Never underestimate your customer service reps

Integrating customer service reps with your outside sales effort is key to having a successful sales team. These people must be valued and involved and should periodically get out in the field—either accompanying regional managers on market visits or attending key trade shows.

Bob Burke

July 11, 2013

2 Min Read
Never underestimate your customer service reps

When building out your sales team, it’s important to integrate a customer service component. Vital to an organization’s sales efforts is the quality of the customer service/inside sales team. These folks:

  • Process orders

  • Solve problems

  • Coordinate pick-ups and deliveries

  • Communicate problems (e.g., out of stocks) to field sales

  • Have their finger on the pulse of the business—how orders come in re: orders of new products, changes in scheduled deals, etc.

  • Are often involved in updating forecasts and working with production scheduling.

When not on the phone with customers, these folks in smaller companies often double as sales support by:

  • Sending out sales kits and samples

  • Sending out POS and collateral materials

  • Sending out t-shirts and trinkets

  • Helping coordinate trade show participation

  • Updating sales presentations

  • Distributing sales reports and syndicated sales data

  • Telemarketing, direct mail

Integration with the outside sales effort is key to having a successful sales team. These people must be valued and involved and should periodically get out in the field—either accompanying regional managers on market visits or attending key trade shows. This helps with the putting-names-to-faces process as well as to make the job more relevant.

When doing an orientation with a new broker it’s good to bring your customer service manager or person along to explain your order policies, lead times, and procedures for order POS and support materials. In addition to meeting the brokers, they can meet their counterparts in the broker’s headquarters.

DO NOT underestimate the importance of your customer service person or persons in developing your business relationships. Buyers often spend more time on the phone with the customer service department (tracking orders, adding to orders, confirming discounts,etc.) than they do with your direct sales people. Many buyers judge a company not by the competence of its sales people, but by the response they get from your customer service team. A great customer service person or department is as important (if not more important) than a good sales person. What buyer wants to do business with a company that is unresponsive to his or her needs? I don’t care how good the sales person is at getting the order. We can’t stress enough the importance of this position in your company!


This content is excerpted from the Natural Products Field Manual, Sixth Edition, The Sales Manager’s Handbook, written by Bob Burke and Rich McKelvey. To learn more about or purchase the Natural Products Field Manual, visit the Natural Products Consulting Institute website.


About the Author(s)

Bob Burke

As a consultant since 1998, Bob Burke provides assistance in bringing natural, organic and specialty products to market across most classes of trade. This includes work in strategic planning, growth strategies, writing sales, marketing and business plans, budgeting, pricing, building distribution, broker selection and management, organizational development, strategic options, financing, branding, trade spending management and assistance around M&A, due diligence and venture strategy groups. He is also the co-author and co-publisher of the Natural Products Field Manual, Sixth Edition, The Sales Manager’s Handbook and Staking Out Space on the Supermarket Shelf. Prior to consulting, Bob was with Stonyfield Farm Yogurt for 11 years as Vice President, Sales & Corporate Development and Vice President, Marketing & Sales. He has held marketing positions with Colombo, Inc. and Sperry Top-Sider. He received an MBA from Babson College.

Bob has worked with numerous companies, including Annie’s Homegrown, Oregon Chai, Snyder’s of Hanover, UNFI, No Pudge!, Kraft Foods, Bayer Consumer Care Division, ConAgra, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Kettle Cuisine, Small Planet Foods, New Hope Natural Media, Bushes Beans, Equal Exchange, Nantucket Offshore/Stirrings, Immaculate Baking, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Dancing Deer Bakery, The Natural Dentist, Rice Select, EcoFish, PMO Wildwood, S.C. Johnson, Blake’s All Natural Foods, Megafood/BioSan, Mighty Leaf Tea, Lesser Evil Snack Co., Theo Chocolate, The Jane Goodall Institute, Kashi, Project 7, Vermont Butter and Cheese, Yoghund, Bord Bia, American Halal, Orgain, Turtle Island, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bausch + Lomb, Boehringer Ingleheim, Harbar LLC, Rhino Foods, Popcorn Indiana, Stonehouse 27, The ProBar, Hail Merry, Mamma Chia, 479 Popcorn, Heel USA, Nature’s Path, Pfizer, Cape Cod Provisions, E&A Industries, Sopexa USA, Mavea LLC, Via Sana, Skyland Foods, Ignite Sales, Dave’s Gourmet and others.

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