Sales and service, previously distinct and sometimes warring functions, are converging to create greater customer success. Although this resource realignment is often attributed to the pivot to subscription revenue from Software as a Service (SaaS), it may also be a natural response to the customer’s rise in prominence and power. After all, who wants to be sold to a lot and supported a little? What customer wouldn’t want equivalent post-sale resources committed to their success (see diagram)?

According to Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight and co-author of Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue, “the most progressive companies in the world view their customers as foundational to long-term success. Operationalizing their Customer Success discipline has become a cornerstone of executive agendas at companies of all sizes and industries.”

We know setting up customers for sustained success is the right thing to do, and it’s an important step in building a customer-centric company. The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) reports “member companies are generating tens of millions of dollars in incremental pipeline by taking advantage of their support touchpoints to take leads for sales.” TSIA research also reveals a service person solving a problem can generate a sales lead for less than $7—versus marketing-generated sales leads that cost between $120-$240—without negative impact on customer Satisfaction (unless the salesperson fails to call). One new dollar of revenue requires $1.18 investment for a new customer, but only 38 cents from existing ones.

Miller Heiman Group discovered 53.3 percent of companies list inability to generate leads as their top challenge. TSIA reports service departments have 5-10 times more interactions with customers than sales, and they willingly share pain points salespeople struggle to discover. Hello!

Here are some questions to consider if your company is focused on improving customer success while also monetizing service portfolios:

How do we integrate service and sales?

Integrating service and sales to deliver customer success is a change management initiative. Is there a role on your executive leadership team focused on customer success and/or oversees both sales and service? If you aspire to be a customer-centric organization, shouldn’t there be accountability for the customer experience that aligns customer-facing roles? Culture change begins with a worldview that unites sales and service and provides consistency across touchpoints.

How do we equip service professionals to solve, then sell (without freaking them out)?

The objective is not to turn service people into salespeople, but to equip them to focus on business outcomes while listening for additional needs.

Here is some expert advice from thought leaders who shared their strategies on this topic at TSW 2017:

Tina MacVeigh, VP Global Collaboration and Education at CA Technologies: “Subscription opens an opportunity to reach out to a customer on a non-sales basis, proactively discussing consumption and interests.”

Brian Hodges, SVP Worldwide Professional Services, Informatica: “Equip service people to elevate the conversation and expand the scope and selling will arise.”

How do we build consistency in competencies for sales and service roles?

Since positive customer experience is a key differentiator in brand success, determine the elements that are vital to an exemplary experience in your environment. Develop the competencies that create pre-and post-sales synergy around that experience.

Here are some sample competencies for customer success:

  • Questioning skills to learn about the customer and discover business objectives and desired outcomes
  • Listening for needs as opening to upsell, cross-sell or generate leads
  • A consistent conversation format used by both sales and service

If your company struggles to make the leap from service to sales, check out our portfolio of Service Ready offerings.

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