I’ve heard it said that it’s a sales rep’s job to promise the moon to customers, and it’s a service rep’s duty to bring customers back to earth.

As a service rep who’s had to straighten out a customer’s perception of what a machine is really capable of (more than a few times), I can understand why service reps might refer to the sales people in their companies in less than friendly terms (if you were to catch them talking openly about them, that is…).

Sales and service are often at opposite ends of a business model. For example, have you ever noticed that service departments at car dealerships are hidden in the back of the building, while car sales are proudly displayed in the front? Or that service departments and sales departments rarely occupy the same area (or often not even the same building) for products that drive field service?

It’s as if there’s an unwritten rule that states, ‘We sell and we service our products, but never at the same time, so the company will be better off if sales and service don’t mingle.’

I believe that rule should be rewritten to say, ‘If service and sales can learn to work together, a lot of money can be made.’

A clash of personalities and skills

So why have service and sales drifted so far apart? I’d put money on it having something to do with who’s drawn to each profession.

Let me explain. The typical salesperson is outgoing, driven and a ‘people person’ – the quintessential ‘Type A’ personality. They see everything as an opportunity to further their cause (which in business, is to make money).

Service reps can be Type A, too, but there’s a reason they choose to fix machines rather than to sell them. Techs view the world differently; they anticipate problems and even try to point them out before they occur, which isn’t the best way to sell the latest and greatest widget.

And why should they get along?

With two employee groups that are about as easy to mix as oil and water, what’s the harm in keeping them apart?

Nothing, really, unless your desire is to increase sales and customer satisfaction.

A service rep is in a position to be a salesperson’s best friend (or at least their best resource). They spend a lot of hours face-to-face with customers and they hear things like, ‘I wish we would have bought the upgraded model,’ or ‘We love this machine. We’re considering putting one in our New York branch, but we want to see what else is out there first.’

Besides tips on upgrades or new equipment, a tech is the first to know if a customer is unhappy with their purchase or if they’re being wooed by a competitor.

They can be the eyes and ears for a wise salesperson who knows that repeat business is much easier than a cold-call sale.

What’s in it for the service rep?

I may be a bit prejudiced coming from a service background, but I do feel that salespeople are getting the better end of the deal in this relationship.

Your techs might also feel this, which is why it might be beneficial to offer rewards (monetary or otherwise) for leads that come from field service reps.

This can incentivize techs to stay in contact with the sales department, and they won’t feel used if all they get is a ‘thank you’ for their efforts.

This doesn’t happen overnight or by osmosis

If you bring all of this up in a meeting with your sales reps, and everyone agrees that all you say is valid, but no one sets a date for a service rep/sales rep meeting, it’ll never happen.

Once a monthly meeting date is set, you’ll need to make it mandatory for your techs (there’s a chance they’ll avoid it like the plague if not).

I would also recommend designating a service manager as the leader (or co-leader) of the meeting, or it could become a sales meeting with a bunch of switched-off technicians watching and hoping it will end quickly.

Give your techs time. Once one of them gets a lead that makes them some quick extra cash, you can make the meeting optional.

I’m not trying to convince anyone that sales and service should become one happy family, but they can learn to work together when they’re both convinced of the advantages.

It will take time and a bit of creative managing, but it will be well worth it, and your shareholders will thank you when they see your profits increase.