“Common sense is as rare as genius.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays, 1844)

Most business owners mentally divide their work in half. On the one side, they put sales and marketing. On the other side, fulfillment and customer service. Often, these activities are separated physically, with different managers and divergent work philosophies. Many times, the same people do both types of work — but they handle it in two completely different ways.

I remember, for example, the case of a struggling travel agency that I consulted with. When taking incoming phone calls and booking straight airfares, the agency’s top two performers acted like customer-service reps, providing courteous, efficient service. And when they got on the phone to make outgoing calls and sell, they did only that. Never the twain did meet.

All those lost sales opportunities! Why? Because the agency didn’t want to “sell” people calling in for “service.”

Think about it. Thousands of inbound phone calls from prime customers — and not a single attempt to make a sale!

The mistake that travel agency was making is a mistake that, in one way or another, most inexperienced business people are guilty of. They think that providing their service or product is good but selling it is bad.

This is a very common prejudice: To make is good, but to sell is bad.

What is your thinking on this vital issue? Don’t feel bad if you harbor some anti-selling feelings. Most of us have been trained to think that persuasion in general and selling commercially in particular are fundamentally wrong. Pushy. Inconsiderate. Not helpful.

Let’s replace that idea — which is partly right but mostly wrong — with another one: As businesspeople, it is our job to provide more and better products and services to our customers in order to help them solve their problems and achieve their ambitions. And we should do so enthusiastically, assertively, and without reservation.

In a memo to my travel-agency client, I said the following: “When someone calls you to book a flight somewhere, you have two opportunities to make his life better. The first is to give him the right flight at the right price. The second is to send him on a trip he will appreciate for the rest of his life. If you take good advantage of one opportunity but neglect the other, you are not providing the best possible service. I assure you that every person who calls to book a business or personal trip is planning to or is dreaming about an exotic vacation. And here you are, with a basketful of exotic vacations (which you’ve put together and which afford you the profit margin you need to run a profitable business), and you are not doing anything.”

I’m serious about this. Taking an order and fulfilling it . . . without finding out how else you can help your client . . . is a major customer-service failure. Think about the business you are in and ask yourself if you are taking full advantage of every opportunity to “sell” your customer.

A business relationship is based on an expectation of mutual benefit. If you limit the benefit you provide to that which — and only that which — your customer specifically requests, you are much, much less valuable to him in the long run.

Think about how you can apply this concept to your current business or the business you are planning to start. You must develop your business in such a way that you can provide more and better products/services on an ongoing basis. And you must train yourself and your people to think about the selling process as good, not bad . . . helpful, not selfish.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.