As event rental businesses grow in volume and size of events, they often need to add more members to their team. Delivery crew members are frequently the first hires (which I think can be a strategic win for the whole business). Hiring your first front-of-the-house staff member, however, can bring even more growth opportunities.
I often see event rental pros make their first front-office hire without much of a plan, however. They bring someone on to answer phones, respond to emails, create orders, make changes to those orders, and maybe even make the schedule for the delivery crew and trucks for any given weekend. They also might be working on social media, email newsletters, and other marketing efforts.
While I am always an advocate for hiring people when you need them, I think it is essential that you have clear roles defined in your business as you grow your team. Without clear roles, your business can actually suffer rather than continue to flourish.
I could talk all day long about the different things you should look for in marketing hires versus logistics gurus but I’ll focus for now on Sales and Customer Service Team members. I often see these two roles lumped together— someone to take care of the orders!— but they are very distinct roles that require specific skill sets.
You want a Salesperson who is ready to go out and get new business for you. Whether they are doing outside sales (approaching potential referral sources like caterers, venues, planners, florists, DMCs, etc.) or inside sales (responding to inquiries that come to you), a great Salesperson wants to maximize each opportunity. They are always working to build relationships but they aren’t shy about actually asking for the sale either. They capitalize on opportunities to build more business for your company and they aren’t afraid of the word “no”; they take risks.
On the other hand, you want your Customer Service Team to be all about the follow-up and the details. You want them to be the people who make sure all the contracts are signed, all the payments are made on time, and they know exactly what is going where and when. A fabulous Customer Service Team member will be great at maintaining the systems and standards you’ve set up so that your clients experience consistency and dependability from your company. They also are the ones who uphold the company policies so that things run smoothly for the whole team on event day.
The Sales Team and the Customer Service Team work in tandem. There is often a hand-off point when the Sales Team has developed the new relationship up until the first order. Once that deal is signed, they introduce the client to the Service Team who takes over from there. Any changes to the order, updates, future payments, and logistic details are handled by the Service Team member. The Salesperson isn’t totally out of the loop at that point and the Customer Service Team can always help take a new order if the Sales Team isn’t available. But the general flow is that relationships and orders start in Sales and then flow to Customer Service.
When a Salesperson is also in charge of servicing their orders, they quickly get bogged down in the details. They spend a great deal of time responding to requests to swap out the peach napkins for the blush ones. They chase payments from clients who ghost them. They forget to confirm the address for the venue. And, while they aren’t doing an optimal job at Customer Service, they also aren’t out there developing new business for you. Having your Sales Team do Customer Service is a lose-lose for you and for your clients.
Similarly, if you’ve hired a Customer Service person to take care of the details of orders but also expect them to close sales, you’ll find that your average order size gets smaller. A great Customer Service rep is thinking about successful execution first so they aren’t going to dream big with your client (and figure out how to pull it off later). Instead, they are constantly thinking about how they will possibly fit it all in the truck and will be more likely to say no than be open to possibilities. They also aren’t eager to pursue new business because their focus (and loyalty) is on the clients that are already in front of them.
What is a strength for your Sales Team becomes a weakness if you ask them to do Customer Service and vice versa. But they also need each other. The Service Team won’t have any orders to work with if you don’t have a Sales Team out there drumming up new business. The Sales Team won’t be able to deliver on their promises if they aren’t supported by a top-notch Customer Service Department.
To get the best of both worlds, write a job description for each role. Determine what each role is responsible for and what they each have authority over. For instance, maybe the Salesperson can propose custom pieces but they can’t offer pricing in the Sales Meeting because that isn’t their department. Or, the Customer Service Team can offer a discount in X, Y, or Z situations but they can’t just add items to an order gratis. Whatever your policies and limitations are, keep a running document that everyone has access to so it is clear who to turn to in particular situations.
Even if you are a one-woman show, you’ll want to separate the roles of Sales and Customer Service in your own business. Remember who you are when you’re playing each part. You may even think of yourself as putting on your “Sales hat” or sitting at your “Customer Service desk” to create some distinction. When you’re the Salesperson, you have to follow the rules of that role… don’t go offering pricing on custom pieces in a meeting!
It might feel funny, particularly in a small business, to be so specific about roles when your business often requires “all hands on deck.” However, knowing the strengths (and weaknesses) of your team members as well as the roles they are meant to play can actually help you balance one another out. You also can make sure you’re all moving in the same direction instead of getting stuck only concerned about your own area of expertise.
We can’t wait for the growth you see as you carve out space for both your Sales Team and your Customer Service Team in your event rental business!