There's a lot of talk nowadays around the importance of aligning Marketing and Sales, and for good reason! Arming Marketers with insight into your sales processes allows them to create marketing collateral that furthers your prospects to a point of sale, all while educating them on your service in a way that isn't pushy and answers their questions.
In the same way that enabling Marketers with Sales knowledge allows them to do their jobs better, Sales Training can enable your Services team to solve towards customer success more effectively.
Now, most companies already have a services team that they train to do things like retain accounts, upsell, and collect, in the form of Customer Success / Account Managers. However, most Customer Success Managers see their clients aproximately once a month, sometimes once a quarter. Prepare all they may for that monthly call, your company's CSMs are not on the front line on a regular enough basis to make recommendations based on anything other than observations made against Key Performance Indicators you've set for your clients. There are, however, members of your Services team who are constantly interacting with your clients' pain points and opportunities on a daily basis.
Today we're talking about the benefits of providing Sales Training to your Service Team's boots on the ground: your support and implementation branch. To be clear, this post is not meant to suggest these two teams should distract themselves from their core job responsibilities by taking on sales tasks. Rather, it's meant to break down how:
1. Aligning your services team with your company's sales mission can lead to higher overall customer value (because every honest sale we make is a problem we solve)
2. Sales skills can impact your Service team's quality of customer care even when they're not focused on account growth
Keep reading to learn why within the context of the above two points, providing sales training to your services team is crucial!
1. Account Growth = Customer Success
In his Blog Post: The 3 Deadly Fallacies of SaaS Customer Success, Greg Daines explains how we tend to judge Customer Success by whether or not our clients renew with our business. This point of view leads to a certain level of complacency within an organization, where in betwen purchase and renewal we just make sure clients are happy with our products and that's it. He then goes on to talk about how a more accruate measure of Customer Success is actually account growth, which also inevitably leads to renewal! Though his blog is written in the context of SaaS, it's applicable to most businesses (B2C, and B2B alike). Think about your best clients, are they simply using your core product? Or have they integrated a peripheral service / product of yours within their lifetime? Chances are they've adopted something beyond your base level offering.
In order to do this, farming teams (Sales Reps, CSMs), must keep a close eye on customers for challenges and opportunities they develop throughout their lifetime. As mentioned in our introduction however, this requires more 1:1 attention than a quota focused team will be able to give, given that such a big part of meeting quota for Sales Reps / CSMs involves getting to a certain activity threshold that allows their funnel math to play out.
Your Implementation and Support teams, however, are meeting with your client once a week (sometimes more)! Every conversation starts with "How are things since we spoke last week?", or "How can I help you today?". It's not hard to imagine that answers to those innocuous questions would reveal information about a client's eligability for peripheral services, as the conversation unfolds into a chat around problems or opportunities faced throughout the week!
So long as your implementation / support team knows:
1. What your additional products and services are
2. What problems they solve
3. How to listen for those problems
4. How to position your company's solution to those problems
They'll be able to plant the seed effectively, and bring in the appropriate parties for the close. As an Implementation Specialist for Hubspot, I have a mental key I refer to when working with my clients. If I hear:
"No time / No team": I'm introducing our Partner Program
"No sales process": I'm introducing our Sales Pro add-on
"More / better Data": I'm introducing our Reporting add on
"More hand holding / additional help": I'm introducing our Premier Consulting services
And so forth. After that, the next thing I'm doing is re-introducing their original Sales Rep or CSM in the context of that problem and that problem alone, so that the only remaining step is placing the solution in the client's hands. What is your team trained to listen for? How do they talk about your additional products when that cue is triggered?
If Account Growth is the goal (and it should be), train the teams that touch your accounts the most to sell. You won't regret it.
2. Improve Customer Dollar Retention
In any business model where yielding Profit Margins requires that a client stays with you for a certain period of time, you'll be paying very close attention to Customer Dollar Retention. C$R measures how much of your customer's original value in dollar amount they've retained at the end of their contract / year.
As you can imagine, churn (customer loss) is the absolute antithesis of this beautiful metric that every company should be prioritizing (we all know the old adage around how it's more expensive to acquire a new client than it is to keep one). There are many reasons why customers churn, and while sometimes it can't be avoided, many companies entirely miss the opportunity to re-route a client's issue into an opportunity. Other companies have recovery departments that are dedicated to handling at-risk accounts, but by then the client has already made up their mind / been exposed to a poor customer experience.
