Sales through service: turn your service employees into trusted advisers

In a nutshell…

  • When customers trust you, they will buy more.
  • Turn your service employees into trusted advisers, and they will help your customers buy more from you.
  • Product knowledge, combined with listening, builds customer trust.

In this post, I share an experience of how a complete stranger behind a cash register in a shop in Athens very quickly became my trusted adviser.

The impact? I bought more and I am telling thousands of people about him. You are just one of them!

What did he do?

Let me explain.

A visit to Athens

I was in Athens attending our annual TMI World Congress. It was getting to the end of my trip and I wanted to buy some Greek delicacies for people back at home to sample.

So, I headed to the city.

Sure enough, I found a shop that specialised in selling Greek food for tourists just like me – olive oil, loukoumi, honey, halva, biscuits, chocolate- and many more, in different varieties.

Too much choice…confusion.

I browsed the shelves for a few minutes. There were lots of choices, and lots of choices within those choices – foods that I did not know, different brands, different prices. Brain overload soon set in.

There was a man sitting behind the cash register. I explained to him that I wanted to bring some food home, that I did not know what to buy. I explained that I wanted to do a tasting of the food for 13 people, so I needed to have the right amount.

We exchanged a little bit of small talk. He explained how his family has owned this business for some generations.

Building trust in seconds

I brought a box of Greek loukoumi (a chewy candy) to him. He told me that there would not be enough pieces in this box for my needs. Pointing to another shelf, he said, “I suggest that you buy that brand. It’s just as good as the one you have chosen, and it’s cheaper.”

There is a moment when an interaction with a complete stranger turns into something different. In a matter of seconds, this man turned from a shop keeper in a Greek food shop to John, my trusted adviser.

I continued browsing.

Trust builds sales

“John, what about this halva?” I asked.

“Try that one, it is better value for what you want”, he replied.

I checked, and sure enough, he was right.

The conversation then went something along these lines over a period of 15-20 minutes…”John, what about the honey…the biscuits, the olive oil….”

In each case, John made it easy for me. He took away my confusion by advising on the best option for me. I kept returning to the shelves, bringing more products back to the cash register.

I told John that I was concerned about the weight. He then offered to do a weight calculation to help put my mind at ease. I knew how much I could buy- by weight – and how much more I could buy. So I bought a little more.

Let’s take a quick time out here.

Make it easy and take down the barriers…

John knows the secret of sales through service. He listened to my needs. Through the art of listening, he found that I had a

  • Knowledge gap. He filled this knowledge gap and made it easy for me to make choices that matched my needs.
  • Luggage overweight concern. He dealt with that concern so that I could buy more without the stress of my luggage tipping the scales further than it should at the airport check-in.

John had won me over. By this time, I was a raving fan of this shop and of John.

Lessons for you from my experience

The simple lesson is that your service people can increase sales by becoming trusted advisers.

You can enable your people to play this role by training them in product knowledge AND to listen to the customer’s need. Product knowledge without learning how to key into customer needs will lead to product pushing.

Like John, your people will not have to sell. Rather, they will help the customer to buy.

By the way, if you need good advice when buying Greek delicacies in Athens, pop into to see John. His shop is on the corner of Areos and Adrianou, a few doors down from the Monastiraki metro.

Tell him that one of his raving fans – George – sent you.

Until next time.

1 thought on “Sales through service: turn your service employees into trusted advisers

  1. A Great story George and because I know you, I can imagine your purchasing experience in all its glory. You are so right! I’d spend too with a Trusted Advisor!


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