I was introduced to sales in an era when understanding the psychology behind the sale was considered the key to successful selling. I was trained to manipulate prospects to “make” the sale and I was good at it. Eventually, I trained others how to do this. As I advanced my career, I began to focus on ethical corporate behavior—improving customer service, employee benefits, and vendor relations by serving others. It took me some time to realize the best way to sell was to serve.

What Does Your Customer Want?

As a consumer, what do you expect from any provider? I’d guess the answer is something along the lines of service, honesty, and quality—not manipulation, sales tactics, or false promises. Your customer is looking for the same things. Whether you’re looking for someone to service your truck or marketing multi-million dollar products to B2B’s, it’s not very different. People want service, honesty, and quality. They want their best interests to be considered, they want to be advised, and they want their problems solved. They want to be served… not sold.

How Can You Serve?

Let me first say why you should serve and it’s not only because it’s the right thing to do, it’s because it’s often the best sales approach in today’s market. Consumers have a voice and they’re being catered to in segmented markets by B2B, B2C, and nonprofits. They expect more. They want to be heard and they’ll leave you in the dust if you don’t listen.

Don’t over-promise just to get a sale. When you under-deliver you create an expectation of failure. Your customer will watch and critique every minuscule action you take. This usually doesn’t end well and it’s a negative drain on your operation as it spirals down.

Listen to the customer’s needs. Don’t sell what you have; sell what they need, and if you don’t have it, get it. If you can’t get it, send them where they can get it.

Deliver the best possible product. I know that sounds trite, but it’s true. Don’t reduce the quality of your product or service to meet or beat a price. If you need to reduce your price, cut overhead. And if overhead can’t be cut—wouldn’t you rather explain your product’s price once than apologize for its quality forever?

Go the extra mile. Look for other ways to serve your customer besides your product and service. Where do you excel? What can you share? Conduct free seminars, go to your customer and give a presentation, open your conference room to your customers, hold an open-house, write a guest blog, help someone new to social media… the possibilities are endless.

Who do You Serve?

Embracing service as a method of selling leads to loyal customers, referrals, and brand advocates. People have always trusted their friends’ opinions more than advertising, marketing, or sales. And today, we’re connected to our friends more than ever. We know where they shop via Foursquare, we see the products our friends enjoy posted on Pinterest, and we read reviews on Yelp. We know who our friends trust. They trust those who serve. Do you serve or sell?