When your Services teams are trained on the points covered in reason #1 above, they can get ahead of these issues before that "unpaid invoice" notification comes through. Let's use an example:
- I have 10 clients, each worth $100 for a total of $1,000.
- 3 are a churn risk. If these 3 leave, I'm left with $700 fand a C$R of 70%.
- With my knowledge of the clients and our product, I know they're using only 25% of my platform/service.
- With my knowlede of peripheral services, I know that some additional consulting (priced at $50) would get the clients back on track.
- So, I offer the clients a downgrade to our $25 platform, with our $50 consulting package so that they can make the most of their basic product. This brings their new contract to $75.
- 2 clients take the deal, 1 client leaves. This represents $75 + $75 + 0 = $150 retained at-risk revenue.
- Whereas my C$R originally was going to be $700 at 70%, it's now $850 at 85%.
Though this interaction sounds like an ideal case scenario, it's not. Your clients purchased from you because they want to work with you. However, the above scenario has a higher chance of playing out while your customers are still wanting to work with you--not while they're on their way out the door.
Empowering your services team the the knowledge required to propose a better way forward for clients that find themselves lost, is key to catching these opportunites early and increasing your Customer Dollar Retention.
3. Develop Incredibly Useful Soft Skills
The two points discussed so far have talked about Sales Enablement allowing your Services team to impact the business on the larger scale. However, Sales Training also benefits your team's day-to-day on a level that will improve your clients' health and your employees' confidence alike. A good sales training will help your Services Teams:
- Ask the right questions. Proper sales training will allow your Services team to dig deep for pain points with questions that get to the core of your client's Goals, Plans, Challenges, and Timeline (Good ole' GPCT). Learning how to properly chain the question "Why?", and when to pause so that the client will feel compelled to elaborate, are not skills to be taken lightly.
Sales teams ask these GPCT oriented questions in the context of the sale and use their answers to align the customer with a solution that they can be proud of owning. Your services team will ask these questions in the context of your solution's possibilities, and use their answers to align the client with the kind of approach that changes the way they work day in and day out.
This will allow your Services team to create change on the organizational level for your book of business. When your Implementation and Support teams can gather the right context and craft your solution towards an organizational level change for your clients, you clients see value.
- Set Expectations. Sales teams know to set expectations with clients because their credibility, and thus account acquisition depend on it. These expectations will usually be in the context of what is and isn't possible with your solution.
Services teams must also know how to set expectations, because their trusted advisor status and account retention depend on it. Expectations on the services end will be in the context of what is required in order to achieve what was deemed possible during the sales process.
The same way sales teams are taught to disqualify prospects for use cases that don't align with what your solution can help with, Services Teams must be able to call out clients for behaviors and use cases that don't align
- Be concise. Sales speak is concise, value driven, and opportunity obsessesed. Time is money to a sales rep, and every minute that's spent talking around something is time they could have spent calling the next revenue generating client. They speak through easy to understand metaphors, and drive value by comparison.
Services teams on the other hand, are subject to the curse of knowledge, and as such can sometimes err on the side of being long winded and overly technical. While Services teams are not subject to the same opportunity cost of time that sales is subject to, it's important to remember that on the services end it's your clients' time that represents money (their money).
Proper sales training teaches how to hone in on the parts of a statement that your client cares about, and how deliver that in condensed soundbites that save everyone's time.
- Overcome Objections. Sales Teams spend day in and day out overcoming objections around use cases, priorities, time commitments, and more. As such, most sales teams master the art of "pushing back".
Your clients' objections don't stop at the closed won marker however; often times clients will enter an onboarding process or call in support with unrealistic expectations about what they should be doing next, or what's possible as part of their product / service. Or maybe your client shows up and they don't get done what they should have, in order to allow for the day's call to happen.
When this happens, often times a Service Representative will simply freeze. There's nothing more painful than hearing a prolonged "Uhhmmm..." on the phone as a services rep searches for an answer they don't have on what to do next.
Proper sales training teaches how to level-set, and be direct around what's needed to succeed with your product / service. Where sales will use this in the context of getting to a "yes" or "no" faster, your services team will use it in the context of getting to a client's reasoning faster, so that they can develop a way forward more efficiently.
These are just some of the many benefits that your services team has to gain from Sales Training. Being in such a high-touch relationship with your book of clients allows services teams to create value for your clients provided they know how to align their service with your organization's growth goals.
A great place to start in getting your services team to see the importance and value of sales alignment is Hubspot's Sales Enablement Certification, which is packed with Sales Leaders talking about the impact Sales Alignment can have on an organization. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments, and I'll be happy to discuss in more detail!