The Difference Between Selling and Service

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”  Oprah Winfrey

 Our jobs have changed. Over the past one hundred years jobs have transitioned from manual labor and manufacturing to knowledge and service based. Overall our jobs are less dangerous but in many ways regionalization and globalization have decreased job stability. Businesses and the employees only thrive when they have a competitive advantage over a wide array of competition. Service industries, those not delivering a direct product are particularly susceptible to competitors who do deliver their service in a new or better way.

I had a recent experience which highlights a facet of business that I’m particularly tuned to, customer service. An out of state client recently asked me to get a quote for the replacement of two large windows for the house he owns and rents out. In addition to them being old and inefficient, they don’t lock correctly. He wanted new vinyl windows. I wasn’t sure where to start so I typed in “replacement windows Lafayette” into Google. The first name to come up was a company that I was familiar with since I had heard their advertising on the radio. I called them first. Here is how it went.

Company 1:

I was very up front with them about who I was and what I was looking for. After taking my information down they asked me to hold while they checked their schedule.

When they came back I was asked whether I had authority to make a decision on the windows.  I said no. I was asked to hold.

They then asked if the owner would be able to come to the appointment as well.  I reminded them that the owner was out of state and that they probably wouldn’t want to make a special trip back for this purpose. (tongue firmly in cheek) I was asked to hold.

When they came back they said that they wouldn’t be able to schedule an appointment with me unless I had authority to make a decision on the spot.  With that my hair stood up on my neck.  And to think I was so close to meeting with their highly trained salesman who would have loved to put me in a beautiful set of windows on the spot! Thanks for nothing.

Company 2:

Fresh on the heels of making the first call, I called a local glass company to try my luck.  I gave them the same information and was told that the estimator was out.  I left my name, number and address and in less than two minutes I was off the phone.

I received a call the next morning and I was able to very quickly schedule an appointment.  The day of the appointment the estimator showed up 5 minutes early, made some measurements asked what I was looking for and then left. No pressure, no up sell. They were there to serve.

This experience gave me a great example of the difference between a company with a sales mentality and one with a service mentality. Zig Ziglar always said “that if you help enough people get what they want you will have everything in the world that you want”. This is so true!

I didn’t want to be pressured, or sold something.  I certainly didn’t want the pressure of evaluating a “one night only” special deal with no chance to do my research. All I wanted was to be able to get a reasonable price on a few new windows with the least hassle possible and Company 2 was able to do that for me.

Think about your purchase transactions (cars, appliances, technology etc.) and you will agree that the ones where you felt “served” were positive and the ones where you felt “sold” were not so good. I think that in order for us to thrive in our jobs we need to have a genuine attitude of service. It’s not what you can get from a situation it’s what you can give. The rewards will come.