their trust in you, and positions you well to share advice.
Let’s suppose the buyer says, “The CEO has asked my team to double our output while maintaining or decreasing the current percentage of defects.”
You could reply, “That sounds challenging. What’s your plan for accomplishing that?”
In a mere three words, you show your prospect you’re on their side. They’ll feel comfortable enough to keep opening up.
2) “[Repeat question]. That’s an excellent question, I just made a note and will follow up [by X time].”
Support reps are trained never to say, “I don’t know.” After all, it doesn’t benefit the customer to hear about the rep's lack of knowledge. This response is unproductive and often irritating.
Instead of saying they don't know, great reps repeat the question and commit to resolving it as soon as possible. Salespeople should use a similar reply when faced with tricky questions.
For example, you might say, “Does our portal offer two-factor authentication? Excellent question. I’m going to check in with our product team and shoot you the answer by tomorrow morning.”
Because you’ve offered a clear plan of action and a deadline, the prospect will feel grateful rather than annoyed. You’ll also maintain your status as trusted advisor -- despite being in the dark.
3) “We’ll be offering [that product, service, feature, function, etc.] in [the future, X period of time, when Y happens]. I’ll make a note in your file that you’re interested.”
When the customer requests an unavailable item or feature, the support rep doesn’t use negative language. Phrases like, “That’s not currently in stock,” or “I can’t get that for you” are conversational dead-ends.
For that reason, reps usually flip their statements to sound positive. One might say, “We’ll be restocking that product in two months,” or “I’d be happy to get you that feature as soon as it’s out of beta.”
The same concept applies in sales. When your prospect asks for something you can’t provide at the moment, don’t shut them down.
Instead, give them a timeline for when you’ll be able to grant their request, offer a different way to achieve the same goal, or explain why their ask may be unnecessary.
Take a look at this sample dialogue:
Buyer: “Can you deliver shipments in two weeks?”
Rep: “We use a single manufacturer, which means our shipments occasionally take 12 days. The difference in quality makes up for that, however -- none of our customers have returned a unit in the past 20 years.”
4) “That’s a great question. So I can give you the most accurate answer, would you mind answering a few quick questions first?”
Support reps try to identify the “why” behind every customer’s inquiry. They want to address the customer’s ultimate objective or complaint rather than simply treating the symptoms. It might mean a longer call now, but the customer won’t need to call again in the future.
To get to the heart of the matter, reps have to probe. Similarly, salespeople shouldn’t prescribe a solution before understanding their prospects’ situations, desires, and needs.
Next time the buyer immediately wants to get down to brass tacks, say something along the lines of, “We can definitely talk about [pricing, that function, etc.] So I can provide you the best recommendation, would you mind giving me some context into [topic] first?”
5) “You’re not the first person with this question.”
It’s usually not enjoyable for customers to admit they can’t figure out an issue or find the information they need. With this simple statement, a support rep can restore the customer’s pride and ease their sense of helplessness.
Salespeople can borrow this line to help prospects feel better about their obstacles and challenges. For example, imagine the buyer says, “Our customer satisfaction rate was abysmal this quarter.” You’d reply, “I’ve worked with a lot of companies that describe the same thing. Zeron, who sells to a similar market, said … ”
As an added benefit, this type of statement gives you more credibility. Your prospect implicitly trusts you more when they know you’ve helped other companies in their space.
Use these five statements during your sales calls, and your prospects will respond favorably.