Erica Feidner is often referred to as “a force of nature”. Those who meet her find themselves in the grip of ambitions they never knew they harbored. She has a gift and those who experience it never forget it.
She is gifted, alright. But it’s nothing supernatural like mind control. She doesn’t walk around imposing her will on people. Ish.
Erica Feidner is a salesperson. She sells pianos.
It’s not often you get to deal with a salesperson who makes the experience so positive and memorable that The New Yorker runs a story about it. The reason Erica is so popular and so good at her job is that she cares about her customers. She’s there for her clients, every step of the way.
She doesn’t just offload a random piano onto her clients. She strives to find the perfect piano to match the client’s passion and personality, no matter how long it takes. In the article, the author talks about how he fell prey to her gift – how he went back day after day to play various pieces on different instruments until he found the right match, his right match, even though he didn’t go there in the first place with the intention of buying a piano. It makes you wonder. What’s so special about Erica?
Selling and customer support
The secret, I’m convinced, to Erica Feidner’s powers is that she has no secret. She just wants her customers to be successful. It doesn’t matter if they buy the least expensive piano in the store; she just wants them to love the instrument they buy. And that’s one trait you see in all great salespeople. To them, there’s no actual difference between selling to clients and supporting them.
That’s how our own sales team feels as well. When I asked them about the benefits of sales spending time of support, many were perplexed. Customer support is a very integral part of their selling process and they couldn’t see it as two different things. But we managed to isolate sales and support briefly (for the sake of argument) and here’s what they had to say:
“Support increases our patience and empathy”
Sure, every human-facing role requires patience and empathy.
But it’s only when you’re on support, working with frustrated customers, that you really start focusing on your patience and empathy levels. Every person reacts differently to different problems and the empathy you develop while supporting will help you be more mindful of the time and space a prospect needs to make a decision. You will start to understand what is at stake for the client and remove roadblocks for them without being asked.
“When it comes to selling, patience is essential because things are not going to happen overnight. Spending time supporting customers helps you develop that patience and understand what might be holding them back.”
“Support helps us sharpen our problem-solving skills”
Being on support gives sales personnel a chance to use the product the way a customer uses it. It gives you a chance to understand all the use cases and the strengths and weaknesses of the product – information that comes in handy especially when you’re trying to customize the product to suit your customer’s business.
So, the next time a prospective customer requests for a particular feature, you don’t have to settle for just passing on the request to the product team and praying that you won’t lose the sale. Dedicating a portion of your time to answering support requests will help you suggest workarounds, optimize workflows and, essentially, build a better relationship with your leads.
They’ll see you as someone who’s invested in their success as opposed to someone who’s just trying to make a quick buck.
“Support gives us deeper insights into our own business and our competitors”
If the inventor of Coca-Cola, Confederate Colonel John Pemberton, were to suddenly arise from his grave, he’d be pretty darned surprised at what’s become of his coca wine recipe. Originally intended as an alternative to morphine addiction, Coca-Cola has since then grown to be the choice of beverage for millions of people every day.
But unlike him, all you have to do to get an idea about how different customers use your product differently is be on support. Support also helps you understand how different businesses work differently. You can share insights and tips you learned from one business with others in the same industry and help them out.
Support also helps you get a better understanding of your competitor than any comparison sheet ever will. Only when customers start using the product every day will they be able to figure out the difference between your product and the old one they used for so long – information that you can use to hone your razor sharp sales pitch, speaking of which…
“Support helps us develop the right pitch”
The difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson is simple: it’s all about the pitch.
Good salespeople sell products. Great salespeople sell an experience.
When you’re armed with just theoretical knowledge about the product you’re selling, it can be hard to find what ticks with a potential customer, or what ticks them off. Your perception of your customers’ needs and their actual needs will be as different as night and day. If Erica were just a product expert, she’d have tried to sell pianos by just rattling on about how they had superior pinblocks. It wouldn’t have even occurred to her that what matters is the most is the bond between the player and the piano.
It’s only when you spend time supporting and talking to customers that you find out what the actual strong points of the product are, what features they really care about and what’s the USP of the product. It’s a great way for you to validate and fine-tune your sales pitch that impresses your prospects, every single time.
“Selling is not possible if you remove support”
A customer’s perception of the company rests on the first interaction they have with it. And that interaction, more often than not, happens to be with a salesperson. Whether they become a happy customer or bitterly part ways depends on that.
Sales teams sell not just your product but also your brand values.
That’s why encouraging your salespeople to spend time on support duty is so important. By supporting customers regularly, they get to know the right things to say to prospective customers that dispel their hesitation. Your prospects will also be able to get a good idea of the kind of treatment they can expect from you. This important period will help set the tone for the rest of the company-customer relationship, so you need to make sure that your sales reps are good support reps too.
“I feel happy when my customers remember me for a memorable experience I gave them while selling. And this would not be possible if I am not their go-to person. Selling is not possible if you remove support.”
This is truer than ever when it comes to the SaaS space where each product has hundreds of competitors with similar features and pricing. Sometimes, the only differentiator between you and your competitor could be how supportive your salespeople are.
Erica Feidner shouldn’t be an exception. She should be the norm.