The Cohen-Miller Report: Selling by Service

Selling by Service

by Emily Cohen

Recently, I enrolled in New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program. The statewide program offers financial incentives, programs, and services for New Jersey residents, business owners, and local governments to help them save energy, money, and the environment. Through this program I received a new central air conditioner, furnace, hot water heater, and attic/air insulation. This certified my home as green and will also save me over 25% or more off my energy bills. In addition to receiving impressive financial incentives, I was exposed to another inspirational customer service-driven company. When I looked into the program initially, I contacted the local service provider recommended by the program, Gold Medal, and was introduced to their sales person, or “Comfort Advisor” (great title, by the way). The salesperson did a wonderful job, as was his role, in selling me his company’s services. What happened next was a great example of the continued role selling and building client relationships should play in the entire customer experience.

Gold Medal then had two heating/cooling experts install the new appliances. They were completely thorough, clean, and efficient. When they had completed their services, they did two things that really impressed me and which aligns with CMC’s own best practices we often recommend to our clients:

  • At the end of the project the installers reviewed a checklist of what they did for me to make sure I understood and approved of everything they did. In the in-house creative environment this is very similar to what should happen during project approvals and project de-briefs. In obtaining internal approvals, identify who should approve and what they are approving. Give them a checklist! At the end of a project, review how you did and obtain feedback. Conduct a project de-brief. Simple? Obvious? Yet, you would be amazed how few creative teams do this. Approvals and debriefs should be systemized and ingrained in the work-flow-process and will result in stronger ongoing client relationships.
  • Lastly, after ensuring I was completely happy with their work, the installers (note: not the salesperson) then explained additional services their company can provide for me in the future and gave me a simple one-sheet detailing their various services. It wasn’t a hard sell, but it leveraged my contentment and educated me on additional services I may or may not have known about. Brilliant and, again, obvious. Yet, when do you see a designer do this same thing? Beyond the account and project managers, this is what designers and all those that interact with clients should do. Everyone on the team should be responsible for building client relationships and advocating for the team’s services and values. This can be supported with the development of a simple one sheet that the team can use as a leave-behind.

The lesson? Sales is an inherent role in the entire client-experience, not just something you do at the beginning of a relationship

Emily has consulted with design firms and in-house corporate creative departments for over twenty years. During this time, she has provided confidential, best-practice insights and advice. She helps creative teams improve operational effectiveness and helps companies build efficient teams and processes.

Emily currently serves on the board of advisors of InSource and on the AIGA In-House task force. Emily has also served as Secretary for the AIGA/NY Board of Directors and has taught classes and conducted seminars for many leading design schools and organizations. Emily is a frequently-requested speaker on business-related issues for the creative industry. Learn more at and

Join the LIVE Twitter DesignCast Thursday, April 19, 2012 from 2:00-3:00 PM Eastern (1 hour): Twitter for Creative Entrepreneurs. For more information and to register go to