How CSRs Can Aid Sales Efforts

A client asks, "For several years I've offered my customer service group different financial incentives to up- and cross- sell customers who call in.  They've participated in sales training seminars, but nothing changes. They speak with customers all day long.  How can I motivate customer service to initiate more sales oriented conversations?"

My clients ask this question frequently. In turn, I sometimes ask them, "Would someone who had little interest or talent in math major in accounting, finance, engineering or economics?" "It's doubtful," they often answer. And I agree.

Well-meaning company leaders sometimes ask the wrong group of people to take on responsibilities not suited to their personalities or skills.

Personality Traits

Customer service reps (CSR's) work with clients before, during, and after a purchase. Many speak with clients strictly post-sale. CSR activities center on enhancing and maintaining the value of the product or service purchased.  

Detail oriented and thorough, customer service reps engage in long-term relationships. Top CSR's have:

  • patience
  • a calming presence
  • the ability to pick up on subtle cues  

Most make the complex simple. The end game for CSR's: customer satisfaction.  


Many CSR's struggle in areas sales reps must excel such as:

  • bouncing back from rejection
  • asking people to make commitments
  • confidently expressing their point of view  

As a rule, CSR's spend more time reacting to calls, questions, or complaints than proactively reaching out. Asking them to convince a customer to buy additional products from your company goes against their very nature.  

Sales Rep vs. CSR Audience

Productive salespeople make sure, as quickly as possible, that they're speaking with a decision maker. Those same decision makers don't necessarily call customer service regularly. That might be left to an admin or end users.  

In certain cases, you might be asking customer service reps to up- or cross- sell to individuals who never make those types of decisions.

Play to CSR Strengths

Good listeners by trade, most CSR's gather information accurately. As a group, they tend to follow company procedures. Given that, request that they ask questions, gather information, and then pass that lead or information on to the appropriate salesperson.

Offer them bonuses when the salesperson closes a deal based on information or a lead received from a CSR.

Provide the Questions

If your company sells more than one product or service, coach the CSR's to ask:

  • According to our records, you regularly purchase Product A.  What does your company use / need / manufacture in the area of ...?

If your company provides only one product or service, have the CSR ask:

  • Would any other department use / have a need for ...? OR
  • Do you have offices / divisions in any other areas?

Stop there. Don't require anything else of them.  They ask the question, type in the response, and pass the information on.

Next steps involve proactively asking the customer to do something. Most CSRs don't have that skill set.

Untapped Value

When a CSR asks a customer what their needs are in the area of XYZ, the customer may respond by saying, "You've got me. That's Jane Smith's area."  

For all you or anyone else at the company knows, the sales rep may have been trying for months, through LinkedIn or networking, to figure out who was in charge of that area.  Finally, they have the right name.

Win / Win

Tap into the potential of the customer service reps by asking them to reach out to the customer in a way that makes them comfortable.  Let the sales rep take the lead or information and do what they do best.  

When a CSR receives a bonus for asking a question and passing the information along they'll be motivated to do it more often. Why not? They're good at it.