I’m sitting in a hotel lobby enjoying my dinner. But I’m only steps away from the front desk. I can easily hear people checking in. What surprises me is the number of arriving hotel guests being greeted by their first name—before they hardly get in the door. There are warm hellos, how is Jane (the wife of a guest), how is your mom doing, and this goes on and on the entire time I am eating (and working!).
I can’t help but wonder—are most salespeople this engaged with their customers? Have they built the kind of relationships this front-desk staff developed? These hotel guests don’t arrive with luggage every evening. Some may check in once a week, others probably once a month or less often, but wow, this hotel has it mastered. It’s amazing to watch. I can say that I don’t recall this level of service at most establishments, much less a hotel.
While detailed instructions were being given to every (and I mean every) guest, from dinner suggestions to happy hour in the hotel bar to fitness center info to what hours the front desk staff would personally be there to help, they nailed it. It was almost as if these hotel pros anticipated the questions before they were even asked. I stay in my fair share of hotels, but what I’m witnessing at this hotel is over and above the normal check-in process. It’s magical.
Are the salespeople I work with in my daily consulting practice serving their customers this well? Here’s what makes me wonder. I hear the word servicing too often. Salespeople service the account. They take pride in servicing their accounts very well, and I suspect they do.
But the term servicing is too cold and technical. We talked about getting our car serviced or having our air-conditioning system serviced once a year. Is that the standard B2B salespeople should aspire to? I hope not. Does that word servicing set all the wrong expectations of what good client service looks like and feels like? I fear it does.
Servicing communicates things like attending to all the details, answering questions clearly, and responding promptly when contacted. Those things are important—in fact, they’re essential—but they’re not magical. They may make the salesperson reliable, but not proactive, not caring, not a preferred business partner.
The word serving sets a totally different standard. At the most basic level, it reminds the salesperson that the client is a human, not a piece of equipment, and that the human dimension of the business relationship is important (sometimes it’s paramount). Serving is as warm and personal as servicing is cold and technical.
Serving a client (even a prospect—think about it) includes activities such as:
- Understanding the client’s needs on a profound level
- Help the client identify emerging needs they may not yet have realized
- Helping the client refine their definition of a need so as to focus on different possible solutions.
- Being full of ideas, solutions, and alternatives that relate well to established needs
- Providing insights and research on relevant emerging trends
- Conveying new business opportunities
- Thinking about how to make the client’s work easier
- And yes, even knowing something about the client’s life and family, as that front-desk staff showed us so powerfully.
Are you guilty of slipping into servicing mode—instead of serving mode—with some of your clients? Call up on your screen a list of your Key clients. Look at each one and ask yourself when the last time was that you were proactive, profound, and personal. Spend 2 to 5 minutes thinking about each of those clients, and I suspect you’ll have thought of all sorts of ways to reach out and to deepen and strengthen your business relationship.
Servicing is the minimum you need to do. Serving is magical and powerful, and makes you the preferred partner for a long time to come.
NOTE: This post was originally published on April 29, 2015 and has been updated.