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Is aligning sales and service teams key to securing deals?

Is aligning sales and service teams key to securing deals?

It's important for each department in your business to recognise the role they have in selling. Nowhere is that more important than within your service department.

By service, we mean anyone who is customer-facing but not sales, so for example, technical support, maintenance engineers, or audit clerks would all be examples of service.

In uncertain times, service people will undoubtedly have more, and less restricted, access to your customers than your salespeople. And, most importantly, they have access to the people your solutions actually help, not just the finance and procurement people your sellers now have to deal with.

Your service team therefore has an unprecedented opportunity to spot, or indeed initiate, a buying opportunity. To those ends, many companies have tried to implement ‘sales through service’ training initiatives and failed.

The reason for the failure is simple, most service people don’t want to be sellers.

Rightly or wrongly, in most organisations sales is a more highly regarded and more highly rewarded role than service, so anyone in service who wants to move over to sales will probably request the move. The majority of your service team are there because that’s where they want to be. They are inherently inclined to avoid selling, so any sales training, even when it’s wrapped up as sales through service training, is bound to be resisted and ultimately ignored.

So how do you resolve this conundrum; how do you get those who have the most opportunity, but least inclination, to generate sales on your side? Let’s find out.

Steps to align sales and service

Step one: don’t try to turn them into surrogate salespeople. It’s better to recognise that service and sales are not binary states but the opposite ends of a continuum - what we call the service/sales continuum. For example:

  • At one end there is plain old service, your service people go along and fulfill the task they have been set. Everyone in service does that, it’s their job.

  • Next comes outstanding service, going that extra mile, doing a little more than was asked and expected of you. You would hope most, if not all, your service people will do that willingly; and by doing so they enhance your reputation – which leads to more sales. And so, without often realising it, your service team will happily take the first step up the continuum.

  • Then, we have sales intelligence gathering. Your service people have fantastic access to your end users. They see how you and your competitors’ solutions are performing, they may physically see, or be told, when your competitors are visiting your customers. This is gold for your sales team, so make sure it’s harvested. Set up processes to report and gather sales intelligence. You are only asking your service team to report what they see and hear, you’re not asking them to sell anything. Again, it’s a step most will be willing to make.

  • Next along is genuine ‘sales through service’, where the service person actively engages with the customer to initiate a sales conversation. We are not asking them to make the pitch, simply to start the ball rolling. It’s getting the service person to stop saying “I can fix that” and, if it’s appropriate, start saying “Perhaps you should start thinking about a replacement”. The service person starts to identify problems and needs which, once again, are passed on to sales. Your service team becomes a lead generator. It may be a step too far for some, but by no means all. At this point, your service team becomes a sales resource.

  • After that, it’s pure sales.

Of course, you need to train your team to develop the understanding and skills they need at each stage of the continuum. The important thing is to have the transparency to allow each team member to progress up the continuum only as far as they are willing to go – and equip them to work effectively at that level.

Learn everything you and your team need to know about successfully selling in uncertain times by downloading our free guide.

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By not asking anyone to step beyond their comfort zone, you are much more likely to get engagement and the results that flow from it. However far each individual is prepared to move up the continuum, you will be generating sales intelligence and sales opportunities that would have previously been missed. And, as individuals become comfortable, they may become willing to take the next step-up. In time, you will truly mobilise your hidden sales force.

Aligning sales and service for successful deals

In a nutshell: Train service to move along the service/sales continuum, but only as far as they are willing to go.

By encouraging them to progress as far as they’re comfortable with, you will help strengthen your chances of sales success. Plus, by upskilling your team, you maximise both their and your in-house resources.

During uncertain times, strengthening your selling power is a necessity. By letting everyone know and understand their role in the sales process, hopefully the service team will understand the power they hold and be willing to help to win deals.

The key to winning deals in uncertain times is ultimately communication and collaboration. Whether this is internally with your team or externally with your potential customers, you need to work together to reassure and negotiate as much as you can to make the buyer feel secure in their decision to choose you.

Survive and sell through uncertain times

Economic uncertainty doesn’t mean your deals have to plummet. Learn everything you need to know about how to reassure your potential customers through uncertainty in ‘Surviving economic uncertainty - a guide to sales success’

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