How we interact with businesses has changed. In a digital-first buy cycle, contact centers have become a critical determinant of customer experience and value creation. Consumer interactions have become a prime stage to upsell and make product promotions. In fact, for many organizations, their contact center is ripe to become a central sales channel. In this article we’re exploring the service-to-sales model and how you can apply it in your contact center.

In a digital-first environment, low-impact inquiries are being shifted to self-service applications leaving more complicated inquiries to agents. As a result, agents have been tasked with becoming ever-more savvy problem solvers with this increase in complicated tickets. They’re primed to find solutions and make suggestions.

For effective cross-selling and up-selling, though, your frontline agents need to be able to spot and nurture warm leads during a customer interaction. Agents need to assess the customer quickly, pinpoint their needs, and recognize when the door to suggestion swings open. Most importantly, they need to know how to seize that moment and walk the customer through the door.

But how do you train someone who specializes in service to become a salesperson overnight? Well, you don’t. Selling and serving are not mutually exclusive endeavors. Rather, they’re two sides of the same coin. And when you begin to see them that way, how to create an effective service to sales model reveals itself naturally.

Not convinced? Let me sell you on the idea…

To sell is human

In his 2017 book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, former speechwriter for Al Gore and New York Times Best Selling author several times over Daniel Pink argues that we’ve been looking at sales all wrong.

Pink states that selling isn’t about pitching or bringing others around to our ideas but instead about starting a conversation. For Pink, sales is about asking the right questions. We teach our sales teams how to answer instead of emphasizing the discovery process and explorative fruits it bears. “The ability to move others hinges less on problem-solving than on problem finding,” he writes.

In other words, success in sales doesn’t come down to the product or ideas you offer, but in the service you provide, and who better to take up that mantle than the people already providing great service for your brand? Your agents are problem solvers. The challenge isn’t to teach them how to sell, but how to sniff out customer problems before they arise and offer solutions before they’re needed.

Now that we’re on the same page about the theory behind service to sales, let’s talk about practical application. Seamlessly providing your agents with a next-best-offer scenario is easy when your system is specifically tailored to each customer. When customer information and history are in one place, you can leverage data – such as conversation and ticket history or real-time speech analytics – to present solutions.

Consumer interaction history provides agents the pretext they need to identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities as they arise. This is because data can be called upon to open the door to further information gathering. The agent can then determine the eligibility and relevance of promotional offers in real-time. Additionally, now that the data is incorporated into the system, the next department can access all of the necessary information needed to fully convert the opportunity.

When data is unified across channels and systems, agents can focus on the customer, not the sales process.

True omnichannel makes service to sales easy

Service to sales provides an operational model to drive revenue and offset costs in contact centers while enhancing the customer experience. Forward-thinking brands can increase the value their agents can provide by seamlessly transforming care interactions into upserve opportunities through personalized conversations that enhance the customer’s experience.

A true omnichannel platform will help you leverage advanced analytics to predict:

  1. How likely a customer is to make a purchase based on past encounters.
  2. Help prevent customer attrition with call recording for agent training.
  3. Decrease plant cost through increased agent productivity via asynchronous channels with as much as a 5:1 agent to customer ratio.

The digital-first focus of true omnichannel decreases the cost per interaction and seamlessly integrates upserve opportunities by allowing a greater chance for connection.

Going back to Daniel Pink, he warns that in our frantic efforts to turn a profit, we neglect how we approach the business. And that encompasses more than just our CSAT or NPS scores, but the entire spectrum of how we run our operations from training our people to making a sale. 

This is supported by McKinsey’s research on the connection between elevated customer satisfaction through appropriately timed upserving. McKinsey characterizes the comprehensive approach of omnichannel customer engagement as fundamentally solutions-oriented service—in effect going from reactive, siloed customer care to a proactive, consultative method of engaging customers.

At its core, true omnichannel engagement means identifying customers’ needs and offering solutions that amount to better experiences across different channels. Put another way: true omnichannel is the foundation of a service-to sales-model. 

Remember, in this new sales mindset we’re trying to diagnose problems and provide solutions, not convince customers to do something. Holistically, true omnichannel enables brands to improve customer satisfaction via tailored, personalized interactions. This hikes up the value-add to the customer, which makes buying more products and services an obvious outcome.

