By Nancy Friedman, Keynote Speaker; Customer Service Expert; President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training


Read the three scenarios below and ask yourself, “Which type am I? And who do I have on my team?”

#1.    The customer says (either on the phone or in person): “Tell you what, I’ve decided not to take the Blue Widget.”

         Answer from a PASSIVE person: “OK, thanks. Have a nice day.”

Customer feels nothing. Usually disappointed.


#2.    The customer says (either on the phone or in person): “Tell you what, I’ve decided not to take the Blue Widget.”

         Answer from an AVERAGE person: “You sure?”

Customer feels slighted. Probably could have used a little help.


#3.    The customer says (either on the phone or in person): “Tell you what, I’ve decided not to take the Blue Widget.”

          Answer from a PROACTIVE person: “Wow! Sorry to hear that. Are you aware there’s a Widget maker that goes with it at a discounted price? You’ll have several uses for it. Why not try it? You’ll love it.”

Customer feels great. Didn’t realize there was an accessory to go with it and buys the Widget and the Widget maker.


See the difference? Now, which one are you? What’s on your team?


 FACT: There is nothing wrong with any of these types. Every company needs each of them in this busy world. However, we need certain types in certain positions. So, it’s not the type – it’s where we place the person.

 Sadly, sometimes we hire folks because they’re breathing. I’ve done it. It happens. Let’s take a look at each type: Which one are you? And look at who you have handling your customers. REMEMBER – NONE OF THEM ARE BAD.

 PASSIVE – Telephone Doctor’s definition is: A passive person receives information and does nothing or very little with it. The dictionary’s definition is: Receiving or subjected to an action without responding or initiating an action in return: the mind viewed as a passive receptacle for sensory experience. (Our definition is just simpler!)

Passive does not mean a person is bad or shouldn’t be helping customers. It simply means they’re – not active. Are there passive salespeople? Of course, there are. The thing about being passive is most people don’t like to be called that.

Passive individuals usually receive information and do nothing with it. Happens all the time. You go into the grocery store. You hand the checker your check or credit card which has YOUR NAME on it.

The checker asks you for identification sometimes. And then does whatever it is they do, hands you back your ID and (sometimes) says, “Thank you.” No other words are exchanged. Even though they had your name, it was never used.

The checker had your name. Twice. Once on the check and once on the ID. Yes, no name was used in the interaction.

Again, it’s not a bad thing. From my experience, those that are in the PASSIVE mode and put into a proactive situation are in truth, uncomfortable. Not bad, just uncomfortable. They’re not at ease telling others what is best for them or making decisions for others.

So, if you have PASSIVE individuals on your team, talk with them; be sure they’re happy. Be sure they’re comfortable in their job. But remember most passive folks enjoy being passive.

 AVERAGE – It is easier to get an average person to be proactive than it is to get a passive person up to average. It just is.

Let’s see what the dictionary says about average: average, medium, mediocre, fair, middling, indifferent, and tolerable.

 FACT: There is a MASS of grey average folks out there. Millions of them and I don’t want to be one of them. Not sure about you, but I made a decision a long time ago that I didn’t want to be average.

I didn’t want to be in the mass of mediocrity. Again, average folks aren’t bad. They’re fine upstanding citizens. But they’re average; like a lot of people. And they don’t stand out to be remembered. If you’re in sales or in any active customer service area, you want and need to be remembered in a positive manner.

Average individuals receive information and honestly try to do something with what they receive. It’s just that they don’t seem to be able to get over the hurdle. Average folks say a lot of words like ‘wow’ and ‘gee, that’s so interesting.’ Those are ‘agreement statements.’

Average. . . when they really don’t know what to say. So, you can see they’re not bad, just not effective.

Day after day millions of people – including salespeople – go about their business being average. And yes, average people make sales. They do. And sometimes they even ‘fall’ into a large order. In truth, it’s usually not something that they’re responsible for doing. The sale just fell into their laps.

Average people go about their business being sort of happy with themselves when they could be so much more. Sad. I know some average folks I’d love to take under my wing to help them be more proactive.

 PROACTIVE – Ah yes, it’s the proactive people in this world that MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. They find the sales. Help the customer. They are detectives. They are “naturally inquisitive.” They ask more questions, look a little deeper and always double check to be sure. Very few proactive people take “NO” as an acceptable answer (or a final one).

They are, as we say, naturally inquisitive. They know it can be done. Proactive people LOVE sales. And let’s remember, a sale doesn’t always need to be a product. It can be a thought, a service, an appointment, helping someone. We just normally think of a product when we think sales.

A proactive person isn’t necessarily a workaholic. They enjoy vacations. (Even relax on them.) But back at work, they have the ability to turn ‘on.’ Normally upbeat and happy, proactive people seldom wallow in negativity or self-pity. They’re somehow able to turn that negative into a positive.

Proactive people find a way to get it done. They know ‘it can be done.’ They make one more call, research a little more thoroughly, answer one more question, write up one more sale and never run out of questions to ask.

Proactive people think for their clients. They provide solutions. They enjoy solving problems for their clients. They enjoy success.

So again, I ask, “Which one are you?” And who’s on your team?


The following two tabs change content below.

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman, customer service keynote speaker, is founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training and a featured speaker at franchise, association, and corporate meetings around the world. A popular TV guest, she appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning, as well as hundreds of other radio, television and print outlets around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. The author of 9 books on her chosen topics, Nancy helps corporate America improve their communications with their customers & co-workers.

Latest posts by Nancy Friedman (see all)