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Will salesforce automation (SFA) software that can up-sell and cross-sell replace the sales rep?

Learn Liz Roche's advice for using salesforce automation (SFA) software in the call center as part of your sales strategy in this expert tip.

Do you think that call centers can become a one-stop shop for all customer service interactions, including sales? Since the 'Do not call' lists were implemented, our company has tried to get customer service agents to do more selling, and we have had some success. Will salesforce automation (SFA) software that can profile customers demographically and automatically suggest up-sells and cross-sells to the customer eventually replace the sales reps for a midmarket company? What's your take on this?
I think it depends very much on the type of business you're in. Not all businesses are conducive to inside sales channels. What is the revenue breakdown between brand new and existing customers? And who penetrates those brand new accounts? By the way, I'm very glad to know that you've had some success transforming your customer service department from being purely reactive to taking a more proactive role in cross-sell/up-sell.

Let's talk about hunters vs. farmers for a moment since it's important not to "design out" appropriately obtaining...

new customers. Hunters are those people who are responsible for bringing in brand new, green-field business. Farmers are those people who sell into existing accounts (your customer service function is a great example of this). The disposition of a hunter is radically different from that of a farmer, and we find that individuals tend to favor one function or the other. It's less common to find someone who is equally as good at (or as happy with) both functions. Organizations that proactively solicit new customers will have a hunting function whether it's explicitly stated as such or not. And technology that recommends cross-sells/up-sells based on customer profiling will not replace someone going out and finding new customers.

So back to your question -- will customer service call centers subsume sales? Well, hunters can certainly operate via the telephone. They may even sit in a customer service center. And farmers can certainly sell into existing accounts during the course of an inbound customer service interaction (as evidenced by your success). But hunters are fundamentally not farmers, and thus I believe that while the call center infrastructure may enable a sales rep to pick up the phone and use it, the customer service function will not replace sales.

This was last published in December 2006

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