4 Tactics to Get Started with Service to Sales

True omnichannel communication

True omnichannel means thinking as expansively as possible about the customer experience. This means that your customer journey should be holistic and cohesive. Invest in hyper-growth channels like text and mobile messaging. Connect information across your entire channel ecosystem so conversations can flow freely and unencumbered. 

Equip agents with the right data

One of the biggest customer complaints is agents not knowing who the customer is upon connection. This can lead to frustrated customers and long average handle times. In a cross-channel environment, the agent has to know who the customer is, how they’ve been interacted with in the past, what they may need help with, and the ability to service them quickly. To enable that, contact center agents should be equipped with advanced screen pops, multichannel service history, and a simplified desktop that enables seamless service so they can focus on what matters. 

Boost collaboration by breaking down internal silos

To meet customers’ expectations, companies can’t rely on sales alone to close deals: they need to foster a truly collaborative effort between multiple parties who are all working toward shared goals.

By breaking down internal silos and empowering teams to work together, your whole company can execute an efficient and collaborative upservice model that puts customers at the center of everything you do. The key to this is connecting data and aligning on what success looks like across departments.

Added bonus: Tight collaboration between teams reveals opportunities that might otherwise fall through the cracks.

Measure and improve

In the digital era, new performance metrics that account for the broader customer experience are also becoming an essential part of the measurement process. A native BI capability quickly uncovers performance improvements and helps contact center managers find better ways to measure and drive 

Superior service is about fostering relationships. It’s the one thing that defines your sales activity more than anything else.

The next time you want to upsell a customer, consider upserving them instead. 


What does the “sell to serve” approach entail in customer interactions?

The “sell to serve” approach in customer interactions signifies a paradigm shift that transcends traditional sales tactics. It embodies the ethos that selling is not just about transactions; it’s about creating value-driven relationships that prioritize the customer’s needs and aspirations.

At its core, the sell to serve approach transforms agents into holistic advisors. They don’t just pitch products; they engage customers in conversations that delve into their pain points, desires, and long-term objectives. This approach cultivates an environment of trust where customers feel understood and valued.

In practice, the sell to serve approach involves active listening and empathetic understanding. Agents dive into customers’ narratives to comprehend their challenges, goals, and preferences. Armed with this insight, agents can recommend solutions that genuinely cater to the customer’s needs, enhancing their experience and building lasting loyalty.

“Sell to serve” is a seamless fusion of education and empowerment. Agents are educated not only about the products they offer but also about the impact these products can have on customers’ lives. This enables agents to articulate benefits in a relatable manner, showing customers how the product serves as a solution to their specific concerns.

Furthermore, the approach involves transparent communication. Agents must be forthright about the features, benefits, and limitations of the products they present. This honesty builds credibility and reinforces the notion that the customer’s well-being is paramount.

Ultimately, the sell to serve approach is a symbiotic relationship between sales and service. Agents don’t just aim to close deals; they aspire to empower customers through informed choices. This approach redefines success, shifting the focus from short-term gains to long-term customer satisfaction.

How does the “serve to sell” strategy impact customer relationships?

The “serve to sell” strategy is a pivotal cornerstone for building lasting positive customer relationships. This approach signifies a shift in focus from transactional interactions to fostering meaningful relationships. By prioritizing service as the foundation, agents naturally and authentically pave the way for successful sales outcomes.

The essence of the serve to sell strategy lies in building genuine rapport. Agents embrace the role of problem-solvers and advisors first, understanding customer needs and tailoring solutions accordingly. This personalized approach creates a strong foundation of trust and positions agents as partners invested in the customer’s well-being.

In practice, the serve to sell strategy emphasizes empathetic listening. Agents actively engage customers in conversations, uncovering pain points, aspirations, and preferences. This deep understanding enables agents to recommend products that genuinely resonate, transforming sales pitches into personalized solutions.

By embracing the serve to sell strategy, agents become customer advocates. They bridge the gap between customer concerns and suitable offerings, demonstrating a commitment to enhancing the customer’s experience. This advocacy reinforces the idea that customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal.

Furthermore, the serve to sell strategy fosters transparency and integrity. Agents openly discuss the features, benefits, and potential limitations of products, nurturing an environment of candid communication. This transparency builds credibility and positions agents as trusted advisors.

The impact of the serve to sell strategy on customer relationships is profound. Customers perceive agents as allies invested in their success rather than mere salespeople. This leads to stronger loyalty, repeat business, and even word-of-mouth recommendations based on positive experiences.