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Servant Leadership: Are You Selling to Your Customers or Serving Them?

Written By: Daiten McCraw | May 2019

I recently listened to a sales podcast that noted a staggering statistic: “Only 3% of company buyers trust their sales reps.”  That’s the kind of statistic that, if you’re in sales, should keep you up at night.  So as a sales rep, how do you change that?  How can we flip the script and craft a relationship of trust with our customers? In one sentence:  We must stop selling to our customers and begin serving them.  What does serving your customers well look like? 

I follow these three steps to help serve my customers:


  1. Understand your customers’ initiatives and needs

    More likely than not, the customers you work with have strategic initiatives that they have been tasked to execute throughout a set period.  Gut check time: How many of us know what these initiatives are?  Understanding your customers’ strategic goals is paramount in making the shift to serving them well.  It shows that you care about them, that you are for them, and that you are for their success.  Digging even deeper into this, you must understand how your product or service can intertwine into supporting their strategic goal. 


  2. Understand your customers’ problem and the impact it has on them personally

    Here is where we bring everything discussed in step 1 into full circle.  Only understanding the problem your customer has is not enough.  When you not only understand the problem, but also the direct impact it has on your customer, you have the ability to craft a personal conversation around the value of your offering, and what it means to them.  People naturally want to stay away from pain.  Showcasing how your product or service keeps your customer away from that pain will help you convey the value you bring to the table.    


  3. Be OK to tell your customer that you’re not a good fit and help them find the right solution

Did I really just write that? Turn a customer away?  Absolutely. You’ve read this far so hear me out on this.  While this may feel inherently counterintuitive, it is the most crucial step in truly serving your customer well.  Let’s be honest for a second, we all believe in the products that we’re selling, and we should! But, becoming a servant leader for your customer is not only knowing who you are to them, but also who you are not.  You will most certainly come across an opportunity where your product is not a perfect solution to your customers’ problem.  When you take the posture of serving your customer, you are putting their needs above your own, meaning, you have as much skin in the game on their success as they do.  Why offer a solution that may lend them to be unsuccessful?  Instead, I would implore you to have the courage to play the long game.  Tell your customer that you’re not the best fit for their problem and be willing to help find someone else who is.  Put yourself in a position to contribute to the relationship, build trust, and be viewed as a partner.

In Conclusion:

When I think through the people that I respect the most in life, the common thread among them is that they have all poured into my life in one way or another. They are people who I trust, who I know are for me, and who I know want the best for me.  Why not take this same posture in how you work with your customers?  Shift your focus from selling to finding ways to serve and pour into them.  In doing so, you will elevate your role from being “just another sales rep” to “an industry leader and trusted partner.”